Cheese 123-Louis d’Or Vieille

 

It’s getting harder these days to really excite me about a new cheese. I’m perhaps a little jaded, 123 cheeses into this strange little foray of mine…but yesterday-my heart stopped.  While at my local cheese shop looking for something “sexy, Canadian, and hard” (yes, those were my criteria, don’t laugh) my eyes fell upon something I had somehow missed before.  It was a large handsome cheese: hard, firm, Canadian…organic, unpasteurized, and a gold medal winner…breathing harder, yes…this is the cheese I have been looking for, and it was right under my nose.

You see, it turns out that I really am mad for Canadian cheese-all things being equal-which they aren’t, of course.  To find a great cheese made in my homeland just seems right.  There’s supporting your fellow Canadians, then’s there’s the carbon footprint, et cetera, but really, why not eat Canadian cheese?  Especially when Canadians are so damn good at making damn good cheese, especially the French-why?  Why is it always Quebec?  This is a great mystery to me.

I digress.  Today’s handsome (and hard and Canadian, I did mention that, right) cheese is a Comte look alike (and I love me some Comte) made by the Quebecois Fromagerie du Presbytere.  It’s a cow’s milk cheese made with organic milk right on the farm.   It’s rare to find such a large Mountain Style cheese made here in Canada as it takes quite a commitment to make and then store a cheese of this size. I reviewed another cheese by this groovy fromagerie back in my early cheese days-Laliberte which was an unctuous and yummy triple cream brie, but today’s cheese is their eponymous headliner-and I tend to think that when something is eponymous, it’s really special!

I’m kind of stealing this next bit from my old review, but it just bears repeating, and it’s not theft if it’s from yourself. “The farm of Louis d’or, is a family run company operated by four generations of the Morin family.  Even better, it’s  artisanal, family owned, and organic.  This family turned to organic farming in the 1980′s, which makes them early adopters.   The farm has a herd of Holstein and Jersey cows which graze in the organic pastures of clover, timothy grass, bluegrass and other organic grains. These cows are never given antibiotics or hormones. In 2005 this Morin family decided to remodel an old church rectory called Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick. It was located just in front of their farm.  All their cheese is now made in this refurbished building and the family only makes artisanal organic certified cheese. Wow, this is sounding like an ad for this fromagerie.  But come on, a refurbished cheese rectory.”

This beautiful cheese is remarkable for its size- it’s made in 40 KG wheels, and has a washed rind and a firm pressed cooked paste.  It is made from raw milk, so pregnant ladies we warned! Typically this cheese is served at the 9 month age-and this is the one that won all the prizes, but my little sample is the Vieille or aged and is 18 months old.  Yes, be jealous of me, that’s perfectly understandable. Louis D’Or (at the 9 month age) is a big winner taking the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Grand Champion as well as best in class in firm cheese, farmhouse cheese, organic cheese too, and the American Cheese Society best of show third place, along with numerous other awards.   Are you impressed yet?  How can we ask for more?  It’s an award winning  family made cheese based on happy organic cows and a refurbished rectory.  I’m sold.

 


My long slice of Louis d’or Vieille which from the sounds of it I was lucky to find-due to the popularity of this cheese, is an attractive creamy yellow with a dark brown natural rind.  I see other reviews referencing eyes in this cheese, but my sample does not contain them…mine is also the 18 month version, so I am unclear if this is the cause.  It appears as though there is some crystallization or tyrosine throughout the paste-which makes me crazy with desire…I love me some tyrosine!  It smells wonderful, nutty and deep and really for all the world like a Comte.  It’s a mellow and mature cheese, it’s begging me to enter into a conversation with it…and I shall.

Here goes…

There’s so much going on here, I don’t even know where to start. First, it’s floral, and sweet, I’m so shocked!  It’s very mellow and round, but ultimately very, very sweet and benign more like a great Gruyere than anything else.  There are no sharp or uric notes whatsoever, it’s just totally mellowed out, it’s like a Zen master of cheese. Sweet, round, mellow, pleased with itself and the balance it has achieved in this world.  The texture is fabulous, it’s firm to the teeth, but enjoys a little chew before dissolving into a sweet milky paste-there’s a faint fleck or tyrosine, but that’s not the show stopper here-the show stopper is the taste, it’s really unlike anything I have ever tasted before, it’s clover, sunshine, friendship and happiness. It’s a revelation in cheese.  Unlike many cheeses this one should be eaten by itself, with nothing else-it’s cheese in the purest form: complex, developed, wise, sumptuous.  If you can get your hands on this cheese, do it, you can thank me later.

