Cheese 137 Mopsy’s Best-a Raw Milk Sheep’s Cheese

One of the great things about being obsessed with cheese, is that people tend to send me cheese tidbits. Alas, not edible cheese tidbits, but links, stories and photos of cheese. Last week a friend sent me a story about extinct words of the English language, including tyromancy. Tyromancy is the art of  divining the future through cheese!  How in the world did this work? Was it like reading tea leaves, only with cheese curd? Were all cheese types involved, or was there a special, powerful cheese used for this purpose? Most importantly, why did tyromancy die out?  Today, here, on “My Blog of Cheese”  I declare the return of tyromancy: I gaze deeply into a beautiful sheep’s milk cheese, and this is what I see…

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Sheep’s milk (sometimes known as ewe’s milk) cheese, is a very special cheese to me. It has a wonderful barny taste, but more than that, ancient cheese munching shepherds were not herding cows, they were herding sheep. Thus it just feels right to me to eat sheep’s cheese, I feel somehow that I’m getting closer to what cheese really is supposed to be. Plus, sheep have tiny little udders, so they really have to work a lot to make milk, and I also appreciate that. It’s good for so many reasons.

On my recent road trip to Washington state, the cheese monger I spoke to recommended that I try today’s cheese, “Mopsy’s Best.” “Oh you must, try it,” she said, “It’s a local, raw milk,  sheep’s cheese.” And really, local, raw or sheep alone would have been enough for me, but the three together is like a cheese yahtzee.

Mopsy’s Best comes to us from the Black Sheep Creamery, and I urge you to visit their website, as it is fantastic and full of great sheep pictures, and who doesn’t like that? The folk at Black Sheep craft their sheep milk cheeses on their farmstead from the milk of their own flock of Rideau-Arcott and East Friesian sheep who graze near Chehalis, Washington- as well as additional milk from the Tin Willows Farm in Eastern Oregon. In case you forgot, my name is also Willow, see: tyromancy at work! Let’s call this a “Cascadian” terroir” as they are mixing milk from 2 states, but it’s all coastal, so it’s all good.

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This cheese appears to be a family run affair. They got their first three sheep in 2000 when their second child had a sensitivity to cow milk, but was able to tolerate sheep milk, (can I just comment here on this being really exemplary parenting, most people would just score some soy milk from the store, but these people went out and bought sheep.) One of their first ewes was  ‘Mopsy” (who now does her best.) One thing lead to another, and  they have been making and selling cheese since about 2005.

Mopsy’s Best is a semi-firm raw cheese aged at least three months. Sheep’s milk has more butterfat and protein than goat and cow milk, and this helps to give it that complex flavour I’m so crazy about. The fact that the milk for Mopsy’s Best has not been pasteurized means that the flavour is more complex yet, as the milk is able to fully develop without any pasteurization getting in the way.  My little wedge of Mopsy’s Best is a firm medium yellow cheese. It has a natural brown rind with a cheese cloth pattern in evidence. The colour is darker closer to the rind, and there are some small eyes in the cheese paste. The smell is rich and barnyardy (is that a word?) It smells sweet and kind of funky, but mild over all. I can’t wait.

Here goes…

How interesting! It changes flavour as you chew it. Initially it’s a round salty sheep taste, but then a hint of caramel emerges. Crazy! The paste has a really interesting texture, it kind of falls apart in your mouth, like it gives up the game the second it touches your tongue, and then it just kind of dissolves into this cream…wait, now it tastes earthy, and closer to the rind it gets more intense with the hit of mushroom funky fungus taste that I dig.

It’s sweet, salty, funky, sheepy and crazy good. My skills of tyromancy tell me that there’s a great future for this little cheese, bravo, Black Sheep Creamery.IMG_2570

 

Cheese 134 Bouton-de-Culotte-a Diminutive Raw Milk Goat Cheese

After bringing you a rather mundane and tame cheese last blog post, I was stricken by guilt-guilt that I had let down my legions of readers. Perhaps legions is overly strong, but I know you readers are out there, and I’m so sorry to have bored you with such a pedestrian cheese.

To make up for that egregious oversight, I went searching for the most interesting looking cheese to review next, and that’s when I stumbled across this little beauty, Bouton-de- Culotte. Have you ever studied French? No? Well, let me help you out, Bouton-de-culotte means “buttons of pants” (of course, I prefer zippers to buttons, but that’s just me,) and it’s no wonder this cheese is called a button, because it’s just as cute as one, and also, about the same size as one.

