Cheese 131 14 Arpents-Fromagerie Medard

 

 

You know how some people like to shop for cars, or jewellery, or clothes?  I like to shop for cheese.

Every time I’m in a new store, I’m drawn to the cheese section, and my children mock me for this. Last week they accused me of being “addicted to cheese.” And that’s just unfair. I mean, addicted? Addicted means that I think about it all the time, I obsess about it, I can’t live without it. Shit. Maybe I AM addicted.

Last week when the whole “mom’s addicted” issue came up, I was elbow deep in our local Whole Foods cheese section. I do like to look for cheese here as they tend to have a decent selection, and they also have a basket of smaller “amuse bouche” tastes of cheese, which is a great way to get into cheese without making a huge commitment.

It was here that I noticed today’s cheese for the first time, a Canadian cheese, from Quebec and as it is Canada Day (Happy Canada D’eh!) I thought it an excellent choice. It’s an interesting looking square cheese from the Quebec Fromagerie Medard called 14 Arpents (FYI, that link is in French, so best of luck to you.)


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If my high school French serves me correctly, 14 arpents means 14 acres, as in “14 acres of land” and the lady at the cheese counter told me it refers to the road bordering the fromagerie, called Le Chemin 14 Arpents. It’s a whole milk, washed rind  cheese made from the milk of the farm’s own brown Swiss cattle-and this one’s pasteurized (alas.) This is a true farmstead cheese as it is made from the cattle that live on the farm.

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The milk for this cheese is sourced from the attached  Ferme Domaine De La Rivière,  established in  1881 when the Quebec government gave  families with at least 12  children (yikes) extra funds to settle and develop the area. The eponymous Médard (of Fromagerie Medard) was the son of one of these establishing families. The  Fromagerie Medard,  opened in 2006 took his name, so there’s a true thread of farming, history of the land in the cheese and in the cheese name, and I like that.

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This is a handsome cheese, it has a lovely orange washed rind and a creamy yellow interior, spotted with eyes. It seems rather alive- it oozed slightly when I cut it, and as it warms up, it really does reek quite pleasantly. There’s that delightfully foul odour of unwashed feet that captivates me. Alas, so many are scared off by that initial “hello” from a washed rind, that’s just the bark! Don’t be afraid of the bite!  Move in, I implore thee.
Mmmmmm. This is the love child of Taleggio and Oka! It’s a round tasty flavoured cheese, with just a hint of bitter from that salty washed rind. It’s toothsome and chewy, it sticks to my teeth, it plays with my tongue. Although the smell is a little fierce, the taste is mellow, yet complex. I think this one would work on just about any cheese board. It’s salty and creamy and nutty and pleasurable in the mouth. It’s just slightly “gym-socky” but in an ever so friendly way. My only regret? I only bought a small chunk.
Go out and grab some, and Happy Canada Day

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!

 

Cheese 120-Truffle Tremor


Sometimes I freaking hate “technology.”  Sometimes, like especially when I have JUST WRITTEN an entire blog post and then it gets eaten by the computer, I just feel like throwing in the towel.  Really, that’s how I feel sometimes.

Other things that sometimes make me angry include ignorance-specifically cheese ignorance.  I was at a mall kiosk the other day (yes, feel pity, I was that desperate for food) when a woman approached a Greek “food” place and asked them if they used “goat’s cheese or milk cheese?”  I almost went crazy on her.  Really.  Milk cheese?  What the hell do you think goat’s cheese is made of?  Modified goat sweat?  Umm.  Anyway, I digress, the thing is, there’s just so much prejudice against goat’s cheese out there, it’s really a shame when it’s basically the best thing ever.

Speaking of the best thing ever, I think it’s generally agreed upon by all people over the age of 10 that truffles are also the best thing ever.  They just are, do not try to argue this point with me, especially this morning whilst I am so cross at both technology and cheese ignorance.  I don’t know what the hell goes into the creation of these magical mushrooms (not those kind of magical mushrooms, silly) but they just make anything that touches them about 50% better.  So to mix goat’s milk cheese and truffles is kind of unfair, right?  The best cheese and the best taste together, it’s kind of like caramel and salt-hard to go wrong with an alliance like that.  However, just because something is patently going to be great doesn’t mean I need to ignore it out of principal, right? It’s my blog, and I can eat whatever cheese I want to.  So it is unfair, I’m just going to put that out there now.  Pairing truffles with anything is unfair, truffle cheese in a can would probably be divine, but pairing it with a bloomy-rind surface-ripened goat’s-milk cheese, isn’t that just kind of so fabulous it should almost be illegal?  Do all other cheeses just tremor at the sight of it?