Holy Hannah Louis D’Or, you are most definitely my slice of cheese, bravo!

 

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Cheese 122-Shropshire Blue


First, an apology. For those of you who are regular readers of this blog you may have noticed that I neglected to write a post last Saturday.  After nearly a year of daily and then weekly posts, this was a first, and I am deeply chagrined.  In truth, it was a confluence of family events so wretched that cheese could not be made a priority-yes that bad!  Thus, today’s post-a Thursday post-is a make up for last week. I promise another in two day’s time barring no new family type emergencies. Forgive me.

The more cheese I taste and review, the more I realize that there really are only 5 types of cheese: washed rind, bloomy rind, blues, mountain, and fresh.  All cheeses are some combination or permutation of the above with a tweak on the milk used, the affinage, the addition of a particular mould or salt or wash, but really…that’s it!  Yes, this small number of cheese types produces an almost infinite number of actual cheeses…just like humans, I suppose.  We are all a combination of egg and sperm, but what a sumptuous variety.

I mention this because today’s cheese, Shropshire Blue, is referred to as the “love child” of Cheshire and Stilton.  Well, no one actually uses the phrase “love child,” but I shall here today, on My Blog of Cheese!  Cheshire and Stilton had a lovely little orange baby.  Both of these British cheeses have been reviewed here, Cheshire-an ancient British crumbly and salty cow’s milk cheese, and Stilton, the famous cow’s milk British Blue…but, their child, Shropshire Blue came out orange!  Sometimes kids come out funny in the wash.

Interestingly, I really haven’t been able to pin down the origins of this cheese to my satisfaction.  Numerous sources on the web give quite different inception dates, and these are all great sources, so it’s quite the mystery.   One excellent source says it came to be in 1970 at the Castle Stuart dairy in Scotland by Andy Williamson, a cheesemaker who had trained in the making of Stilton, while another trustworthy source claims it was created in the 1930’s by a Cheshire Cheese dealer Dennis Biggins. This troubles me.  Was it Biggins, or was it Williamson?  Was it the 1970’s or the 1930’s?  Everyone seems to agree that it was first made in Scotland and the name Shropshire was used fictitiously to cash in on the cache of British cheese names, but who and when?  It’s a freaking mystery.

What I do know for certain, is that Shropshire Blue is now made in Britain, not Scotland, and although the cheese is not protected it is only made by three cheese makers.  I also know that Shropshire Blue is a blue cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk which gets its funky Halloween colour from our good friend, annatto. The mould used to produce this beauty is our old friend, penicillium roqueforti.  Shropshire Blue has a natural rind and ages about 2-3 months before sale. It is usually made by Stilton makers using the same technique as Stilton, the only real difference being the annatto which does  interact in the aging giving this cheese and ever so slightly sour but sharper and spicier taste than Stilton.  But really, Shropshire Blue  is Stilton with a spray tan.

 


My little wedge of mysterious Shropshire Blue, and I say mysterious as I actually don’t even know who the maker is of this specific cheese-a huge shame- cheese mongers, don’t deny this knowledge to me-it’s like a foundling at the hospital door, yes, it’s a child, I can see that, but what about the parentage? I digress, my little wedge of mysterious Shropshire Blue is truly hideous, yet lovely.  It’s a deep russet orange flecked through with blue veining.  I showed it to my husband, who recoiled visibly, it’s really not what most people think of when they think of cheese.  The rind is natural and thin and brown, and the colour becomes darker towards the rind. When I sliced the cheese it crumbled a little, it’s just begging to be eaten. The cheese smells mild, and here I mean mild in a blue cheese sort of way.  It actually just made my mouth water sniffing it…oh, I can’t wait!

Here goes…

Salty! Spicy! Creamy!  It’s a Stilton, no-it’s not as sweet as Stilton, this Shropshire Blue burns my throat, it’s really peppery and spicy…what is that?  Is that the annatto?  No orange cheddar has ever done that. Seriously, my throat is on fire, this is weird. Could it be an allergy?  Who cares. The texture is amazing, smooth with little crystal flecks, I wish I could smear this on something, it’s begging for smearing and a slice of pear, but I am a purist-I resist.  There’s a real ammonia kicker to this cheese, more so than in most blues-it makes my eyes water, it’s so foul and fabulous, how can I explain myself?  This cheese is heinously delightful!  If you are looking for something that looks shocking on your cheese board and sets your throat on spicy fire, look no further.  Shropshire Blue, I dig you, but I’m weird, you my friend, are my slice of cheese.