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This Bouton-de-Culotte really did catch my eye, both because of its diminutive size and dark grey colour, but also because of its ridiculous price tag. My small Bouton cost nearly 7$ for really, a tiny morsel. It’s the caviar of the cheese world.

According to sources, Bouton-de-Culotte is actually a small Maconnais French cheese, (NB,Maconnais are also made from goat’s milk and carry the AOC designation.) It is from the Bourgognes region (Burgandy) in France. Boutons are traditionally stored during the autumn to be used throughout the winter. They are made of raw goat’s milk, so are bound to be rather raunchy twice, and who doesn’t like that in a cheese? By the winter when the cheese is ready to be eaten, the rind gets dark brown and the cheese becomes hard and it can then be grated into dishes for a little goaty je ne sais quoi?

And that’s about it for Bouton-de-Culotte, everything else on the ‘net is in French. It’s really quite a little mystery. How long has it been around? Who knows? Who makes it? A mystery. Why is it so damn expensive? Beats me. We will all have to be satisfied with these questions being unanswered. Alas.

But enough of that, my little Bouton seems more grey and white than brown in colour. Also, it’s currently August and these are supposed to be made in the autumn and eaten in the winter, so exactly how old is this cheese? Normally I’m into the rind, but the colour and age have frightened me, today I will be sampling the paste only. If I’m not here again in the next couple of weeks, it was the cheese!

My bouton smells like mushrooms and goat hooves-as it should. It’s musky and also redolent with the essence of barn. When I slice the cheese it’s firm, but not overly hard. It cuts and does not crumble. It’s a deep yellow colour near the ashy white rind and more of a chalky white near the centre.

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Here goes….

Wow! That packs a punch. Its really salty and slightly astringent, but with a lovely kick of goat. The paste has a nice chew, it melts on the tongue and teeth and does not crumble. It’s very flavourful, the combination of raw milk and goat means that all pistons are firing here. I dare not eat the rind, but as I approach it I do taste mushroom and fungus in a funky, salty way. I’m sure if I was brave enough to eat it, it would add another dimension to the cheese, but I am frightened and timid. It’s not at all offensive or overwhelming, no hint of foul mould or anything like that, but its certainly not a starter cheese. It’s actually freaking delicious, too bad its so damn expensive and way too small. One was not enough. Sigh, its all gone. That was fun.

If you are looking for a little goat adventure and feeling flush, go for it, it just might be your slice of cheese.

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 128 Isle of Mull Cheddar

I recently asked one of my favourite cheese sellers to name his favourite cheese. I realize that this is a cruel question. People ask me this cruel question all the time, and you might as well ask me who my favourite child is, it’s just wrong. Instead, ask me what my favourite washed rind cheese is, or my favourite mountain cheese, or perhaps, my most beloved cheddar.Still challenging, but much more realistic.

However, my cheese seller, when pressed (that’s a cheese pun) admitted to one favourite and that favourite is today’s cheese, “Isle of Mull Cheddar.” It’s taken me quite a while to track some down, as this is a very rare and precious cheese, but for you, readers, and for cheese, I will do just about anything.

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Isle of Mull cheddar is made by one family only, the Reades. They are the only family with a dairy herd on the Scottish Isle of Mull, which lies along the coastline of west Scotland. The island is quite “wee” with a population of no more than 3000. Proprietors Jeff and Chris Reade have been making cheese here since 1979. Their cheese is made from the milk of their own herd of cows, and due to the small area of the island, this milk is very affected by terroir-limited grain, and limited grass. To supplement the available food, these cows are fed the “spent grain husks” from the nearby whisky distillery, which is added to their feed (lucky cows). Apparently, this adds a slightly yeasty and perhaps alcoholic tang to this cheese. Wow! I mean, most of us have heard of wine and cheese, but this is the first whiskey IN cheese I have run across.

This is a relatively young cheddar, aged about 18 months, and it’s wrapped in cloth. Can I just say here  how mad I am for a cloth-wrapped cheese? I believe this is only my third cloth-wrapped cheese in the over 130 I have reviewed. Maybe I’m sentimental for the days of yore when more cheeses were wrapped, or maybe it’s that  funky smell the cloth gets when the bacteria move in, but I really give extra bonus points for this. More cloth please, cheese-makers of the world!

