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 130 Valdeon (Queso de Valdeon) DOP

 

I recognize that blue cheese isn’t for everyone. First, it looks kind of vile: it’s mouldy and blue and we humans generally don’t eat blue things because blue things are usually moldy, and moldy things usually make us sick. We are actually hard-wired to avoid blue foods (I’m sure I read that in a magazine somewhere.) Also, blue cheese kind of tastes like vomit, and I mean this in the very best way. As mentioned previously, the enzymes found in some blue cheeses are actually identical to those found in vomit, so it’s not JUST a coincidence! However, if one can get beyond these simple facts, there is a sumptuous world of blue cheese out there. Alas, my own immediate family cannot seem to move beyond the facts of blue mould and vomit, so I often eat blue cheeses all on my own. Don’t feel sorry for me though, I don’t want to share my blue cheese. After I review it, it spends the rest of the week crumbled in the daily salad, if you must know, and that blue and I really do enjoy the week together.

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I’ve been looking for a good Spanish blue to review for a while, Spain being renowned for their Blues.  I happily stumbled across today’s cheese, Valdeon at a local cheese shop-at long last.Valdeon is a traditional Spanish blue cheese produced in the valley of Valdeon in the province of Leon, Spain. The climate is less humid here than other regions of Spain and this results in (according to web sources)  a “less virulent mold” and hence a less intense tasting blue than some other Spanish blues, specifically the infamously raunchy tasting close cousin of Valdeon, Cabrales. Can we just perseverate for a moment on the phrase “less virulent mold?” That’s the kind of thing that makes cheese newbies run for the hills, so perhaps you might want to keep that little morsel of information to yourself when presenting a Spanish blue on your cheese board.

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The rind of a Valdeon is wrapped in the leaves of the sycamore tree, which allows certain bacteria to penetrate the cheese adding a unique and complex taste profile. If there are no leaves, it’s not a Valdeon.  Valdeon has DOP (PGI) or Protected Geographical Status. That means that all Valdeon is really Valdeon or someone’s in trouble. Valdeon can be made seasonally from cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or a mixture, so it’s hard to tell what kind of Valdeon I have, as I ‘m not about to run a DNA test on it. The mold used in this cheese is our old friend, penicillium roqueforti, and the milk used may be raw or pasteurized. Maturation takes place in real mountain caves for 2-4 months. And who doesn’t love a cheese matured in a real bona fide mountain cave, I certainly do. Usually.

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My little sticky wedge of Valdeon DOP is quite fascinating to behold. It looks a little like a Stilton, the creamy grey paste is shot through with a healthy (might one almost say virulent) looking blue mold. There is black leaf wrapping around the cheese. As I peel back this sycamore wrapping it’s kind of sticky and mouldy and somewhat grim, honestly, it feels like an autopsy. The wrapping does not wish to be separate from the cheese, but off it goes. Once it’s removed, the cheese awaits me. It smells divine, kind of like a mushroomy, reek, sordid, naughty, dark. It almost seems wrong to eat it in the morning, this is a mysterious nighttime cheese.

Here goes…Raunchy! Salty! Spicey! Mouldy! Holy hannah, if this is the milder version Cabrales how do people eat that cheese? Wow, Valdeon is kicking ass and taking numbers. Definitely NOT a starter blue. It’s burning my throat, and making my tongue go numb-incidentally this throat and tongue numbing is caused by  mycotoxins (fungal toxins) in the decomposing penicillium roqueforti, don’t worry, it’s not an allergy!  (I hope). OK, honestly, I admire this Valdeon, but it scares me. I want to drizzle it with honey and eat it with a pear or a chocolate bar, or something, but just off the plate it’s even a little virulent for my palate.

Wow. I’ve met my match.

