Cheese 125 Pont L’Eveque

About once every two months, I like to go cross-border shopping into Bellingham, Washington. It’s only 1.5 hours from Vancouver, and-unlike Vancouver-it has a Trader Joe’s store- full of Canadians. The parking lot is awash with BC plates, it’s almost laughable.

Trader Joe’s features a new “Spotlight” cheese every month. This cheese is sold as a killer special deal,  and their cheese, in general, is about half the price of the same cheese in Canada. You can imagine what I like to stock up on (along with the lacy chocolate cookies and coconut ribbons-I digress.)

Yesterday I picked up April’s special, Pont L’Eveque. Now, it is May, not April, so I’m really hoping that this cheese is still good. It’s a little risky buying a famous and fragile cheese like this. It’s really a cheese that should be cherished and purchased lovingly from a cheese monger who slices off a morsel, wraps it in cheese paper and passes it to you-but here it is bought in bulk.  Image

Pont L’Eveque is a French cheese made of (in this case) pasteurized cow’s milk. It carries the DOP label (appelation d’origine protegee) so that means it’s the real thing. I confess to being a little confused over whether or not this cheese is normally pasteurized-web sources seem to contradict themselves. However, this Trader Joe’s version is pasteurized, that may have been done to allow sale into the USA-not sure.

It’s a washed rind cheese and one of the very oldest of the French cheeses-and that’s saying something. A famous French poem from the 13th century makes reference to this cheese, so people have been eating and loving this one for a long time.

ImageSome believe it is named after the Norman Abbey monks who first introduced it in the 12th century. Pont l’Eveque was originally called Angelot cheese. It’s also called Moyaux cheese. Why it needs three names is unclear, but you can just interchange them at a dinner party and people will think you are amazing!

Pont L’Eveque looks like a square brie or camembert, except it is a washed rind cheese, so it’s a little yellow and sticky on the outside-not that velvety white. There are small lines running through the rind. The inside is soft and gooey-I have been letting it warm up, unwrapped on my counter for about an hour (please do let your cheese warm up, it’s so much happier if you do!) It’s slightly bulgy and creamy looking on the inside, there are several small eyes throughout the paste.

Now, the smell. I have read a number of accounts describing how stinky this cheese is. People refer to all sorts of bodily odours in comparison to this cheese, and that’s just silly. Anyone who thinks this cheese smells obviously hasn’t eaten a lot of cheese. Yes, it is a washed rind cheese, which means that there are a lot of happy bacteria on the rind (not just inside) so it is a little funky, but don’t be scared off by reports of it’s reek. They are misleading. It’s a nice, pungent little smelling cheese.

ImageHere goes:

Mmmm. Oh, I like it! It tastes like asparagus to me. Isn’t that weird? It’s pretty mild, with that expected hit of ammonia from any washed rind, but it mixes nicely with the creamy, smooth interior. There’s a great balance of salt, and as it’s a rather small cheese there’s a lot of rind to body ratio-so that stronger rind mixes with the creamy interior and gives a great flavour profile. OK, I’m going to say it-it does taste a tiny bit like pee or maybe belly button (these are both guesses, for the record, I actually don’t know what either of those taste like) but there is something a little carnal about this cheese. It has a nice, “I’m alive and you are eating me” sort of taste, but I like that! I don’t want to eat some dead, wimpy sort of cheese.  I might like it even more with a little slice of pear or apple, it is described as a dessert cheese, and I get that.

Funky, gnarly, yummy, cheap.

Go and get some!

Cheese 119-Bresse Bleu (Bleu de Bresse)

This cheese journey of mine has been beset by many trials and tribulations over the last 8 months.  There was the great fridge breakdown of 2011,  that heinous stomach flu, then there was Christmas, and there was the cleanse…but through each I soldiered on, and through each of these foibles, the cheese was purchased and sampled-until this week. This Monday I eagerly planned a food field trip to a new cheese shop in a town close by that I had never visited which reportedly-had a number of rare Canadian cheeses-how exciting!