OK enough waxing on, now a word of warning. This is not a cheap cheese. Do you see this slice? Yes, it’s a tall slice, but it cost $8.00 here in Canada. That’s kind of crazy. It is a raw milk cheese (I’m not sure if it’s organic, it doesn’t say) and yes, it comes all the way from a wee Scottish Island where the cows drank spent grain husks all day, but this is one of the priciest cheeses I have sampled to date. Don’t grate this cheddar into your mac and cheese!  SAVE  IT FOR A RAINY DAY AND A GOOD FRIEND.

 

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First, this is a handsome cheese, that’s the best way to describe it. It’s an old-fashioned cheddar, with a creamy coloured paste but it’s very pale-much more pale than most other cheddars, and darker as it approaches the rind which I am thrilled to say is wrapped in cloth (don’t eat that part, for heaven’s sake.) You can see the texture of the cheddaring in the paste, a little pattern of pressed curds with tiny cracks. It’s a firm cheese, but a little moist, it’s not crumbling like some cheddars. The smell is crazy! I can actually smell whiskey in this cheese, I kid you not, these cows must have been truly “lit” as we say here in Canada. I know human moms who are breast-feeding aren’t supposed to drink as the alcohol passes on through the milk…that’s what has happened here folks. I can absolutely smell booze in this cheese, it’s so interesting!  Talk about terroir.

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Now the tasting-it’s so complex! It’s actually really hard to explain. The texture is a nice cheddary chew, yes, no crunch, but the taste. It’s meaty, salty, boozy. There’s no tang that I sometimes taste in cheddar, that tang is replaced by an alcohol note. It’s not sweet either, despite it being a raw cheddar. It’s fruity, but without any sweet, like a savoury fruit. It’s completely unlike any cheddar I have ever tasted.It’s funky and yeasty and aggressive. It’s boozy and sexy and weird. I don’t even know that this is cheddar, I don’t even know what it is, it’s kind of out of this world.

Wow, Isle of Mull Cheddar, I think, for once, I’m kind of speechless, or maybe I’m just drunk from eating you. Crazy!

Cheese 127 Beecher’s “Flagship” Handmade Cheese

Have you ever longed for something a very long time-fantacised about it-wondered what it would be like to have it as your very own thing? I mean, who doesn’t?

But is that longed-for thing ever a cheese for you?

You see, for me, it often is. Perhaps that’s why I have a cheese blog and so few other people do. When I start thinking about a cheese, I just can’t get it out of my mind. I must have it. I must possess it! I must ingest it! his is how I feel about today’s cheese, Beecher’s Flagship.


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About a year ago I made my annual pilgrimage to Pike Place market in Seattle. It’s a vibrant if not overly crowded and touristy indoor/outdoor market full of fruit vendors, craft vendors, and men flinging fish. Across the street from the market is Starbucks store number 1 with its devotees lining up in pilgrimage, then a little further down this store, Beecher’s. A cheese store, with its own line up! When I was there last the line up was out the door, and I didn’t have the time to wait, so I was stymied. Why were they all lining up for cheese? This seemed so cruel to me. Apparently there was a sort of cheese making museum behind these lines-with a matching one in the Flatiron district in New York- where cheese making can be observed first hand, and I do SO APPROVE  as cheese making as entertainment, more places should do this

At long last I have managed to procure my own Beecher’s cheese, and it awaits me now. The label says, “semi-hard cow’s milk cheese, robust and nutty, straight from Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market” (I told you that bit already). I’m not sure if all the cheese is actually made there on site, or if this is a demonstration kitchen with another kitchen doing the heavy lifting elsewhere. It’s hard to imagine how that much cheese comes from such a little space, but maybe they make it work-I’m not sure.

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It’s apparently “pure, all natural and additive free and aged 15 months.” This cheese is pasteurized and made of cow’s milk, for those keeping tabs of these sorts of details. Beecher’s is the brainchild of turophile Kurt Beecher Dammeier. He opened his doors in this business in 2003. 1% of all sales go towards the Flagship foundation providing education about the benefits of healthy eating and nutrition to kids-sweet, like the healthy eating of cheese. Nicely done, Kurt!

Just in case you were wondering what exactly this  “flagship” cheese is, I notice that it won second place in the 2009 American Cheese Society “Aged Cheddars” so there’s your answer, it’s a cheddar. I notice from the Beecher’s website that there’s also a 4 year aged version and a smoked one too. Flagship also comes in a raw milk cheese, and a cloth bound raw milk version called “reserve”-bummer, I didn’t manage to score that, but now I have another goal, I must get me some of that cloth bound reserve.

