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!

 

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Cheese 111-Rathtrevor

If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time you may have noticed that I sometimes struggle with an existential cheese angst.  It’s true, there are almost infinite varieties of cheese to write about, but to what end?  Now that I can confidently wander through any cheese counter in any country perhaps that’s enough. But perhaps not.  You see, maybe there’s “that cheese”out there still waiting for me, that mythic, amazing cheese that will transport me to another world.  Thus, I continue to look and snack.  My teenaged French exchange student is bemused by my obsession with cheese.  It seems as though I live in the wrong country. She can’t believe that I do not have a dedicated cheese fridge, similar to a beer fridge.  Apparently this is how it is done in France. Maybe this is proof that I still have more to learn.

At this point, I am waiting for cheese to speak too me, and this one-Rathtrevor- has been calling my name for a while.  I previously reviewed this company, Little Qualicum Cheeseworks from Vancouver Island, and discussed their charming farm-Morningstar at  https://myblogofcheese.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/day-99-island-brie/ as well as their Brie cheese, but Rathtrevor, keeps trying to get my attention.  A friend of mine questioned my choice of  Island Brie to review, which was just another brie to herwhereas their Rathrevor: “freaking heaven.” Then last week, I was at the Winter Farmer’s Market at Nat Bailey stadium in Vancouver with my French student and daughter-when a lovely man stopped the three of us and took a photo of us with his iPad.  When I looked down from smiling I saw a stack of cheese…Little Qualicum cheese…Rathtrevor cheese.  If this wasn’t a sign that this was meant to be, I don’t know what is, so cheese Gods, I am listening.

I shan’t reiterate my review of their farm and fromagerie, follow the link above if you want to know more, but in a nutshell… this is a groovy family who lived in Switzerland, learned how to make cheese, moved to Vancouver Island and made awesome cheese there which is certified by the SPCA.  This means it has good cheese Karma on top of everything else. Unlike their Island Brie, Rathrevor is made from raw milk, which I do appreciate, being a raw milk girl. It’s named after a local beach in Parksville, Rathtrevor, where I have frolicked with my children-so just more proof this cheese needed me to eat it.

Rathtrevor is a Gruyere-type cheese, I appreciate that they don’t call it Gruyère, but instead give it their own local name and twist which is, I feel a respectful homage to a great cheese.  Rathtrevor is aged for about a year and is made using milk from their own herd of Holstein, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss and Canadienne dairy cows. Rathtrevor is a raw milk firm, aged, washed-rind cheese.  I really do love me some Gruyère, months ago a cave aged Gruyère nearly sent me over the edge of cheese joy, so Rathtrevor has some big cheese shoes to fill!

My block of Rathrevor, which is also available in many stores, but much more fun to purchase from the family-is a firm, buttery looking cheese.  Although it claims to be “washed rind” I see no evidence of rind, washed or otherwise, and this saddens me a little.  I understand that we are not accustomed to rind here in Canada-land, but that’s only because people keep treating us like babies.  It’s like cutting crust off toast, don’t do it!  That’s the yummy part, sigh.  I digress.  It’s a handsome Mountain cheese with the tiniest little eyes running through the interior in spots.  Although it’s an aged Gruyere-type cheese I do not see evidence of tyrosine crystals which often look like little white dots in the cheese, alas. This cheese smells very mild and nutty, quite safe-a cheese wimp would not be frightened of by this benign looking and smelling cheese in the least, I might even be able to give it to a child!

Here goes…

Much less benign tasting! Mmmm, I actually really dig this cheese!  It’s quite an intense mushroomy, nutty cheese.  Yes, it’s similar to Gruyère,, but this
 isn’t Gruyere, it’s much softer with a more tensile chew to it, not crumbly at all.  It’s just mmmm, I don’t really know what it is, but I seriously dig this cheese, it has that balance that I always look for but I rarely find: sweet, salt and underarm. There’s also that unmistakable Mountain cheese faint alcohol note in this cheese, but I don’t mind it here, no not at all.  You could use this cheese in just about anything, but as for me, it’s going into my personal snacking stash…you know why?  It’s because Rathtrevor is definitely my slice of cheese.