I have previously reviewed one other truffle cheese-Boschetto al Tartufo on day 59 https://myblogofcheese.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/day-59-boschetto-al-tartufo/ .This was a hard sheep’s milk cheese with slivers of white truffle that put me over the moon with joy!  I have also previously reviewed another cheese by today’s maker Cypress Grove Chevre Creamery, https://myblogofcheese.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/day-90-lamb-chopper/ a fantastic sheep’s milk  gouda, so of course, I was fascinated to learn that the Cypress Grove also made a Goat’s milk truffle cheese.  Clearly, this cheese and I had to make each other’s acquiaintance.


My little wedge of pasteurized goat’s milk Truffle Tremor cheese is perfectly ripened.  Do you see how it’s wet and creamy just under that perfect rind?  Do you see the chalky chevre-like interior flecked with truffle?  This is a beautiful cheese.  When I picked it up off my table after photographing it, it stuck to the table- it’s that sticky and runny.  The smell is quite faint, a tiny whiff of goat, the smallest hint of mushroom, but my taste buds squirt in anticipation, they are wise by now, they know this is something special.
Here goes…
OH MY GOD.  This is so unfair.  This is like 6 foot blond models from Sweden-how is the rest of the world supposed to compete? Truffle Tremor hits a triple crown of taste and texture. It’s spicy goat’s milk, ridiculous umami of truffle, also sweet ripe cheese, but tempered by the slightly bitter and salty interior…but then’s there’s the texture…or textures…there’s so much going on!  It’s unctuous and creamy, it”s chalky and flaky, the rind is chewy and tensile-it all mixes up into this blissful cacophony of truffle goat flavour.  It’s just crazy good, but not a starter cheese-don’t give this one to the cheese newbs, they won’t know what hit them, plus it would be a waste-chuck some cheddar at them and keep this one hidden.  Truffle Tremor is a little special treat to share with your most discerning Turophile friends-they will love you for it.
Nice work, Cypress Grove, Truffle Tremor, you are definitely my slice of cheese.

Cheese 113 Comox Brie-Natural Pastures Cheese Company


It takes a big person to admit a big mistake.  And I’m, um-a big person.  I can’t believe it! I have made a grievous cheese-based error.  I have somehow overlooked the World Championship Cheese contest gold medallist-even though it’s made in my own back yard.  Forgive me, cheese Gods!

I was in my local market the other day, checking out the cheese-as I always do-when something caught my eye on the package of Comox Brie.  That something was a Gold medal. Yikes. A cheese Gold medal.  You see, I purposefully overlooked this cheese BECAUSE it’s always at my local market-I made the mistake of assuming that anything that could be widely purchased was crap, and that’s just foolish snobbery on my part. Do not be trapped into this assumption. I can’t tell you how many “artisan” type handmade cheeses I have tried that were just kind of meh, and how many widely available cheeses I have tried that really rocked.  I know, it seems wrong, but I must speak the cheese truth.

Comox Brie comes from the town of Courtenay- a small town on Vancouver Island with a close connection to my own hometown, Powell River.  I spent many days in my youth wandering the little streets of this town. Comox is an even tinier little town near Courtnenay. Comox Brie takes its name from this town.  Sweet. I feel almost like cousins.

Natural Pastures cheese company is a family owned affair.  The Smith family makes only “artisan cheeses,” all hand-made under the guidance of their very own Swiss  Master Cheese maker Paul Sutter, originally from Switzerland where he received traditional Swiss training and professional accreditation. For the record, I also would like my very own Master Swiss cheese maker!  Hint: Mother’s Day is tomorrow, should be an easy gift!

This company sources all the milk from its own Farm-Beaver Meadow as well as a handful of other local farms, all on Vancouver Island. Thus the “terroir” of the  coastal valley environment is evident in this cheese-all the milk coming from a single area.  Interestingly, when I was a child we sometimes ate bear.  If the bear had been feasting on berries, the meat was sweet and succulent.  If, however, the bear had been feasting on salmon, the meet was-well-fishy.  This is an example of terroir that I just wanted to share with you, because it’s my blog, and I can say whatever I want!  Ha!