Cheese 121-Grey Owl



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

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

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

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

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

Here goes…

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

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 118-Blue Capri

 

Many people have strong feelings about goat’s milk and goat’s milk cheese.  This is for good reason.  Everything touched by a goat tastes like it was-well, touched by a goat! I have a strong sense-memory of being a hippie child (if you haven’t already, go out and buy my book “Adult Child of Hippies” please, be a darling), and eating goat’s milk products-which were horrible. Goats and hippies go together like Brie and baguette, and you could depend upon that barny hoof-taste being in just about anything.  How I wish I was lying! I have a specific memory of eating goat’s-milk pancakes with carob chips that will stain my sense memories indelibly.  I share this with you not to disrespect goats, but to show you how far I have come.  I am a goat-convert, you see, but it’s taken almost 40 years-so don’t just dismiss goat products.  Yes, they taste weird, but that’s actually the charm.

As I not only adore (these days) goat’s cheese, but also adore (these days) blue cheese, imagine my great joy to discover the two existing in the same cheese!  A cheese Yahtzee! I was at the Trout Lake farmer’s Market last Saturday-this is in East Vancouver for you non-locals-when a lovely lady in a booth beckoned me to taste her cheese!  How could I resist?  Although not the head cheese-maker, she told me that she had helped out with this batch, and that’s just about as good as it gets to me.  There’s something about looking into the eyes of the cheesemaker that sends shivers down my spine.  Yes, I’m that kind of weird!

I have, in fact-reviewed this “Goat’s Pride Dairy” before on cheese 96 “Chevrotina.”  Alas, I was not overly impressed-but concluded that that specific cheese was a little young and that it was my fault…and that I would be back, so here I am. I keep my promises to cheese.  To save you the trouble of searching, and me the trouble of re-writing, here’s a little snippet of the history from that post to give us some context.

“The certified organic “Goat’s Pride” Dairy is found  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.”

…So, today’s cheese is their “Blue Capri” which the label states is their “award-winning Blue cheese,” “a perfect well-aged Roquefort.” Of course, as we all know, Roquefort is made from sheep’s milk, not goat’s.  The most famous blue goat’s cheese is Gorgonzola-so that has me a little confused, but let’s not get stuck on semantics. I’m also not sure how it’s “award-winning” the website doesn’t clarify, but there is a picture of the cheese with a blue ribbon on it, again, let’s not get stuck on semantics.  The bottom line is this is an organic goat’s cheese from a local cheese maker-and I got to look the maker’s helper in the eye, so really, I’m happy, and really, that’s what this blog is all about.


My little wedge of Blue Capri certified organic goat’s milk “Roquefort” is mostly white with a small amount of veining.  It crumbled when I took it out of the package, it’s a fragile cheese and a little moist.  There’s no discernible rind, I think it’s been cut off-pity.  It’s fragrant, a bouquet of goat-hoof and piquant erzats-vomit that I love so much in a good blue cheese.  And for the record, I say this is the most positive way-all Roquefort cheese contains the same enzyme as vomit-as does  parmigiano-reggiano  it’s a good thing, not a bad thing, get over it!  My mouth waters in anticipation…goat, plus mould! Wowzers!

Here goes…

Mmmmmmm.  Oh, super fantastic yummy!  But make no mistake, this is a gorgonzola to my taste buds, not sure why they call it a Roquefort!  It’s spicy, salty, raunchy, creamy and intense.  It has that bite of the blue then that peppery kick of the goat’s hoof.  There’s nothing subtle about Blue Capri, it’s a fantastic punch in the face.  It’s bright, intense and shakes your taste buds out of their slumber.  That being said-it’s a well-balanced cheese, all of the different elements are in equal strength, so that taste profile is just perfectly balanced.   Warning, this is no starter cheese.  This one would just about kill my husband who can’t handle a blue or a goat’s cheese, so you know what that means-this one is mine, all mine! You hit this one out of the ballpark, Goat’s Pride, I’m proud of you, you, yes you, are my slice of cheese!

Cheese 117 Okanagan Falls Goat Cheddar

Sometimes we pretend to be something we aren’t. Often we do this because we are ashamed of the truth.  This is sad.  I often find cheese pretending to be something it isn’t, and this makes me sad too.  Cheese should be proud of itself, its history.  It should brag about its heritage and lineage because cheese is great.