My little slice of cheddar, erm, Flagship sits beside me. It’s not raw milk, or cloth bound, but it’s still a lovely cheese to behold. It crumbled ever so slightly when I cut it, and I do so love that. It has a lovely looking texture with a faint echo of curds in the paste. It’s a uniform light yellow throughout with no rind. The smell is totally mellow and chilled out. This is, after all a pasteurized cow’s milk cheddar, even my husband couldn’t complain about this one. Incidentally, there’s a LOT of complaining at times around this house at the cheese I bring home, I mean, really.

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Here goes: Salty, tangy, meaty-it’s a nice cheddar. There’s just the slightest hint of tyrosine crunch in this cheese, which makes me very happy. I bet the 4 year version is delightfully crunchy. It’s a nicely balanced cheese-the tart and salt are in great balance, and it has that happy cheddar hit that everyone loves, I mean really, who doesn’t love a real cheddar. My only complaint would be that perhaps it’s a little tame for my taste buds. Now that I know there’s an aged and a cloth bound version, I long for that strong mouldy taste as you approach the rind. I appreciate that may not be for everyone, but it sure is for me. This one is a perfectly lovely and friendly cheese, it’s a starter Cheddar and certainly won’t scare anyone away-and for those of us who like to kick it up a notch, there are more gnarly options, and THAT’S a very good thing.

Cheese 126 Cave Aged Vermont Cheddar (Trader Joe’s)


Why Yes, I am reviewing another Trader Joe’s spotlight cheese. This one is Miss May, and it’s called “Cave Aged Vermont Cheddar Cheese.”

It’s actually a good thing that I stocked up on cheese when I was in the USA last week, as apparently the bridge on the I5 has just collapsed-the very bridge that connects my house to Trader Joe’s (I do not jest!)  Perhaps somehow I knew that I would soon be cut off when I made my excessive cheesey trip there last week. Maybe it was just gluttony. Who knows?

I digress. As mentioned last week, every month Trader Joe’s (or TJ’s to its intimate circle of friends) has a Spotlight Cheese. These tend to be cheeses a little off the eaten path, not your typical cheese aisle offerings, and I think that’s great. They are also really dirt cheap and I think that’s even greater! Anything to encourage people to try new cheese is fantastic as far as I am concerned.

Plus, they had me at Cave Aged.

How I wish that I were cave aged, instead of simply aged by life.

There’s something about the phrase, “cave aged” that just send s a shiver of pleasure down my back. What happens in the cave? Do the walls of the cave themselves imbue some special power?

Alas, it seems these days most “caves” are actually dark rooms with lots of fans and special ventilation, not real caves after all, but I do like to imagine that these so-called cave aged cheeses really did just emerge from a dank cave somewhere, it’s a dream.

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This cheese is somewhat mysterious. It says on  the label “deep underground Vermont’s green pastures our Cave Aged Vermont Cheddar Cheese is matured.” But it doesn’t say if it’s a REAL cave. Sigh. Just something “deep underground.” Oh well. It also doesn’t say who the maker is, but they must have had some decent capacity to make enough cheese to be a spotlight item for TJ. It’s too bad the maker isn’t identified in these spotlight cheeses, but I’m sure there’s a reason for that. This cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk, which makes me a little sad, but that may have something to do with American rules. To tell you the truth, I have yet to figure out Canadian vs American rules for unpasteurized cheeses. It just seems, in general, that cheese is made from pasteurized milk unless it’s something really, really special. This one’s also young for a cheddar, only 10 months old.

But back to the cheese. It is a handsome cheese. It’s creamy and has a nice looking natural rind. I doubt this one is cloth-bound as they would have mentioned that, that’s the kind of thing to make a turophile swoon!

The cheese has a mild nutty smell, no hints of anything offensive at all.

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Here goes:

I’m loving it. The texture is really creamy and buttery-chewy, a fantastic mouth feel. The cheese is nutty, mild and not astringent in the least. It’s pretty benign. There’s no tyrosine crunch, a little surprising, I would have expected it, but this cheese is only 10 months aged, so I’m curious to know if it would show up in a year or so. It’s actually quite sweet and really smooth. Wow, if you live close enough to a TJ and all the bridges are intact, go and score some this month. For a cave-aged cheddar, this one’s pretty tame, but I’m pretty sure you could feed this cheese to just about anyone and they would dig it.

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!