It took me almost an hour to drive to this remote location (I tell you this so that you may appreciate my dedication to cheese).  I drove up, parked my car, and made a b-line to the front door which beckoned me-where I was stopped.  By the police. A uniformed officer opened the door sharply and informed me “ma’am, we are closed.”  It was only then that I noticed the police tape and multiple police vehicles with lights on surrounding the shop.  Seriously.  I was so gobsmacked by the notion of a new cheese shop that I had blithely walked into a crime scene.  That’s how I roll when it comes to cheese.

Thus, today’s cheese is not some exotic little Canadian number that I can wax on about: how rare, how special, the terroir, et cetera.  Today we had to settle for something a little more pedestrian and thus available at my local market which is not covered in police tape.

Actually, it’s a good idea to review Bleu de Bresse, AKA Bresse Bleu, as I realize I have not yet reviewed any cheese in this family-the bloomy rind/blue cheese hybrid.  There are many cheeses in this family.  This is a sneaky little cheese which might surprise you at a party- you see that white mushroomy rind and think, “ah yes, a  camembert, I can handle that!” but it’s not until you have cut into it, that you realize the inside is studded with little pockets of blue mold.  You have been tricked! The first time this ever happened to me I thought the cheese had gone off and no one had noticed.  Nope, they do this on purpose.  The good thing about this type of cheese is that it really is a gateway cheese to more intense blues.  Because it looks so benign, it’s easy to talk someone into just trying just a little bit.  It’s so mild and friendly that it might just be the perfect place to start a foray into blue.

Bleu de Bresse comes from France. It is a cow’s milk cheese made from pasteurized milk and it’s definitely factory made.  The texture and appearance externally is similar to camembert with that soft, white and edible rind. Bresse Bleu first arrived on the scene in 1951 and comes from the French Province of Bresse-specifically the French village of Bourge-en-Bresse.  The brand and trademark for Bleu de Bresse are wholly owned by European cheese giant Bongrain-thus all Bresse Bleu is the same, and all Bresse Bleu is one-there are no regional variations.  Alas, I was unable to find any sexy little stories about the history of this cheese, but it reminds me of a nice Cambazola so I like to think that’s the inspiration. I have no idea, really. That’s just me musing aloud.

This cheese is basically a camembert which has our old friend, Penicillium Roqueforti introduced straight into the curds, afterwards it is  drained and covered with pulverized Penicillium camemberti to form the outer coating, so it truly is a hybrid, Roquefort on the inside, and camembert on the outside.

My little round of Bresse Bleu is quite attractive and demure.  I cleverly purchased it on sale as it was just at the “best before date” which you must ALWAYS do with a soft cheese like this.  It does indeed appear to be a boring little camembert-type white mould cheese, but when you cut it open, a little blue mouldy surprise!  This one’s quite creamy inside as I waited for just the right time to open it, there is some blue dappling, but it’s nothing crazy.  The interior is much creamier and more yellow than I expected.  The smell is actually divine, it makes me feel somewhat strange-it’s a tiny bit like pee, but also like mushrooms, truffles, rotten logs and carnal thoughts, all wrapped up into one.  Mmm.

Here goes…

Oh yum!  It’s actually fabulous.  It’s not as salty as most blues, it’s more creamy and sweet with that spicy tang well-balanced by the mellow note of cream.  The texture is also fantastic, that camembert rind is really thick and chewy and makes a great contrast to the creamy interior for a great mouth-feel.  This really is a fusion cheese, it’s totally camembert, and totally Roquefort, cool.  This is not a crumbler, this is a smeary cheese.  Wow, it’s good.  I think this one would be a good starter blue for those fearful of the real stuff, but it’s good enough for my cheese plate all on its own.

Well, the boys in Blue lead me to Bresse Bleu-maybe it was meant to be, because Bresse Bleu, you are 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.