I digress.  The Smith family turned to cheese making in 2001 and have made a big splash on the cheese world winning 40-plus prestigious national and international awards. How did I miss this?  Scratches head.  Interestingly, the farms they work with, “Heritage Dairy farms” are committed to environmental sustainability including natural wildlife habitat-their  enhanced stream habitats raise thousands of wild Coho Salmon each year which could be eaten by bears causing a unique salmon terroir.  See, full circle logic.

I digress again.  Natural Pastures Cheese Comox Brie recently earned the pinnacle World Championship Gold Medal, in the 27th biennial Contest (WCC) a technical evaluation of cheese by an international panel of 22 judges, experts in cheese evaluation. Again, I shall volunteer to be a judge at this event.  It saddens me that I have not been called upon to judge cheese, as I am so clearly qualified!

I digress yet again.  As the first World Championship cheese ever produced from Vancouver Island and first WCC gold medal Brie ever from western Canada, scoring 98.95, Comox Brie edged out Damafros double crème from Quebec (which I previously reviewed and ADORED, OMG so good).   Comox Brie begins with milk from a herd of Ayrshire cattle raised by Guy Sim, a Canada Master Breeder. Wow, this cheese and the cows all have their own pedigree. I’m assuming this is a pasteurized cheese, but I can’t be sure-I’m about 99.99% certain of this, but as the wrapper has disappeared and it doesn’t say on the website it’s an educated guess at this point.

I have actually had a hard time reviewing Comox Brie, chiefly because everyone in my family kept eating it before I was ready to sample it.  My small wedge-which was much larger before the swarm of locusts known as my family descended upon it-is a typical white looking brie-penicillium mold on the outside (yup, the white stuff is mold, deal with it) and creamy buttery interior.  I have wisely chosen to taste this one right before the best before date, when the brie is perfect.  Like women, brie really must be aged in order to achieve true greatness.  You can tell a brie is ready if it’s gooey inside-if it’s kind of dry and chalky you have a young brie-put it back! This Comox Brie is gorgeous looking, so creamy and succulent, it smells  faintly of ammonia, mushroom and um, adult pleasures..shall I leave it at that?

Here goes….

Mmmmm.  Oh my lord, now this is a great brie. Like, really, really great. It’s perfectly ripened, look at the picture below, see how it’s gooey all the way through, that’s what you want!  It’s making love to my teeth and tongue.  It’s salty and creamy and slightly uric and carnal…oh yes, this is a carnal little cheese. This is actually quite a naughty little cheese. This is the way I always want brie to be but it rarely is.  It’s absolutely divine.  Yes, this is a Gold Medal winner-all the way.  Scrumptious!  Go and get yourself some of this, stat.  Let it ripen up until the best before date and go for it-you’ll thank me later.

Cheese 110-Tomme de Savoie

 

I almost feel as though my cheese journey has come full circle.  My interest in cheese was first piqued by my daughter’s trip to France and subsequent interest in French cheese.  In reciprocity for her stay in France, we recently became hosts to our very own French exchange student, a charming and bright 17 year old girl.  This girl is so bright and charming that she brought her new Canadian mommy FOUR cheeses from France, yes, that’s right, four.  This clearly illustrates to me that this young lady knows the way to my heart.  It’s simple people, just bring me cheese.  While I have actually previously sampled and adored two of her cheese gifts, Beaufort (mmmmmm) and Abondance (oh yahhhhhhhhh) she also brought the next two beauties I shall review for me-neither of which I have seen in Canada for sale.  You may just have to appreciate these darlings on the page here, I’m not sure if they ever make it to our fair shore- but what an excuse to go to France (does one need an excuse to go to France?)

I have run into the word “Tomme” before in relation to cheese, and have previously reviewed Tomme de Montagne, Tomme Haute Richelieu and Tomme Alsace Fermier.  So what’s with all the Tommes?  It turns out the word “Tomme” (not Dick, not Harry) is a generic cheese word which generally refers to cheese made from many herds mixed, or small alpine cheeses, or skim milk cheeses, or some combination of the three (sorry, that’s as clear as it gets).  The word Tomme is followed by a place name to clarify it’s point of origin.  Hence Tomme de Savoie, is from the …Savoie region, now you get it!