Cheese 110-Tomme de Savoie

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here goes…

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

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

Cheese 108-Mountaineer-and a trip to Cowgirl Creamery DC



I recently returned from an epic journey to New York and DC, and while there had many adventures in cheese.  In fact, I think cheese tourism is the next big thing!  Why not?  People travel to drink wine all the time and that’s just grapes and vats of juice and stuff.  Cheese is much more exciting! While you are travelling, do try the cheese. I highly recommend it.

While I was in DC I planned to visit Cowgirl Creamery.  Any turophile trolling the internet for cheese info will run across this cheese shop time and again as leaders in the world of cheese.  They have a couple of locations across the USA and were definitely on my hit list.  After my somewhat discouraging visit to Murray’s cheese shop in NYC my expectations were lower, but I am happy to report that Cowgirl Creamery far exceeded my cheese love expectations.  Although they actually had a paltry number of cheeses on site-likely under 50- these folks were true turophiles and were more than happy to geek out over cheese with me.  And really, that’s all I am asking for-is it so much? Please people, if you own a cheese shop: hire cheese lovers.  The fellow who served me at Cowgirl Creamery not only sported a funky hat,  but gave me numerous free samples and extolled the virtues of all the cheese. I felt he was a kindred cheese spirit.  We had a long discussion about the joys of raw milk, the virtues of fresh cheese, and cheese in Canada versus the USA.  Alas, the day was hot and my hotel had to fridge, so I had to limit myself to a cheese that could stand a little mistreatment, which led me to a Mountain cheese called Mountaineer.

Mountaineer, from the Meadowcreek Dairy in Virginia, is a cow’s milk cheese made from raw milk.  The Meadowcreek Dairy, a family farm, has a herd of Jerseys from which all their milk derives.  Owners Rick and Helen Feete have been farming here since 1980.  Over the years they have perfected the genetics of their herd of cows, and it’s a real cow to cheese plate production. Like all real farms, Meadow Creek’s  production is seasonal, so grab the cheese when it’s for sale, something else is just around the corner.  The cows here seem to live a great life, they are never confined and are born and raised on pasture, happy cows! According to their website their farm “sits perched in the misty, cool emerald reaches of the Appalachian Mountains at an elevation of 2,800 feet, where the water is pure, the air is bright and clean, and the soils are rich and untainted.” Nice terroir, Meadowcreek, it kind of sounds like Canada! Meadowcreek has been making Mountaineer for a while, but they feel it “truly came into its own” after they made a trip to Europe in 2004. They got into the Mountain cheeses of Valle d’Aosta and the Savoie, and brought their inspiration home to make this dense aged cheese.  Mountaineer has a natural brushed rind and is aged in their cellars a minimum of six months. Nice!

This cheese is, well a typical looking Mountain cheese, strong and broad and handsome.  The soft interior is a relatively dark yellow, those cows must have been getting into some strong grass.  It has a thick natural rind which I shall decline to eat having some cheese PTSD associated with gnarly rinds. This cheese really stinks, I mean, it really does, especially for a Mountain cheese, but it’s also a washed rind cheese, interesting combination.  It’s actually stunk up our entire hotel room!  I accused my poor daughter of having stinky feet and insisted she bathe, but even then smell persisted.  I had forgotten the cheese!  It perfumes the entire room with a strong odor of teenager toe, but I mean this in the best possible way.

Yikes, here goes…

Hmm, well it tastes like toes too!  Actually, I don’t really know what toes taste like, but I imagine it can’t be far off this flavor.  It’s a strong, unctuous taste, slightly sexy, slightly carnal.  There’s something woodsy and naughty about this cheese, likes it’s just taken a tumble with a certain someone in the underbrush.  I wish they had used a little more salt with Mountaineer, but this is a common complaint with me and Mountain cheese, I just don’t get the lack of salt.  Was there no salt available traditionally in the mountains?  What gives?  The lack of salt fails to bring this cheese to a finish on my palate, but that’s ok, because the party was good up front. The texture is delightful, chewy, dense, yet yielding, it’s pleasing to the tongue and to the teeth.

Mountaineer, I doubt we will ever meet again: you being a raw milk cheese from Virginia, and me being a cheese lover from Vancouver.  It was fun while it lasted, and you-you little stinky thing, are certainly my slice of cheese!

