Cheese 133 Blarney Castle Cheese

Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to look for a really sexy cheese. I start to worry about what the people at the cheese shop think of me if I’m there too much (and I am.) Do they think I’m sort of cheese junky?  Do they think I’m obsessed?  It worries me.  That’s why, from time to time, I like to buy my cheese at the supermarket. It’s just so delightfully anonymous. No one is monitoring my shopping, no one judges my cheese choices. And sometimes, you can find interesting cheese at the market.

I stumbled across todays’ cheese on such a cheese shopping trip. It’s Blarney Castle by Kerrygold-the ubiquitous Irish cheese maker. I thought it charming, with its old-timey wrapper (I’m such a sucker for an old-timey wrapper) and it’s adorable name. I reviewed Kerrygold Dubliner cheese a while back, and you can read my review here. It was a sweet, slightly odd cheese-also in an old-timey wrapper (nice consistent branding. ) Kerrygold uses all “natural” and grass fed milk for its cheeses.  Although it’s a big company, they do try to source locally, and what’s not to like about that?

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But back to Blarney. The real Blarney Castle or Caisleán na Blarnan is a partially ruined medieval  stronghold in Blarney near Cork Ireland. My Irish Nash relatives are also from Cork Ireland, so I truly do feel a connection to this cheese. This castle  dates from before 1200 in some form or another. The famous Blarney Stone is found in this castle, also known as  “the Stone of Eloquence.”  It’s a magical stone! People  hang upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which gives the gift of bullshit. As I mentioned, my people come from this area, and I suspect this gift has also been passed down generation to generation. Perhaps even finding its way into this very blog! Full circle.

What does this all of this have to do with cheese? Probably very little. It’s a catchy name and an Irish cheese, and you have to call it something, right? The cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk from Irish cows who hypothetically graze in the area, but really, who knows, it’s a bit of a mystery. The wrapper with a charming picture of a milk bucket (old-timey!) claims that it is a “smooth and mild gouda cheese”, which is-of course, a Dutch cheese (not Irish) -so again, mysterious.

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My little block of Blarney Castle is a calm, unassuming cheese. It’s soft and a nice golden yellow colour. There are tiny eyes in the paste. The smell is sweet and mild. There’s nothing to see here folks!  Actually, this is a pretty little cheese, it wouldn’t scare anyone, and that’s important to me. So many of the cheeses I sample are frightening to behold. It looks like cheddar, not real cheddar, but supermarket cheddar, uniform and without blemish.

Here goes:

Sweet, benign, toothsome, yummy. It tastes just like it looks, it’s a simple and unthreatening cheese. I could give this to anyone and they would like it, it’s a perfect starter cheese. It’s actually really yummy, it has a great balance of sweet and salt and the texture is very springy and milky. I don’t know where the “young gouda” thing comes in, it’s not like any gouda I know, it reminds me more of a German farmer’s cheese (which reminds me, I need to review German Farmer’s cheese.) I have just snarfed down my wedge and I’m heading back for more. Who knows the real story here, not me, but if you are looking for a grass fed cow’s cheese at the market and you want to stray from the usual without getting too freaky, give this one a try, and that’s no Blarney!

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Cheese 107-Skyr


This time, it’s personal.  Today’s cheese has eluded me for decades.  But that’s all over now.

When I was a little girl my Icelandic grandma made a delicious dairy treat for us “from the old country” called skyr.  Skyr was a thick yoghurt type desert, only better.  Not that there’s anything wrong with yoghurt-but skyr is more tangy, somehow more fulsome, and most importantly, only grandma knew how to make it.  It was special.  Grandma died when I was 17 years old taking with her endless games of cribbage, trips to the Bingo hall,and of course-her secret recipe for skyr. I’m going to be honest, skyr kind of dropped off my radar then.  I didn’t realize how much I longed for it until about 3 years ago, when my mother, my sister and I planned a trip to Iceland.   Imagine my surprise to find skyr waiting for me at the airport in Reykjavik. I mean, it was literally everywhere!  Skyr is so beloved and dominant in Iceland that in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s famous outdoor geothermal spa, there is a swim up skyr bar.  That’s right , a swim up skyr bar.  What kind of country has a swim up skyr bar?  I quickly acquainted myself with skyr in Iceland and ate it every single day, it was heaven.