Day 96-Chevrotina


The biggest transformation for me personally through this almost 100 day journey into cheese has been my new-found love for goat cheese.  Now that I have crossed over to the goat side I just can’t get enough.  Luckily, BC seems to be full of goat’s-milk cheese, and some of it within driving distance of yours truly.I just picked up this little button of goat cheese the other day in Vancouver.  It looked intriguing to me, it’s the first “button” of cheese I have seen for sale.  When I saw that it was goat, local and organic I was sold.  Really, they had me at goat.

Today’s cheese, Chevrotina is made by the certified organic “Goat’s Pride” Dairy in Abbotsford, BC. It’s the first Certified Organic goat dairy in western Canada.  This local company has been making cheese for the past six years. In addition to cheese, Goat’s Pride farm offers tours for groups of 12 or more with activities including  goat education, cheese tasting, and goat milking demonstration.  This farm tour offering seems to be on trend with local fromageries.  One suspects it must be challenging to deal with goats, cheese making, and tourists simultaneously.

Goat’s Pride is a family owned farm. Peter and Jo-Ann Dykstra and their children do it all.  They keep their goat-herd and their fromagerie on the same property, so it’s all very cozy. The goats have access to roam outside when it is sunny, and they can wander freely on the farm’s 20 acres of bush, snacking to their little goat hearts content. Their pens are large, and roomy, and this whole set up seems very goat positive. The goats here are fed organic grain, hay and alfalfa. They  use no hormones, and will use antibiotics only under duress-preferring to use herbal or homeopathic remedies, and that’s a first, homeopathics for goats!  Wow. Most of the milk comes from their farm although they do occasionally source milk from another organic goat farm in Chilliwack.

I am fairly certain there must be a savvy teenager in this family, as this is one of the more dialled in set ups I have seen.  Besides the website and facebook page, this dairy also tweets on Twitter, and that’s another first.  Goat’s Pride Dairy received two awards at the recent American Cheese Society Cheese Competition in Montreal, alas, not for today’s cheese, but not bad for a newbie.

Today’s cheese, Chevrotina, is a camembert style goat’s cheese.  That means it’s very young and surface ripened-and made of goat milk.  Interestingly, they appear to have made up the name Chevrotina.  Chevrotin des Aravis and Chevrotin des Bauges are both AOC cheeses from France, thus perhaps the name is a nod to these cheeses.  Maybe they just liked the name as it includes the all-important “Chevre,”   Who knows?  Goat’s Pride Chevrotina is made from pasteurized milk.

My little button of Goat’s Pride Chevrotina is well, cute as a button.  I’m not really sure why it is sold in this format, but as it was less expensive than the log format it also came in, I went with this one.  Thrift, you see.  It’s pure white and covered with penicillium camemberti mould, which is correct for this type of cheese.  It is a surface ripened cheese, and likely quite young. The interior is also quite white, goat’s milk tends to be albino-like.  There is a spackle of tiny eyes in the interior paste.  This cheese smells kind of funky, like mushrooms, and also slightly carnal, if I may be so bold.  There’s just something a little naughty about it, which is surprising for such a sweet looking little button! But where’s the goat? I can’t smell that at all.

Here goes…

Oh, there’s the goat, it was just hiding!  Little rascal.  The cheese has a mushroomy taste, that’s that camembert rind, and the paste is quite toothsome.  The uric acid and salt is quite understated for a camembert type cheese.  In all, it’s pretty mellow.  Unfortunately,  I’m not crazy about this cheese, and the sad thing is, I really wanted to love it! I think it’s the texture that’s not really working for me.  It’s all the rind that’s the problem.  Because this is a button sized piece there is much more rind than normal, and this rind is a little tough and mealy.  There’s almost no creamy paste to mix in with all that rind, so it’s not giving me a great mouth feel, really, it’s not the cheeses fault, I’m just not a rind girl.  I’m not sure if this would be the case in another form, like the log. Bummer, this one is not my slice of cheese, but there are 10 cheeses in their line up, so I will be back, Goat’s Pride, that’s a promise.