Day 93-Asiago D’Allevo-DOP

I am just going to out myself right now.  Today’s cheese, Asiago has a special place in my heart.  It was one of the few non-cheddar cheeses that my family regularly ate while I was growing up.  My mother will still insist that I pick her up some Asiago every time I go to Costco.  Asiago changed the food landscape of my childhood from the banal to the sublime-thank you, Asiago.

The origin of Asiago cheese is ancient and goes back to at least the middle ages, around 1000 years ago in Italy.  It was originally a sheep’s milk cheese but during the fifteenth century, sheep started to be replaced by cattle in the region, and cow’s milk replaced ewe’s milk.  Asiago is now only made from cow milk.

Asiago DOP is a raw cow’s milk cheese made only within officially recognized production areas.  the cheese is named of after the Asiago Plateau, in Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy.  Asiago comes in two varieties: Asiago Pressato made in low-lying pastures, soft with irregular eyes (I haven’t been able to find this one) and Asiago d’Allevo (today’s cheese) which is harder and made from mountain-pasture milk. Both types of Asiago cheese are known as “mountain cheeses” because of their similarity to the Swiss Emmental and the French Comte.

Either type of Asiago DOP, Pressato or d’Allevo, can be made in small mountain dairies or larger factories. The co-operative dairies and the DOP regulations insure the quality of the milk regardless of its exact production area. Raw milk is coagulated then cut and reheated to expel the whey.  After the cheese is put into molds for pressing it receives the DOP stamp in the rind.  After this, the cheese is either brined or salted before being moved into maturing rooms for affinage called  Frescura. The younger Mezzano cheeses are aged a minimum of three months and are relatively pliant and mild, whereas the aged cheeses are called Vecchio or Stravecchio and have a firmer texture and stronger flavour. These cheeses can be grated and are often substituted for Parmigiano.

The Consorzio Tutela Formaggio Asiago,  based in Vicenza, was set up in 1979 to control the quality of Asiago cheese.  This consortium controls the designation, markings and seals on the cheese and insures that they are used correctly.  It also functions to raise awareness of the cheese in Italy and abroad and represents more than forty cheese makers. For the record, why doesn’t every cheese have its own consortium?  These Italians have it right!

The problem with Asiago is that while it is a DOP, or a protected name cheese, it also isn’t.  For some reason the DOP designation does not apply to this cheese when made outside of the European Union.  Thus an awful lot of cheese is being made elsewhere and calling itself Asiago.  Um, Consortium Tutela Formaggio Asiago, get on it!  Do you think the Parmigiano Reggiano consortium would let anyone get away with that bullshit?  Nuh-uh. I notice that my mother’s Costco Asiago says “made in Canada.” And you know what that means?  It means it’s a big fat old fake, I hate that in a cheese!

Well today’s Asiago certainly isn’t a fake, it bears the DOP designation, and no one has the tenacity to fake that. It has a yellow paste with tiny eyes and a thin natural orange rind. It’s quite firm, although it can be cut without crumbling, but just barely.  Mind you, this is the Mezzano version of D’Allevo, so it is younger.  If I forgot this for a couple of months in the fridge it would be time to break out the grater.  It’s a very mild smelling cheese, nothing offensive here.

Here goes…

How strange!  This Asiago changes flavour as you chew it, that’s a first.  Initially it was kind of astringent, then it moved into sweet, then it changed into salt.  How do they do that?  It’s like one of those gob-stoppers with different flavoured layers, except it’s cheese. This is definitely not the fake stuff I have been eating from Costco.  Asiago D’Allevo is crumbly on the palate, it takes a good chew before dispersing.  There is also a fantastic pop rocks like tyrosine crunch in this cheese.  It’s an extremely fascinating eating experience, it almost has Multiple Personalities…another bite, now it tastes like grapes!  Weird.  I like it! Yes, Asiago, little darling, I shall only buy you in DOP version henceforth- you are definitely my slice of cheese.