This Tomme is a true Mountain cheese made from skim raw cow’s milk,  milk left over from making cheeses like Beaufort or Gruyere, which are from the exact same region, and tend to hog up all the full-fat milk.  I’m actually all for a skim milk cheese if it gives me that nice cheesy mouth feel, it’s only those wretched low-fat so-called mozzarella type cheeses that have spoiled the whole skim milk cheese thing for me.  It’s good to be open minded about this sort of thing. A girl who loves cheese like me, and is also attempting to watch her weight, needs to be careful-my sample has 30% fat which seems just about right.

According to my research, there are actually many Tomme de Savoies, virtually every village in the area makes one, and the name isn’t controlled by one village.  This cheese does have a designation type that is new for me. I have discussed, at length the AOC designation, a designation that protects the name and terroir of a cheese, but Tomme de Savoie has Protected Geographical Indication or PGI (IGP, Indication Géographique Protégée) which seems to be an “AOC lite” type designation, meaning that this cheese is certified  as being traditional or a typical speciality from a clearly defined region, but without the controlled specification of the AOC.  That’s my best shot at explaining it, folks.  One source online source stated that Tomme de Savoie is currently being considered for an AOC designation but isn’t there yet. Tomme de Savoie obtained the “Protected Designation of Origin” label in 1996.

Tomme de Savoie was first produced by local farmers as a way of using left over skim milk hundreds of years ago and continues to be made in small batches using the same techniques.  The inhabitants of the Savoie region are terribly fond of this cheese, and will eat it with their coffee for their afternoon snack. Tomme de Savoie is made from the milk of Tarine or Abondance cows. After the curd is pressed it is matured for 2-4 months in a traditional cellar, which produces the thick rind and adds flavor. Tomme de Savoie is salted, rubbed and turned over twice a week-lucky!  My lovely stinky wedge of Tomme de Savoie travelled a long way to make it to my table.

This is one of the most fabulous looking cheeses I have ever seen-and that’s really saying a lot this far into my cheese journey.  The rind is dark and forbidding, the interior creamy and pocked with tiny holes.  It just looks like a cheese ought to look-like an authentic cheese, I can imagine a farmer or shepherd munching on this Tomme 1000 years ago on the side of a hill-it just reeks of authenticity and is clearly not a factory-made cheese.  It’s perfectly hideous and unabashed in its cheesy glory.

My French student informs me that the rind is not typically eaten with this cheese, so I shall avoid it-truly it is a little daunting.  While I do enjoy a raunchy rind on my cheese this one is mottled black and brown and a tad too zombie-like for me. Tomme de Savoie smells fabulous in that unwashed toes and uric acid sort of way that I adore, it simpers beside me warming and off-gassing, proclaiming to all that it is a little stinker.

Here goes…

Mmmmm, ohhhhhh.  Much more mild than I was expecting.  It’s a little lemony, that surprises me, there’s also a balance of salt and toes that’s just freaking divine.  Oh!  It’s creamy, much more so than the other Mountain cheeses I have sampled which tend to be semi-hard, this one’s actually quite soft and toothsome, there’s not a lot of chewing involved, it’s perfectly tensile and springy.  I can’t believe this is a low fat cheese-you would never, ever know, the mouth-feel is just as perfectly unctuous as any other full-fat cheese.  It’s actually sticking to my teeth, cleaving to them, it’s made best friends with my tongue, why, “hello!”  There’s a real feel of forest terroir and dank cellars in Tomme de Savoie-make no mistake-while it is relatively mild you can’t deny that hint of mystery and dark places and mushrooms-but it’s all held in perfect balance. This cheese is freaking unbelievable, why doesn’t everyone eat it?

Oh Tomme de Savoie!  You are so scrumptious and low fat, why aren’t you available to me here?  You are definitely my slice of cheese.

Cheese 107-Skyr


This time, it’s personal.  Today’s cheese has eluded me for decades.  But that’s all over now.