Day 95-Le Saint Damase

 

Well, it’s back to Canada for the final six cheeses in the blog.  It feels good to be back on my own cheesey turf.  It’s a big world of cheese out there, and it’s easy to get lost.  There really is no place like home.  Damafro is a large Canadian cheese company based in-where else-Quebec.  I have already reviewed their Chevre Noir, but today I am turning my mind-and tongue to their flagship cheese, Le Saint-Damase.

Damafro is a family owned and run business.  According to their website, they are one of the three “top makers of fine cheeses in North America.”  I’m not sure what that actually means, but let’s go with it.  Now that they also own the Fromagerie Tournevent, as of 2005, Damafro has the market cornered on goat’s cheese as well.  Bravo, Damafro.

Damafro has been making cheese since 1984.  It’s still pretty much a family affair, which is really something for such a large company.  I for one am jealous!  Currently three generations of the Bonnet family work together and make cheeses including Bries, Camemberts, and Gouda, all with their own Canadian interpretation. Let’s be clear, these are not fakes -but Canadian iterations of some of the great European cheeses.

The Bonnet family comes from the Brie region of France. Yes, the Brie region. The company was founded by brothers Michel Bonnet-a master cheesemaker, and Philippe Bonnet, along with their father, Claude.  Claude Bonnet was President of the Interprofessional Association in France, and worked to develop the guidelines defining the Official French designation (AOC) certifying the two types of Brie: Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun. So Claude is basically the world’s leading expert on Brie, not just some pretender.  When Claude turned 50 he left France and moved to Québec, convinced that North Americans would like to eat Brie and Camembert made on their own turf.  He  and his sons bought a small cheese factory  in the Montérégie region of Quebec.

After the success of their first couple of cheeses, Damafro decided to invent their very own cheese, and who can blame them?  I know it’s certainly on my mind! In 1989  they introduced Le Saint Damase,  Québec’s very first washed rind cheese.  Le Saint-Damase  is made according to an old recipe developed in a Calvados monastery. I have done a little investigating trying to figure out which cheese this one is connected to. I suspect it is either Livarot  or Langres, but regardless, Le Saint Damase is its own cheese.

Unfortunately those Bonnet’s are extremely close-mouthed about how this cheese, or any of their cheese is made, for that matter.  Beyond the fact that they use “100% Canadian milk” I have been unable to discern much more. I am assuming this is a cow’s milk cheese. I can’t even tell if the milk is raw or pasteurized, but as it is factory made, I am leaning towards pasteurized.  Washed rind cheese is relatively young, during the ripening period, the cheese is washed and brushed with a salty brine and bacterial solution, hence the name “washed-rind”.  Sometimes washed rind cheeses are brushed with alcohol, particularly ones made by Trappist monks.  Again, it’s unclear to me what solution was used for this little stinker, so it remains a mystery.  Alas.

My little wet wedge of Le Saint Damase isn’t spilling any of its secrets either.  The longer it waits for me to write, the wetter and gooey it gets, and I do l so like that in a cheese!  It looks like a cross between Maroilles and Epoisses, it’s a squishy looking orange rind cheese with a gooey looking cream coloured interior paste.  The rind is flecked with white looking molds, yummy! It’s a little stinker!  This one smells like old underwear and gym socks that have been left in an outhouse to mellow, it just makes my mouth water!

Here goes…

Oh Yummy!!!  Great job, Claude Bonnet, not that I expected anything less from a cheese master such as yourself. This is the cheese I have been looking for.  Holy Hannah, this is good.  It’s salty and raunchy-but not heinously so, the taste is much mellower than the smell.  The texture is simply perfect, it is like a gooey pillow of cheese essence on your tongue.  The rind is much more-um-pungent-than the paste, so any bite that includes rind may actually make your eyes water, yes, it’s that intense.  Have I mentioned how great this is?  It’s definitely not a starter cheese.  This one doesn’t just look like Epoisses, it tastes like it. I think you need to build up to a cheese like this, but it’s worth it.  Le Saint Damase, you are definitely my slice of cheese!