Now wait, I know at this point you are thinking to yourself this is a cheese blog, silly, not yoghurt, but here it is…SKYR IS CHEESE!!!!!  Even though it looks and acts like yoghurt, it’s actually made with rennet, and thus is a cheese.  Technicality! It’s like a soft special cheese traditionally made of raw skimmed cow’s milk. Icelanders really dig their skyr.  They have been making and eating skyr since the 9th century, and it continues to be a big part of the diet in Iceland. As it is a cheese, it actually allowed them to store milk for longer than normal, which was quite handy on those ocean voyages while they were dong their important Viking work such as discovering some continents and pillaging others. Skyr these days is especially popular with people trying to gain muscle or lose fat-and who doesn’t want that?  It is a shockingly great source of low-fat protein. It’s actually a perfect food.  Can you tell I love skyr?  This message was brought to you by skyr.

When I returned back to Canada I recognized that I needed skyr, and I needed it all the time-in my stomach.  Alas, skyr is nowhere to be found in all of Canada.  Trust me, I looked.  Not to be foiled, I figured if I could get some skyr starter and a yoghurt maker, I should be good to go making my own.  First, I was under the impression I needed raw cow’s milk to make skyr.  I looked high and low and eventually discovered that it was highly illegal to sell raw milk in Canada, so that was out. It turns out that most skyr these days uses pasteurized milk, so I still had hope. Then I realized that I also needed real skyr as a starter, to seed my batch-it’s a special bacteria you see, you can’t just fake Streptococcus salivarius subsp.thermophilus, you know? I should have brought some back from Iceland, but I was too freaked out to sneak it across the border, fearing some dairy related border incident.  Once again, I was foiled.  I tried various other pathetic techniques like kefir grains and butter milk, but nothing was skyr, nothing was real and nothing worked.  It was a failure.

Finally, last week, while in New York City I was reunited with skyr.  An American company “Siggi’s Skyr” is making skyr in the USA using Icelandic skyr techniques and starter.  It certainly appears to be the real thing.  Of course, it’s not here in Canada, nor in my fridge, but at last! Although for some reason it hasn’t come to Canada, Siggi’s skyr is everywhere in New York, which seems to be a waste to me.  I saw it in at least 3 stores in Manhattan, it sits beside the yoghurt-even though, as I have made clear, it is a cheese.  It’s much more expensive than yoghurt, at least twice the price, so that’s a little prohibitive.  But really, it’s skyr, it’s worth it.

Siggi’s skyr comes in a couple of different flavours, mostly kind of weird ones like pomegranate and passionfruit and coconut, not your tradition Icelandic flavours.  Although it apparently comes in a drinkable form, I only sampled the firmer skyr in a bucket.  Siggi’s skyr comes in a plastic tub, when the lid is removed the interior is already mixed.  It’s thick, much thicker than yoghurt, and has no discernible smell.  This is not an aged cheese, it’s the love child of cream cheese and yoghurt, it’s extremely fresh and spoils easily.

Here goes….

Hmmm.  Well, a little bit of a let down!  Serves me right for all the build up.  I’m just not crazy about the texture of this skyr, I find it a little thicker and grainier than I remember.  It’s really thick, especially if you are thinking yoghurt, you need to chew this stuff (just a little bit).  The taste is also not what I was looking for. I am sampling the passionfruit flavour and it just doesn’t seem sweet enough for me.  This skyr is sweetened with agave, and I think the agave could be a little more generous. Actually, a lot more generous, come on! The skyr I ate in Iceland also had a real lemony tang to it that I am missing here, this seems more subdued, and I’m not sure why that is.  While I think skyr in general is fabulous, I’m not sure if I’m the hugest fan of Siggi’s skyr.  Total bummer!  However, now that I know it’s in the USA, I think it’s time to try my hand at skyr making at home again.  All I needed was some Streptococcus salivarius subsp.thermophilus and a jug of skimmed milk to make Willow’s Skyr, and that-my friends, is definitely my slice (or spoon) of cheese!

Cheese 103-Okanagan Goat Cheese


Hello everyone, did you have a good week eating cheese?  I must admit, after the 100 day cheese sprint it’s quite a relief to be only blogging once a week.  It makes tracking down that one special cheese all the more important. I am looking for suggestions, so please add a comment if there’s a cheese you haven’t seen here yet that you would like to see profiled!  I am trying to focus on Canadian cheeses at this time-but I am open-minded, just saying.

