Day 55-Stinking Bishop

You didn’t actually think I would miss reviewing cheese today, just because it’s Christmas, did you?  Incidentally, Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday Sophie-my daughter is 15 today.  Yes, poor planning, in terms of arrival, but a lovely child nonetheless. I’m in Powell River at my mom’s this morning, so I am crossing fingers that all technology will come together and that this post will work!

Today’s cheese is the only one in my larder whose name resembles anything to do with Christmas, so with tongue firmly in cheek, I present to you, Stinking Bishop.  Stinking Bishop is a pasteurized washed rind cow cheese from England.  It’s made only by the Martell family at their farm-Laurel farm, and is made only from the milk of their Gloucester cows- a rare breed of cattle that this family basically brought back from the verge of extinction, specifically to make this cheese.  In fact, the making of Stinking Bishop was initially a publicity ploy for Gloucester cattle, and wasn’t really about the cheese itself.

Stinking Bishop is a smelly little celebrity.  The 2005 Oscar-winning “Curse of the Were-Rabbit-Wallace and Gromit” -an animated film-used this cheese as a sort of smelling salt at the end to revive one of the characters back from death.  Apparently, the demand for Stinking Bishop went up by 500% after this film was released, which just goes to show that people are weird.  Stinking Bishop was also reviewed on “Bizarre Foods” a show in which the host travels the world sampling nasties and proclaiming them, “delicious!”  Really, this little cheese made it onto Bizarre Foods?  Must have been a slow week.

Stinking Bishop is said to resemble a munster cheese, and has also been compared to Epoisses, the king of Cheese, thus I’m pretty excited to taste it-loving my experiences with both of these deliciously nasty little numbers.   Although it’s only been around since the 1970’s, a cheese very much like it was  traditionally made by Cistercian monks in the area.  This raunchy little cheese actually does stink-how refreshing that it embraces its odour! The smell comes from the washing of the rind in “Perry” an alcoholic beverage made from the local Stinking Bishop Pear.  The little Perry cheese bath happens about once every 4 weeks during the affinage before salt is applied to the rind at the finish.

Alas, much to my chagrin, there was no actual Bishop that stank and ate cheese.  The pear and the cheese are actually named after a Mr. Bishop, who originally bred the pears for the Perry beverage, but had a notoriously stinking temperament.  He legendarily shot his kettle for not heating his water for tea fast enough.  No actual Bishops were involved.  Sigh.

My little wedge of Stinking Bishop sits here minding its own business on my desk.  The rind is orange, and the interior paste is quite creamy colored, with a speckle of holes (eyes.)  It’s a soft looking cheese, but it’s not oozing or falling apart.  It really does reek, it’s that full teenage-goat-boy-sock-underwear-barn thing, although–in a sort of wholesome way.  It doesn’t smell sinister or medicinal, it’s owning its stench. It beseeches me to sample it.

Here goes…

Umm, yuck.  That’s a shocker.  First, you know how they say that stinky cheese doesn’t taste as bad as it smells-in this case, that is patently incorrect.  In fact, Stinking Bishop tastes worse than it smells. Far worse. The taste is just acrid and spoiled, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.  I say this as a person who enjoys  raunch, and a good hit of ammonia in my cheese, but this one is either rotten, or it’s supposed to be this way.  Either way, I’m not eating anymore-and that’s a first.  The texture was also off putting-strangely foamy and squelchy for a washed rind cheese.  It also has a strange taste of apsaragus, like the cows broke into a patch and were then milked. Heinous! Man, this is a nasty cheese, I can’t imagine a world in which someone would actually enjoy eating it. OK, I get it, this is a “Bizarre Food,” because anyone eating it for pleasure is patently bizarre.

Well here it is, day 55 and my first cheese I seriously dislike and would never, ever, ever eat again.  Never. Well, maybe if I needed to revive someone from the dead.  Suddenly, that’s all sort of making sense.

Merry Christmas from “My Blog of Cheese!”

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Day 38-St. Albray

 


We had a meeting at my office yesterday, and it was my job to bring snacks-a task which always fills me with dread. I fretted for some time before it occurred to me that I could bring cheese, yes, many kinds of cheese, a cheese tasting!  I selected 5 cheeses from my stash and arranged them artfully on a plate with little tags and a small pot of hot pepper jelly and some crackers, and it was a smashing success!  People love cheese.  They love to look at it.  They love to smell it.  They love to taste little tastes of it, and then come back for more little tastes.  They want to discuss it-compare and contrast the relative merits, and also tell about their own favourite cheese.  Cheese is an ice breaker.  It makes you cool, and popular.  Cheese s good.  This message was brought to you today by cheese!

Today’s lucky bloomy rind/washed rind hybrid  cheese is none other than St. Albray, my second sainted cheese in as many days.  It’s not enough just to be a saint-apparently- some French saints also get cheeses named after them-lucky! St. Albray is a pasteurized cow cheese from the middle Pyrenees (Juancon) France and according to the wrapper is a “good partner to nut breads,” which seems like a rather obscure pairing to me-really, just nut breads, or just better with nut bread?

St. Albray is a cool looking cheese-after allowing it to “ripen” for two weeks 6 little rounds of cheese are formed into a flower shape with each “petal” forming a half pound of cheese. The cheese “petals” surround  a disk which is removed creating a hollow center-very nice presentation, also looks a little like a honeycomb to me.  St. Albray is a mixed rind cheese-it was washed at the beginning of the ripening period, then left to continue ripening-and thus has that funky raunchy rind going for it.  Please, don’t toss the rind aside when eating this cheese, as it is an integral part of the experience.