When I was a little girl my Icelandic grandma made a delicious dairy treat for us “from the old country” called skyr.  Skyr was a thick yoghurt type desert, only better.  Not that there’s anything wrong with yoghurt-but skyr is more tangy, somehow more fulsome, and most importantly, only grandma knew how to make it.  It was special.  Grandma died when I was 17 years old taking with her endless games of cribbage, trips to the Bingo hall,and of course-her secret recipe for skyr. I’m going to be honest, skyr kind of dropped off my radar then.  I didn’t realize how much I longed for it until about 3 years ago, when my mother, my sister and I planned a trip to Iceland.   Imagine my surprise to find skyr waiting for me at the airport in Reykjavik. I mean, it was literally everywhere!  Skyr is so beloved and dominant in Iceland that in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s famous outdoor geothermal spa, there is a swim up skyr bar.  That’s right , a swim up skyr bar.  What kind of country has a swim up skyr bar?  I quickly acquainted myself with skyr in Iceland and ate it every single day, it was heaven.

Now wait, I know at this point you are thinking to yourself this is a cheese blog, silly, not yoghurt, but here it is…SKYR IS CHEESE!!!!!  Even though it looks and acts like yoghurt, it’s actually made with rennet, and thus is a cheese.  Technicality! It’s like a soft special cheese traditionally made of raw skimmed cow’s milk. Icelanders really dig their skyr.  They have been making and eating skyr since the 9th century, and it continues to be a big part of the diet in Iceland. As it is a cheese, it actually allowed them to store milk for longer than normal, which was quite handy on those ocean voyages while they were dong their important Viking work such as discovering some continents and pillaging others. Skyr these days is especially popular with people trying to gain muscle or lose fat-and who doesn’t want that?  It is a shockingly great source of low-fat protein. It’s actually a perfect food.  Can you tell I love skyr?  This message was brought to you by skyr.

When I returned back to Canada I recognized that I needed skyr, and I needed it all the time-in my stomach.  Alas, skyr is nowhere to be found in all of Canada.  Trust me, I looked.  Not to be foiled, I figured if I could get some skyr starter and a yoghurt maker, I should be good to go making my own.  First, I was under the impression I needed raw cow’s milk to make skyr.  I looked high and low and eventually discovered that it was highly illegal to sell raw milk in Canada, so that was out. It turns out that most skyr these days uses pasteurized milk, so I still had hope. Then I realized that I also needed real skyr as a starter, to seed my batch-it’s a special bacteria you see, you can’t just fake Streptococcus salivarius subsp.thermophilus, you know? I should have brought some back from Iceland, but I was too freaked out to sneak it across the border, fearing some dairy related border incident.  Once again, I was foiled.  I tried various other pathetic techniques like kefir grains and butter milk, but nothing was skyr, nothing was real and nothing worked.  It was a failure.

Finally, last week, while in New York City I was reunited with skyr.  An American company “Siggi’s Skyr” is making skyr in the USA using Icelandic skyr techniques and starter.  It certainly appears to be the real thing.  Of course, it’s not here in Canada, nor in my fridge, but at last! Although for some reason it hasn’t come to Canada, Siggi’s skyr is everywhere in New York, which seems to be a waste to me.  I saw it in at least 3 stores in Manhattan, it sits beside the yoghurt-even though, as I have made clear, it is a cheese.  It’s much more expensive than yoghurt, at least twice the price, so that’s a little prohibitive.  But really, it’s skyr, it’s worth it.

Siggi’s skyr comes in a couple of different flavours, mostly kind of weird ones like pomegranate and passionfruit and coconut, not your tradition Icelandic flavours.  Although it apparently comes in a drinkable form, I only sampled the firmer skyr in a bucket.  Siggi’s skyr comes in a plastic tub, when the lid is removed the interior is already mixed.  It’s thick, much thicker than yoghurt, and has no discernible smell.  This is not an aged cheese, it’s the love child of cream cheese and yoghurt, it’s extremely fresh and spoils easily.

Here goes….

Hmmm.  Well, a little bit of a let down!  Serves me right for all the build up.  I’m just not crazy about the texture of this skyr, I find it a little thicker and grainier than I remember.  It’s really thick, especially if you are thinking yoghurt, you need to chew this stuff (just a little bit).  The taste is also not what I was looking for. I am sampling the passionfruit flavour and it just doesn’t seem sweet enough for me.  This skyr is sweetened with agave, and I think the agave could be a little more generous. Actually, a lot more generous, come on! The skyr I ate in Iceland also had a real lemony tang to it that I am missing here, this seems more subdued, and I’m not sure why that is.  While I think skyr in general is fabulous, I’m not sure if I’m the hugest fan of Siggi’s skyr.  Total bummer!  However, now that I know it’s in the USA, I think it’s time to try my hand at skyr making at home again.  All I needed was some Streptococcus salivarius subsp.thermophilus and a jug of skimmed milk to make Willow’s Skyr, and that-my friends, is definitely my slice (or spoon) of cheese!