Imagine my delight to find yet another local BC cheese producer that I had not yet sampled-in my own local Buy Low.  Really, it never fails to surprise me what cheese is making it into my local market.  Today’s cheese is Okanagan Goat cheese.  It’s a soft unripened chevre by Happy Days Goat Dairy. Needless to say, this is a goat’s milk cheese.  This one is factory made and made from pasteurized milk.

Happy Days Goat Dairy was founded in 1993 by Donat Koller, an artisan cheese maker originally from Switzerland who came to Canada to start a cheese making business. Thank you Donat Koller!  Happy Days started as a family farm and cheese making operation in Salmon Arm, which supplied local customers and stores in the Okanagan with milk and cheese.  Over time the business grew and at this point it is the largest provider of goat milk products in Western Canada.  Bravo, Happy Days!  They are now spread out over Western Canada and have 3 processing plants and 14 local goat milk farmers in Alberta and British Columbia. According to their website, all goats have a year-round diet of hay and grains, and all of their products are guaranteed free of antibiotics and growth hormones.

Happy Days is huge.  Besides cheese they supply retail stores and the food service industry with a variety of goat milk, goat milk cheeses, goat milk yoghurt, and goat milk ice cream, which probably explains why they are in my local market.  I also have to say that despite my new-found love for goat cheese, I don’t know if goat’s milk ice cream is really one of those products I can ever get behind, but to each their own. Their Chilliwack location is on the Chilliwack circle farm tour.  You can check out their processing plant and purchase cheese at their store on site called “Heavenly Cheese,” which I missed the last time I was out that way due to torrential rains.  Darn it.

The cheese I am trying today is also available in Garlic and Parsley, Lemon Pepper, Olive Oil and Rosemary varieties.  This cheese was a winner in 2009 taking two first prizes at the PNE and the Royal Toronto cheese competitions, and 5th place at the Cheese World Championship in 2008.  As you know-I hope-I am a cheese purist, and thus am sampling the unflavoured variety at this time, but it’s nice to know there are options out there.

Interestingly, Okanagan Goat Cheese is the first cheese reviewed here in my blog that is the traditional chevre, soft unripened goat’s milk cheese in a log form.  Before this blog, I thought that this was what all goat cheese-apart from feta looked like. But I was wrong, oh was I wrong!  Okanagan goat cheese is a fat little log wrapped in plastic. When released from its casing this is a very soft and creamy cheese.  It’s pure white-that’s the goat-goats don’t pass on the colour of carotene like cows do. The cheese smells very mildly of goat, it’s pretty chilled out.

Here goes…

Yummy!  It’s lemony, that’s my first hit, then goaty.  It’s a strange combination of the two, but in a good way. It’s quite tart.  Really, this is a cream cheese more than anything, it’s that fresh lemony taste of a very young cheese.  It’s quite mild, with a nice balance of salt.  This one could go either way and would pair nicely with a savoury or sweet. The texture is just mad good.  It’s perfectly creamy and unctuous, but not overly cloying.

Mmm, I like it!  If you are looking for a nice local chevre, look no further than Happy Days Okanagan Goat cheese, it’s my slice of cheese.

Cheese 102-St. Marcellin


Teenagers are strange.  They are always demanding you buy them things: cell phones, ski passes, and Saint Marcellin Cheese. Well, my teenager, anyway.  My daughter is 15 years old, last September she went to France for a two week school trip, and came back a turophile-so it was money well spent.  She mostly stayed near Lyon, and came back with tales of the cheese, the beautiful, ubiquitous, fabulous cheese.  Her host family had its OWN CHEESE FRIDGE.  Yes, that’s right, such a thing exists, because who wants to keep their cheese at the wrong temperature?  That’s just gauche.  There were two cheeses my daughter couldn’t stop talking about, Beaufort, which I have already reviewed and loved- a delicious mountain cheese from Alberville, but there was also this mysterious little cheese, Saint Marcellin.  I say mysterious, as she didn’t get the name down- and it’s taken quite a bit of sleuthing and furtive half french facebook chats with her host family to get it right.