St. Albray is a new cheese, created in 1976 , and I can find little information about its origin, but it is not AOC and due to its relative youth I suspect it is an industrial cheese, rather than an artisinal cheese.  Most of the hits on google regarding this cheese include the word “stinky” and “gross,” so I do find that exciting.  It’s actually quite funny, the cheese sites all use the words “mild” and “creamy” to describe this cheese, but that doesn’t seem to be the reaction of regular folk, who perhaps, have never run into a washed rind cheese and its army of bacteria before.  Most of the complaints about this cheese seem to involve the odour which is very strongly ammoniac and also the flavour, which is reminiscent  of shoes that a cat has peed on.  It looks like this cheese has a narrow window of ripeness, and it’s quite easy to miss it.

My little slice of St. Albray looks quite innocent.  The rind is orange and mottled with white bacterium, the paste is light yellow and oozes slightly. There are eyes in this cheese, and they look at me as I behold them. It’s not that stinky at all, I don’t know what people are bitching about-give them a whiff of Epoisses, that will shut them up!  Perhaps a bunch of cheese newbs and mozzarella eaters started sniffing htis cheese and writing about it, who knows, but it’s far from the raunchiest I have smelled and certainly doesn’t deserve the pages on the net describing its vile odour (how disappointing for me personally, I do love a vile odour!)

Here goes…

Well, it’s quite mild, like a camembert to me.  Yes, the rind does have that ammonia taste to it, as it should-but it’s really quite chilled out, it’s not as sticky and cloying as I had hoped, it’s actually a little insipid.  The paste is mellow and takes a little time before melting in your mouth, it’s not one of those buttery cheeses it’s a little foamy in texture to me-I prefer a cheese that yields more intimately and immediately.  The flavour is mildly barnyardy, and when you add the rind there is a note of bitter that I’m not nuts about.  All in all, quite forgettable.

St. Andre, you get a 3 out of 5 from me.  This includes a textural deduction for foaminess which I dislike in a cheese, and a deduction for insipid flavour, which no self-respecting washed rind cheese should ever claim.

Day 30-Brebiou


Friends, I have a confession.  I have literally bitten off more than I can chew with this blog.  I planned and committed to tasting and reviewing 365 cheeses over a one year period.  Alas, I am scaling back this endeavour to 100 cheeses in 100 days-please forgive me.  The cost and logistics of this adventure are more complex than I imagined.  However, never fear, I do plan to cover the great known (and perhaps unknown) cheeses over the remaining 70 days.

I’m excited to report that today is my first sheep’s cheese, imagine that!  This bloomy rind cheese, Brebiou, is made from pasteurized sheep cheese in the Pyrenees, France.  Brebiou is made by the Fromagerie de Chaumes (not to be mistaken for actual Chaumes cheese-I know, it excited me too!) which is an industrial cheese maker.  It seems like the line between industrial and artisinal cheese gets a little blurry at times-what actually makes a fromagerie one or the other?  The word “artisinal” seems to evoke a certain indication of quality, care or love-but is that really true?  Brebiou is a funny looking little cheese, it has a half-round form with an irregular surface that is the result of using large linen cloths in the production-almost as if to evoke that home-made look, like buying ersatz home-made wreaths at Super Store: it’s a little contrived.

Brebiou is a newish cheese-especially for France-it was created in the 1990’s and the actual name is copyrighted-not AOC but good old copyright.  Thus only the Fromagerie de Chaumes can make this cheese, local or not.  Reviews of this cheese seem relatively positive those sheep lovers, but not all folk are sheep lovers. Other detractors in the non-sheep camp have given it mixed revi(ewes.)  I am actually one of those people who adores foul flavour and smells (I am certain this comes as no surprise to the regular reader of this blog) thus the funky taste of sheep and goat’s milk in cheese form does not faze me in the least (please don’t, however, ask me to drink goat’s milk, that is simply heinous beyond belief) so I am quite happy to try this cheese.  Other members of my family won’t touch it with a ten foot pole, so do consider the sensibilities of your audience while selecting your cheese.

Interestingly, I thought most cheese was cow, followed by goat-but sheep is the number 2 milk in the cheese world.  I can’t actually imagine milking a sheep-I mean how much milk actually comes out of one sheep, and how in the world do they get it out?  It seems extremely time-consuming.

My little slice of Brebiou looks like Brie, it has a white bloomy rind, a concave top and a creamy interior, soft and sticky looking.  I can’t really smell it until I put my nose right up to it, and then-oh yah, sheepy, ammonia, goodness!  I can’t wait any longer.

Here goes…

First the texture is not the creaminess I was expecting, it’s almost a little foamy in my mouth-weird, it actually doesn’t want to melt, despite looking as though it should.  Second, the taste, like a tangy sheep hoof . Barn yardy, but not in a really pleasant way, it almost bites your tongue back whilst refusing to melt. This cheese is rather strange-I was expecting creamy and I was expecting sweet, but instead it’s kind of mushy and astringent.  Hmm, the second bite is better-but this cheese needs a friend, some dried apricots, perhaps, or a crusty loaf-not a stand alone cheese for me. Nope.

Brebiou, I give you a 2 out of 5 for weird texture and overly forward taste.