Day 85-Goat Brie

 


I have been trying to focus on smaller cheese companies for this blog, but today I am going to break with this tradition to sample a cheese from the goat’s-milk cheese giant, Woolrich.  I have never sampled Woolrich before today, but their happy little goat emblem greats me everywhere I go to look at cheese.  They have complete goat cheese saturation in Canada being Canada’s leading largest goat cheese producer.  Just because something is really successful, doesn’t mean it’s not great, right?

Woolrich was established in  1983 and is still family-owned and operated.  The company’s owners and founders, Tony and Olga Dutra, decided to focus on goat cheese only.  Tony’s mother, Adozinda, supplied goat cheese to her village in Portugal. When she immigrated to Ontario she bought a small goat farm and began making her goat cheese for  friends and family. The Dutras got the clever idea to package the family recipe and sell it to the public, and so it began.  In 1989, the Dutras purchased the pre-existing Woolwich Dairy and expanded it into the goat world.  Today Woolwich Dairy has several cheeses for sale including today’s Goat Brie.

Woolwich Dairy’s head office is in Orangeville, Ontario. Their massive production facility includes a viewing gallery where people can watch their goat cheese being made.  Milk for their cheese comes from over 200 Ontario goat farmers.  Their Quebec location, known as Fromagerie Madame Chèvre is a designated surface ripened cheese manufacturing facility.  I’m guessing today’s Brie was made there, but I really have no idea.

Woolwich Dairy Goat Brie has the same soft, white “Fleuri” mold on the outside as other Bries.  It’s a multiple award winner including second place at the 2005 American Cheese Society awards. This cheese is made from pasteurized goat’s milk, and is thus, safe for pregnant ladies with a hankering for goat brie.  Despite a snazzy website, Woolrich is pretty quiet about the actual production of this cheese.  However, all brie is aged for about 4 weeks.  All brie has-shockingly-a lower fat content than most hard cheeses, and all brie has a rind of mould.  I think it’s safe to say that it is an industrially produced, pasteurized goat cheese from Canada.  Let’s leave it at that.

I kind of find it funny how many people will refuse to eat a blue cheese, but are just all over a brie.  Brie is about the moldiest type of cheese one can enjoy- but it’s a fluffy white mold…it’s a rind, right?  Actually, that rind is a charming combination of at least two moulds, penicillium camemberti and penicillium candidum.  Brie is really a living and breathing entity, when it oozes and sticks, it’s telling you that it is alive!  Many cheese lovers wait to eat it right at the best before date, as it’s most…um, alive at this point.  As it ages it will release ammonia which some find delightful, others- not so much.

My little wedge of Woolrich goat Brie has been waiting patiently for me.  It is quietly moulding away, developing its rind.  Under the rind I can see that the cheese is ever so slightly more liquid looking, which is a good sign.  Look for liquid under the rind of a brie- my friends, you will be happier this way.  It’s a very white cheese.  Brie rind normally is, but coupled with the whiter than white of goat’s milk, this one is practically an albino.  The smell is mild, perhaps a little  reminiscent of goat and urine- but in the best way possible.

Here goes…

Mmmmmm.  I like it! The goat is really dialled down here, it’s a light salty and toothsome little snack.  The interior paste is really mild-add the rind in-which you MUST, don’t ever throw away brie rind, that’s a sin-and you suddenly get that mushrooms, earth, goat-pee deliciousness all wrapped up in one.  Why doesn’t everyone do brie this way?  I much prefer it to cow brie which I find a little insipid.  This gives a much-needed injection into brie.  My only complaint would be the texture, which is not as sticky as I would like.  It’s just a little on the foamy side, but this may have something to do with the fact that I have just hoovered it down straight from the fridge, a sin akin to not eating rind. I couldn’t wait for it to warm up properly…forgive me!  The great thing about this cheese is it’s also kind of cheap, and I got it at my local market, no special cheese shop trips were needed.  Nice job, Woolwich Dairy!


Day 75-Appenzeller Surchoix


I’m 3/4 of the way through my cheese journey today!  I have learned so much.  There is so much left to learn. Much of the truth of cheese can’t actually be learned though, that’s the problem.  Cheese is an emotional vector-it isn’t just about the substance, it is the intangibles-personal memories and connections.  That’s why it’s challenging to review some cheese-particularly cheese with a long and storied history-it’s like telling you your grandma is ugly.  Not cool, right?  But maybe she is ugly.  Is it so wrong to call it?