Apparently, Saint Marcellin is ubiquitous in Lyon and cheap, which is more than I can say for Saint Marcellin here in Canada.  My tiny little crock of cheese was about 10$ which is just a crock, if you ask me.  According to my daughter the same cheese costs about 1 dollar in France, which is patently unfair.

Saint Marcellin  is a soft bloomy rind French cheese made from cow’s milk. It looks like it can be made with raw milk, but is mostly pasteurized.  My little crock doesn’t say either way, so it’s another mystery.  It’s named after the small town of Saint Marcellin, and it is produced in a geographical area corresponding to the  Rhone Alpes region of France.  Saint Marcellin is not an AOC protected cheese, and can thus be made anywhere.  But it doesn’t look like there’s any Saint Marcellin fakery, so it probably is the real thing if it says it is.  There is grumbling on the interweb about this cheese achieving AOC status, so perhaps that is coming for this little cheese.

I say little cheese as Saint Marcellin is generally small in size, about the size of the palm of a small hand. Nowadays, Saint Marcellin is made from cow’s milk, but this is quite an ancient cheese.  In the 13th century the cheese was made exclusively from goat’s milk from the the goats that used to live on the side of the roads in the Dauphiné area, as they disappeared the cheese gradually became made with cows’ milk.

There’s a great legend with this cheese-and I l do LOVE a cheese legend…in 1445, Louis the 11th,  the governor of Dauphiné, was separated from his hunting party and fell off his horse. To make matters worse,he  was then attacked by a bear.  He was saved by two lumberjacks who lived in the region. They accompanied the future king, and made him taste some of their  Saint-Marcellin. He was so overwhelmed with the joy of escaping the bear, as well as the yumminess of the cheese that he brought the cheese to the royal court where it became a little celebrity.

After Saint Marcellin is made it is generously salted on both faces, and left for 1-2 months to mature. The cheese is often sold in little crocks (like mine) as it tends to get very goopy when it matures, and it would ooze everywhere, though it is occasionally sold with a chestnut-leaf wrapping.

My little hideously expensive crock of Saint Marcellin has been attacked by a teenager, similar to a bear attacking a sovereign.  Luckily I was able to snap a photo before the real damage was done.  It’s a pretty little cheese, which oozes with a pleasing unctuousness when cut.  It reminds me a little of Vacherin Mont d’or with is sticky wetness. It’s very creamy and floppy when you remove it from its crock. It smells quite barnyardy, even a little goat like-even though its supposed to be cow.  That’s interesting. It’s quite a pungent little cheese for a bloomy rind- it’s acting more like a washed rind.

Here goes…

Hmmmm, it’s astringent in a lemony sort of way, and also divinely creamy and unctuous.  It’s a salty, complex and mushroomy, flavor, like a really ripe brie. There’s a strong hint of foot taste too, but against a backdrop of lemon.  My daughter claims it “didn’t taste like that in France” and distinctly remembers it being less raunchy and sticky.  My guess is that my version has aged quite a bit longer than the ones she was hoovering down in Lyon. I do like this cheese, but I find the cost prohibitive, it would be great to find a local version-hey BC cheesemakers, this one isn’t AOC so go for it!

Day 100-Le Cendrillon

I have good news, and I have bad news.  The bad news is, it’s over.  I have completed my goal of tasting and writing about a new cheese every day for 100 days.  I have not missed one single day.  I have pushed on through head colds, sore necks, self doubt and worse of all, a broken fridge.  The good news is, it’s not over for me with cheese.  Nor is it over for this blog. I still do plan to keep trying new cheeses, and writing about them here.  It’s not going to be as dogmatic-perhaps once a week, perhaps not, we shall see.  I suggest you press the “follow” button on the right hand side under “follow blog via email“if you don’t want to miss future posts.  That will send them directly to you, as I am making no promises  about how regularly they will appear, just that they will.

If you can imagine, I have given some soul-searching into what my last official cheese should be, cheese number 100.  I wanted it to be a special cheese, and a Canadian cheese.  If you have been following this journey, I am sure you will not be surprised to learn that I also wanted it to be a goat’s cheese!  Thus, I am thrilled to have found a cheese that fits all three: it’s Le Cendrillon, a goat’s cheese from Quebec (of course) that is a special cheese.  In fact, it’s so special that it has been declared the WORLD CHAMPION OF CHEESE.  Yes, that’s right THE world champion.