Today’s cheese is a case in point, it’s called “Okanagan Falls” 100% Goat milk cheddar cheese.  I found this cheese at an epic deli in Vancouver called Bosa, which I have been shopping at since childhood (go there, thank me later, it rocks.) This “Okanagan Falls” cheese caught my eye while I was there.  First, because it was obviously a local BC cheese (the Okanagan is a region of British Columbia, Okanagan Falls, a small village in the interior of the province) and secondly, I had never heard of it.  Now, almost 120 cheeses into this blog, I consider myself pretty well-versed in the cheeses of BC and Canada, and this one had completely hidden from me.  A local cheese made in a small village in my province!  Wowzers.  This sort of thing gets me really excited.

Obviously I bought it, and was torn between a number of different cheese options-this “Okanagan Falls” outfit was obviously a well-established fromagerie with a large variety of cheeses for sale…how in the world did I miss this?  Feeling chagrined at my lack of local cheese knowledge but determined to learn more, I got home to do my research, but it was just dead-end after dead-end.  The website for Okanagan-Falls cheese says “Inspired by the beauty and abundance of the Okanagan valley, the Okanagan Falls family of products are crafted in small batches using all natural ingredients. “  But that’s it.  Like totally, that’s it.  They don’t say where the cheese is made, who made it, where in Okanagan Falls it’s from, why it’s from Okanagan Falls, if  it’s from Okanagan Falls.  Nothing.

Interestingly, the registered owner of the company is found at same address as Bosa foods, where I bought the cheese, so I’m making the jump here to guess that Okanagan Falls is a Bosa Foods private label.  I just wish this was a little more obvious.  I’m guessing this cheese wasn’t actually made anywhere near Okanagan Falls at all…it’s just inspired by it…whatever that means.  Who knows where this cheese is made, it could be made in Vancouver somewhere for all I know.  I just feel badly that this cheese feels it needs to pretend in order to have some Je ne sais quoi sexiness associated with some small town, although I have seen this same pattern over and over again in cheese.  Cheeses claiming to be made in one place, or being associated with some history or maker that doesn’t even exist.  If anyone reading this knows any different, please let me know.  I would be happy to be proven wrong.

Well, sorry, that’s about all the info I have on this so-called goat’s Cheddar.  I don’t know anything other than what the label states: pasteurized goat’s milk. Product of Canada.  Contains salt.  I have tried one other goat’s cheddar during this blog, that was Chevre Noir, a firm white cheese with a black wax rind, and I adored that cheese.  Really, for me it’s hard to go wrong with goat’s cheddar, those are practically my two favorite things in the world. Let’s cast my doubts aside and consider the cheese.

My mysterious Okanagan Falls Goat’s Cheddar is white with no rind.  Goat’s milk cheese is always white, goat’s have less carotene in their milk.  When I remove it from the package it’s shockingly wet and sticky-this is not what I would call Cheddar.  I’m thinking the word “cheddar” here is also being used a little loosely.  It’s mild-smelling, really, mild, you need to really sniff to catch the goat.  This is a very fresh cheese, not aged. When I cut it, it’s sticking to my fingers and dripping.  Strange.

Here goes…

Where’s the goat?  Oh…there’s the goat.  Mmmmm.  Actually, it’s not bad despite all my grumbling.  It’s tart and lemony and salty and pretty chilled out, I mean it’s really chilled out.  You could pretend there was no goat’s milk in this one and give it to a professed goat’s-milk hater and I don’t know that they would notice the difference. The texture is very soft and wet.  This is not a cheddar as far as I’m concerned, it’s more like a pressed chevre.  The cheese is a decent cheese, but I just don’t get it. It needs to do some soul-searching and re-invent itself. I’m not buying it as Okanagan Falls Goat Cheddar, but I might buy it as Vancouver East Pressed Chevre-doesn’t that have a better ring?  See, the truth shall set you free.

Cheese 114-Garrotxa


 

Cheese 114-Garrotxa

After months of obsessing over cheese, researching cheese, living cheese, it’s such a pleasure to discover a cheese that is unlike any I have seen before. It still shocks me, really-how much we humans can do with a little bit of milk, time and ingenuity. I stumbled across today’s cheese, Garrotxa the other day while browsing my local cheese specialty store’s wonderful box of cheese ends for sale.  I highly recommend checking out these boxes of bits and ends.  It’s a perfect way to try a number of cheeses without making a huge commitment to something gnarly.  Most cheese stores have them, just ask.