Day 84-L’Hercule de Charlevoix

 

What’s up with Quebec and all of their amazing cheese?  Is it a French thing?  Did they bring their love of cheese along with their recipes with them from France?  Apart from Avonlea cheddar and a handful of local BC cheeses, it seems as though the Canadian cheese market is totally dominated by Quebec.  Not that I’m complaining, it’s just odd.  Shouldn’t there be great cheese from all across Canada?  If there is, I haven’t been able to locate it.

Thus- it’s back to Quebec for today’s cheese ,“L’Hercule de Charlevoix.” L’Hercule de Charlevoix or Hercules of Charlevoix,  is named in honour of Jean-Baptiste Grenon, the Hercules of the North.  Grenon was a French soldier and hero during the Seven Year War with the English.  He was captured and made prisoner by General Wolfe’s troops during the summer of 1759.  Grenon was reportedly so strong that the English troops couldn’t get a rope around his neck to hang him.   Out of respect, the English let him go.  A picture of this legendary Hercules Grenon graces the label of the cheese in honor of his tenacity and strength against the English.  He’s a massive burly man ripping a large tree out by its roots with his arms. Let’s hope the cheese is strong and burly too!  I don’t know about the need to express strength against the English these days-I think we have established that the war is over. The French have clearly won the battle for cheese dominance.

L’Hercule is one of several cheeses made by the Labbé family at their Laiterie Charlevoix (hence, L”Hercule de Charlevoix) in Baie-St-Paul, Quebec.  I do so adore family-owned fromageries.  I’m not really sure why, but there seems to be something so fundamentally right to me about a family that makes cheese together. The milk for L’Hercule comes from a single herd of Jersey cows that graze no more than one kilometer from the fromagerie. Although they don’t technically belong to the Labbe family, it’s cool-they are still neighbours.

L’Hercule is a very new cheese on the market.  It first sold in July, 2007 at six months old.  The cheese is now available up to the 18 month mark as the affinage catches up to the cheese for sale.  There’s always that lag in a new cheese coming to market. L’Hercule has been compared to  Comté and Gruyère in flavour and composition.  Like these great mountain cheeses, L’Hercule de Charlevoix is a firm, pressed cheese.  L’Hercule is yet another thermalized cheese-not raw, but not pasteurized either-it falls somewhere between the two.

L’Hercule may be a new cheese, but the Laiterie Charlevoix has been in business since the 1940‘s.  They make a number of popular and award winning cheeses, but more importantly there is also a Cheese-Making “Economuseum” on site at their fromagerie preserving the artisanal aspect of making cheese and allowing visitors in before 11:00 a.m. to watch a demonstration of cheese processing and aging. Jealous!  No really, so jealous.

My little wedge of L’Hercule looks for all intents and purposes like a Gruyère.  It’s a firm-looking cheese with no eyes.  The interior paste is a creamy yellow.  The rind is a white-ish brown natural rind which is thin and dry in appearance. Alas, my label did not say which age this cheese is, so it could be a 6 month all the way to an 18 month cheese, pity I can’t tell. It’s also a pity I couldn’t watch it being made in the Economuseum.  It smells absolutely delicious.  If awards were given for smell, L’Hercule would take the prize-it’s like a cross between toes and nirvana.

Here goes…

Oh, it is fabulous!  It’s just as it smells, savoury and snackalicious with an undercurrent of foot.  It really is like a young Gruyère-the paste is smooth and yields nicely to the tooth before melting.  There is no crunch of tyrosine-I suspect this is the 6 month mark of cheese as it is obviously not spent too much time in affinage, it’s still supple and toothsome…but the taste..let’s have some more, it’s actually surprisingly mild-I was expecting something strong and burly like Hercules Grenon-but it’s much more subtle and crafty than that.  This cheese sits in perfect balance between salt, sweet, uric acid (yup, it’s in there, can’t deny it), toes and umami, all wrapped up in a Gruyère-like texture.  God, the French!  They continue to dominate us!  Go out and find some.  Buy it and eat it- I command you!