Day 92-Jarlsberg

For those of you who have been following my blog, I am happy to report that my neck is much improved.  A day at home with hot pads, Advil and mindless television seems to have worked.  Oh, and lots of cheese, of course.  I have to admit to a little cheese binge yesterday.  But it has calcium, right?  It must be good for bones, and thus necks as well, as they contain bones, right?

Today is dedicated to Jarlsberg, my first Norwegian cheese.  Actually, it’s my first Norwegian cheese to be reviewed here. I did sample another Norwegian cheese whilst in Iceland called Gjetost, which looks like peanut butter, is often served with whale (I wish I was kidding), and tastes like a combination of all things horrible-but I digress, no Gjetost today!

Norway has a long history of farming.  Norwegian farmers first started to keep cattle more than 6,000 years ago. Their chief dairy product was butter, which was actually used as a kind of currency. Modern dairy production was established in the early 1800’s, when Norwegian farmers decided to branch out from butter and approached some  experienced Swiss cheese makers to teach them how to maximize their cheese production.  Thus, in many ways, Norwegian cheese is a direct descendent from Swiss cheese.

Jarlsberg is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and is aged from 1-15 months.  A version of this cheese  was first produced in the 1860’s in Jarlsberg by a Anders Larsen Bakke, a farmer and  pioneer in Norway’s dairy industry.  Bakke’s cheese shared similarities with Emmenthal  and other mountain cheeses except that it was sweet!  It was the first Norwegian re-imagining of Swiss cheese.  Bakke’s cheese had some popularity, but eventually all but disappeared.

The Jarlsberg cheese known today is kind of a revival of that cheese.  It was the result of intensive research and development by the Dairy Institute at the  the Agricultural University of Norway.  This group of top-secret dairy scientists were dedicated to locating the best Norwegian cheese recipe and putting it to work   The current Jarlsberg cheese-making process was developed by professor Ola Martin Ystgaard and his cheese minions in 1956. Ystgaard’s team started experimenting with old cheese recipes, including Bakke’s original Jarlsberg. They succeeded in combining old cheese-making traditions such as Bakke’s with modern technologies.   The team called their new cheese creation Jarlsberg . Hence, Jarlsberg is a relatively modern formation.  The recipe as well as the name are trademarked, it is technically Jarlsberg® .   The recipe for Jarlsberg currently in use is also top-secret!  Production of this top-secret well-researched university-based cheese began in the 1960s.

The largest producer of Jarlsberg today is the TINE factory in western Norway.   TINE is one of the twelve agricultural cooperatives in Norway and the largest  Norwegian dairy cooperative. Jarlsberg accounts for 80% of TINE’s total export.  Jarlsberg is also produced in the United States on license at Alpine Cheese in Ohio, and by Dairygold in Ireland, also under license. Jarlsberg is actually a very successful cheese.  It is the 3rd largest export product from Norway. Jarlsberg comes in original, lite, special reserve (aged) and smoked.

My little slice of Jarlsberg original is certainly taking its cues from “Swiss Cheese.”  It is almost a caricature of Swiss cheese, in fact, there should be a mouse posing beside it leering suggestively. It’s a semi-hard looking cheese with no discernible natural rind, although there is a thin orange plastic coating which says “Jarlsberg” on it.  It has one massive eye winking at me, so I think we can safely assume that during the processing of this cheese, bacterial gasses are released, forming eyes.  As everything about Jarlsberg is really top-secret, I’m not sure how it is made, or even how old my little slice is.  As it is rather supple and not all that gnarly smelling, it is probably a couple of months old: not too young, and not too aged.  The smell is mild, but reminds me of Emmenthal.  It’s piquant but not repugnant in any way.

Here goes…

Not so crazy about this one.  God, I’m difficult.  But really, it’s just weird to me. I know I bitch all the time about cheese not being sweet enough, but this one is too sweet. It’s like Emmenthal that someone stirred a bunch of sugar into.  It’s like cheese-flavoured candy.  It has that mountain cheese alcohol-taste, but then it’s so sugary, almost everything else is lost. The texture is cool, it’s chewy and nicely elastic, and melts on the palate, but the taste is so sweet I find it utterly distracting.

I love you, Norway, but Jarlsberg, you aren’t my slice of cheese!

Day 84-L’Hercule de Charlevoix

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here goes…

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