Cheese 121-Grey Owl



Do you ever get obsessed with something?  I’m sure that any reader of this blog would not be surprised that I do- and that in fact, the thing that I get obsessed with (along with impractical shoes) is cheese.  Specific cheese.  I will read an article or review on a cheese, and it will become stuck in my head…I must have it!  But sometimes, this is easier said than done.  Artisinal cheese is simply not always available.  Many cheeses are only produced at certain times of the year, and depending on how much aging a cheese needs, it’s only released ever so often.  Consider an 8 year old cheddar, it needs to wait around (hiding) for eight years before going on sale.  This is cruel!

One of my little cheese obsessions (and I say here, one-as there are-in fact, many) has been a Canadian cheese that has eluded me now for months, Grey Owl.  Every time I go to look for it, they are “just out…” “oh, we just sold the last of it,” the cheese monger will cruelly utter…seriously, it’s a conspiracy.  I’m not sure if I have been clear enough here, I NEED this cheese.  It is first, a goat’s milk cheese, and second, it’s Canadian, and lastly, it references history!  It’s a freaking cheese Yahtzee.  But still, no Grey Owl for Willow, until finally, last week.  I purchased the last remaining piece from a local store, and this little darling is mine, oh yes-all mine-not that anyone else in my family would touch it with a ten foot pole-but still, it is all mine.

Grey Owl is a goat’s milk cheese made by the Fromagerie Le Détour in Notre-Dame-du-Lac, Quebec by the husband and wife team of Ginette Bégin and Mario Quirion.  Interestingly, my husband and I only make children together, imagine how lucky these folk are! Yet another cheese from Quebec.  Seriously, they are making the rest of Canada look bad.  Just saying.   Grey Owl is a really new cheese, first sold in the USA only in 2007, and here in Canada in early 2008.  The name Grey Owl, of course-as any good Canadian knows, is a nod to the story of Archie Belaney, AKA “Grey Owl” who was one of the first champions for the conservation of nature in Canada.  Grey Owl lived in the region where this fromagerie now stands, so there’s actually a local connection here to the name.  Of course, there’s also a pun in the name, as there is in all the best cheeses.  This cheese is rolled in ash, and is thus grey…hardy har!

The milk for Grey Owl cheese is pasteurized (sadly) and comes from Saanen goats-Swiss goats who live near the dairy, but not on site. Now a word on ash and goat’s milk cheese, the two go together regularly, and do offer a beautiful contrast between the bright white of a goat’s milk cheese and the dark grey ash coating.  When you see these two together, you know you have a goat’s milk cheese.  Historically this was done to protect the young cheese from insects, and also help produce a rind for a fragile cheese.  The ash is totally edible, and I like to think that it is somewhat medicinal, as we used to feed our dogs charcoal.  I have no basis of fact for this, it’s just something I like to think.  In truth, the ash can counter the lemony tang present in goat’s milk, as it tends to act as an alkaline.

My little coveted wedge of Grey Owl waits for me here at my desk.  It has collapsed into a wet heart-shaped piece of cheese as it warms up and starts to ooze.  It is both hideous and beautiful.  The grey ash seems counter-intuitive to my taste buds who typically do not search out the colour grey, but the white oozing interior beckons me…eat me…eat me.The exterior, just under the rind, has ripened and is sticky and glistens: the interior core, white and chalky.  The smell is mild yet undeniably present.  “Yes, I am a goat cheese,” it whispers, “I am proud.”  My mouth squirts with anticipation.

Here goes…

Ohhhhh.  It’s delicious!  It’s surpassingly mild, I was expecting more of a goat kick.  It’s really well-balanced.  Really, the texture is the show-stopper for me, I can’t get enough of the sticky outer layer mixed with the rind and chalky core, it makes me crazy!  It sticks to my tongue and teeth.  The cheese itself is really chilled out, the lemon taste is present yet dialed back.  There’s the faintest peppery kick at the finish, but mostly it’s a creamy, ever so slightly goaty cheese. This one would be perfect smeared on something.  Baguette, a pear, a good friend!    The real Grey Owl was one of Canada’s first conservationists, and in his honour, I shall also conserve this little darling for me and me alone!