Speaking of ancient and emotionally poignant cheese, today’s cheese, Appenzeller-has been around for at least 700 years.  It is thus, guaranteed to have quite the following.   Appenzeller is another one of those cheeses I had only heard of before today.  It turns out that it is one of the most important of the Swiss cheeses.  Appenzeller, along with Emmenthaler and Gruyère form the Swiss triumvirate of cheese- also known as the classic Swiss fondue.  I was excessively fond of Gruyère, but turned my nose up to Emmenthaler, so It will be interesting to see where Appenzeller places.

Appenzeller is made in the Swiss mountainous area between Lake Constance and the Säntis massif cleverly known as Appenzellerland. Happy Swiss cattle graze in the alpine meadows and provide the raw milk from which Appenzeller cheese is made. Interestingly, Appenzeller is a total hold-out to the designation process.  By all rights it should be a DOP or AOC protected cheese.  It’s ancient, made in a specific area with specific milk only-however, in order to get this designation the creators of the cheese would have to give up their secret brine recipe-and they steadfastly refuse to do so!  Thus, they have attempted to trademark the name Appenzeller, it appears as Appenzeller® on their website, but it lacks the actual protection of the DOP designation.

I know I mention websites an awful lot here, but you really must check out the official one for Appenzeller-make sure you select English.  It’s utterly fascinating with great photos, URL http://appenzeller.ch/#die-sennen/881.  These are damn good-looking people making some cheese!  You know that stereotype of the Swiss mountain girl and Swiss mountain lad, frolicking through the alpine and blowing on large wooden horns-perhaps saying “Riccola?”  Those were, apparently, Appenzeller makers.

Although Appenzeller is a traditional cheese of this region, there are now just three local cooperative dairies producing it.  The milk comes exclusively from the Simmenthaler cow. Appenzeller comes in both raw and pasteurized, so check with your label if it matters-although as an aged cheese, it shouldn’t be a problem either way.  Once the curd is formed and molded it is then moved to the maturing rooms for aging.  The young cheeses are regularly washed in the secret solution referred to as “mysterious herbal brine” a phrase which appeals to my inner hippie child. Each dairy uses a slightly  different recipe for its mysterious herbal brine, and all are kept under lock and key.  There are three types of Appenzeller :Classic-4 months old, Surchoix-6 months (this is my sample today) and Extra-over 6 months.

My large slice of Appenzeller has been keeping me company as I write.  The longer it waits, the more I can smell it. I appreciate a cheese that announces its presence thusly. The cheese has a yellow paste with large eyes-it is, after all a real Swiss cheese-so they belong there.  The cheese paste gets darker near the rind-it must be that mysterious herbal brine that stains the cheese body.  The rind is thick and dark brown.This cheese smells fantastic, it’s strong and savoury-but not raunchy-it smells like a cheese’s cheese- like mushrooms and toes and locker-room towels-but in the very best way possible.

Here goes…

Your grandma is ugly.  No, really, I don’t like this cheese.  Sorry Swiss Mountain folk. It is quite savoury and piquant, but it lacks salt to close the taste.  It brings you up, then leaves you hanging.  It’s a tease.  It’s a little bitter and strangely a little uric acid tasting (that means pee) and I say strangely, as this is a firm and aged cheese.  Usually that nonsense is over with after a couple of months. Appenzeller also tastes a little like alcohol to me-it’s a funny aftertaste in the back of my mouth that’s just not  working.

OK, I’m going to melt this to see if it helps-it is a fondue cheese, after all.Mmmmm, ok, melting it totally helps with the weird aftertaste.  It’s just chilled out and melty and yummy. I could do this on a grilled cheese no problem.

Appenzeller, I appreciate you keeping it real, but I think I’ll stick with Gruyère if I’m having a hankering for a Swiss Mountain cheese.