I have many regrets with this blog. One of them has been the fact that I have reviewed only a small handful of sheep cheeses, and virtually only pecorino at that. Sheep’s milk cheese is actually very popular across the world, but we don’t seem to have much of an appetite for it here in Canada. Part of the issue with making a sheep’s milk cheese is that there’s just not enough good sheep’s milk in Canada to resource a cheese. Sheep are little, their little udders are little, we just aren’t focussed on getting that milk out and into cheese. It’s a shame.
Thus, imagine my joy when I learned about today’s cheese, a sheep’s milk cheese from the USA. I mean, that’s practically Canada, right? Oh wait, wrong again. Today’s cheese, Lamb Chopper is actually a Dutch cheese, made for and sold by Americans. Will I ever get this straight? Lamb Chopper is made in Europe exclusively for the American Cypress Grove Chevre. Cypress Grove chevre is traditionally a goat’s milk cheese maker who decided they wanted to get into sheep’s milk, and who can blame them?
The California-based Cypress Grove Creamery is a well established cutting edge American artisanal cheese maker with a line up of several successful goat cheeses. I specifically went out of my way to buy this cheese, assuming that it would be made on site. However, cheesemaker Mary Keehn has this made in Holland by a gouda maker who works with sheep milk. Lamb Chopper is thus a Dutch Gouda made to American specifications. Lamb Chopper is made from 100% organic and pasteurized sheep’s milk. There was no way this much organic sheep’s milk could be resourced in the USA, so this was a workable compromise. The adorable label has a drawing of a tough looking lamb biker on a Harley, get it…lamb chopper, hardy, har. This is also my first cheese with its own slogan, “Born to be mild.” punny!
Thus, our little traveller, Lamb Chopper is made in Holland from Dutch sheep’s milk and aged in The Netherlands for three months. It’s then coated in wax for the voyage back to the USA for finishing school. Apparently the cheese maker was also concerned that the bloomy-rind molds from her other cheeses could infect Lamb Chopper if she tried to make it in the same facility, so it’s actually worked out well this way. Interestingly, no other cheese makers seem to share this concern, and I do see blue cheeses in affinage side by side with non-blues all the time-so that’s a little curious. Lamb Chopper is sold at 4 to 6 months old, and can last up to 8 additional months if uncut. Cypress Grove isn’t just cute and the only cheese with dual citizenship, it’s also kind of famous. This cheese received a Silver Award in the 2010 World Cheese Awards.
My little wedge of Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper is mildly sitting beside me. It’s too early and we were both up late at my mother’s retirement party, but still, the cheese calls. It’s a firm white cheese, it really does look like a pecorino more than a gouda to me. I’m not clear on why this cheese is called “gouda.” There is a wax rind around the outside which has kept it safe on its journey from Holland to California, and now to me. This cheese smells great, it smells, well, like pecorino, sheepy and mild and savoury, it’s not offensive in the least, but it’s clearly sheep-based, and that appeals to a person like me.
Mmmm, but it is a gouda-and do you know how I know? It’s sweet! Part of the gouda making process brings out the natural sweetness in the milk. Thank God for Gouda! Lamb Chopper has that same caramelly sweetness. Lamb Chopper is actually a little lier, it’s not born to be mild, it’s actually extremely flavourful. There are lamb hoof tastes as well as butterscotch, salt, yumminess and a tyrosine crunch in this cheese, which is a surprise. It’s not overly aged, it’s quite creamy and yielding, so that tyrosine shocked me. My mouth just doesn’t know where to go with this cheese. There’s almost too much going on.
OK, here’s the thing. I like sheep’s cheese, and I really like Gouda, and I love that this is an organic cheese, but I’m not sure if I am totally on fire about this combination. There’s something a little distracting to me about all these tastes happening simultaneously. I appreciate the effort, but I tink I will take my gouda in cow, thank you very much.