This wedge of Garrotxa jumped out at me chiefly due to its ugliness.  Really, this is one vile looking cheese.  It’s almost black on the outside, and this black, bloomy rind had crept all the way around the cut side, enveloping this cheese in a zombie-like black mould rind thing.  I guess it’s no great surprise that it was in the left-over bin.  Of course, I do love an underdog, especially a cheese underdog, so I ignored all the other flashy cheeses and brought this little ugly duckling home with me. Also, I recalled that  the Mythbusters episode entitled Greased Lightning determined that Garrotxa is an ideal cheese for use as a cannonball, due to its size and elasticity.  I  mean, really, an ugly cheese that doubles as a cannonball. How can I resist?

It turns out that Garrotxa is a Spanish cheese made from unpasteurized goat’s milk.  That means pregnant ladies, stay away!  It also has a really unique and kind of creepy weird mold rind thing going on, so really, this one is not for folks with a compromised immune system. Interestingly, some sources on the net claim that this is a new cheese, hitting the market in 1981 and making a real name for itself and gaining popularity.  So much popularity that  there is a big movement to make this an AOC cheese, as imposters-yes-cheese impostors are cropping up claiming the name but not playing the game.  Interestingly, a few sources actually refer to Garrotxa as an AOC cheese already (this means protected name, protected region) while other state that it is not.The Catalan Association of Artisan Cheese Producers have made application for a protected designation of origin, but I don’t think they have it yet, some people may just be jumping the cheese gun here.

I digress, as I mentioned some folks believe that this is a new cheese born in the 1980’s, but a more interesting tale is that it is an ancient cheese, only brought back to life (see, I knew it was a zombie) in the 1980’s. It is actually a very old traditional type of cheese in the region, but the recipe was basically forgotten for while.  Following the Spanish civil war and the second world war, Spain was left in abject poverty. The government implemented a policy which essentially rendered small-scale farming illegal (weird). This basically  forced artisan cheese making underground.  Some cheese survived, others didn’t.  So when Garrotxa reappeared int he 1980’s and was branded a “new cheese” real turophiles knew it wasn’t.

Perhaps the coolest thing about Garrotxa besides the fact that it is actually a zombie brought back from the dead  (and also the most frightening to me personally) is the unusual blue-grey and almost suede-like fungus on the outside known as a pell florida. Garrotxa is also known as ‘formatge pell florida’, which means ‘flowery skin cheese.” In this case, the word flowery is clearly euphemistic.  My little heinous wedge of Garrotxa really is an ugly duckling.  Before I cut away the black mould that crept over the cut sides it really didn’t resemble anything that one should eat.  After cutting it away a creamy yellow cheese emerged in sharp contrast to the black velvet rind.  Some sources claim the rind is edible, others say stay away.  I’m going with the later today!  This cheese actually smells amazing.  As I have been writing this morning and the cheese has been waiting for me, it slowly has warmed up and is emanating this amazing mushroomy smell.  It’s actually fantastic, I don’t know what’s in the black velvet rind but it smells divine. The smell of goat is faint, but unmistakable.  The cheese cuts nicely, it’s semi-hard, there are no eyes.

Here goes…

Mmmm.  It’s lemon-goat-mushroom.  It’s surprisingly mild, the goat is pretty chilled out.  There’s a funny kind of bitter note in this cheese, especially as you approach the rind, it’s not offensive, just not what I expected. I suspect this has something to do with the unique properties of this black mold. The cheese has a great texture, it’s creamier that other Spanish goat cheeses I have sampled and melts easily in the mouth. There’s quite a bit of salt, but it’s not overpowering. It’s actually pretty sumptuous, I can see why it’s so popular, although personally, it lacks that peppery bite that I do so love in a goat cheese, and that bitter aftertaste makes this one not quite my slice of cheese-although I would support you if it was yours.