Le Cendrillon-is a reference to the eponymous Cinderella-based opera by Charles Perrault.  Just like a fairy tale, this cheese is invented by the fictitious Alexis de Portneuf, the Betty Crocker of the cheese world.  I touched on the confusion regarding who in the world is Alexis de Portneuf  a couple of posts back when I reviewed his terrific cheese, Paillot de Chevre.  It looks like there really isn’t a Alexis de Portneuf, after all!  He is a marketing creation. Sigh. The real man behind the curtain is Louis Aird, a member of the French cheese fraternity, Confrérie du Taste Fromage de France.  Aird was brought on to develop new cheeses with that artisan-like feel.

Marketing issues aside, this cheese was created in 2005 when Louis Aird got the idea to try making a cheese in the shape of a pyramid. This proved challenging as the centre gets hard with age, so the adjustment was made to that of a long  and flat-topped pyramid.The first moulds for the cheese were made by hand. The cheese makers discovered that this longer,flattened pyramid would ripen faster and more evenly maintain a softer centre. The ash on the rind gives the cheese balance and is a traditional rind for an aged goat’s milk cheese. I’m thinking it’s pasteurized, but don’t quote me on that, most factory made cheese is.

Le Cendrillon was voted the best cheese in the world at the World Cheese Awards in 2009, beating out 2,440 entries from 34 countries as the overall winner in all categories.  It’s the first time a Canadian cheese maker has taken this award, and is a really big deal.  I mean, it’s the best cheese in the world! So really, who cares who Alexis de Portneuf is or isn’t, he’s as Canadian as Santa Claus.

My piece of Le Cendrillon  came in its own little box, I don’t think you can buy this one by the chunk, but it was strangely affordable in comparison to other cheeses I have sampled.  It really is a weird-looking cheese.  It’s a long flat black ash covered pyramid, dappled with mould.  When you cut into it you see an interesting phenomenon that I noticed with Paillot de Chevre, it’s like there are two parts to the interior paste: the outer ring, which is soft and creamy, and the interior core, which is harder and flaky. The black ash makes a good contrast to this two ringed interior, it really is a little show stopper.  Le Cendrillon is quite…um, goaty in essence.  There’s no doubt as to the milk derivation of this one.

Here goes…

Wow.  Um. Wow.  This is freaking amazing. It’s extremely complex.  It’s throwing all sorts of tastes at me at once. First, hello Mrs. Goat!  There’s a strong eau de farm in this one, but I like that.  It’s then  a little astringent, but also salty.  Then there’s that strange spiciness at the back of my throat.  The double texture interior is also playing with my mind.  The exterior ring is sweet and creamy, but that middle core is lemony and chalky.  I like it, I really do, but I’m not sure about the Best Cheese in the World thing, I actually preferred  Paillot de Chevre by the same maker, or of course, St Maure de Tourraine AOC, another ash covered goat’s milk cheese. However, this one is affordable and available and made from goat, so yes, little Cendrillon-you too are my slice of cheese!

Day 98-Blue Juliette

Back to Saltspring Island today.  I previously reviewed Blossom’s Blue, a blue cow’s milk cheese by the Moonstruck cheese company from Saltspring Island.  Today’s cheese is Blue Juliette by the Saltspring Island Cheese company that specialize in Goat’s cheese. Likely you, like me, are thinking “how is this fair that a tiny little island has two of its own cheese companies?” It isn’t fair, it’s just mean! But there’s Saltspring Island for you, everything good, all in one place.

Saltspring Island Cheese Company is owned and run by David and Nancy Wood. Saltspring Island Cheese makes handmade goat and sheep cheeses, and has been making cheese since 1994, and selling  since 1996 (and I’m thinking that was a fun two years of eating cheese in between). Although mostly known for their chevres they also make several other types of goat cheeses, all on their farm on Salt Spring Island.

Each Saturday, from March through October, the Salt Spring Island Saturday Market flourishes with hippies catering to yuppies and all manner of sumptuous yummies including these cheeses, it’s where they got their start.  Saltspring Island Cheese welcomes visitors to wander around the farm, see the animals and enjoy the scenery. You can watch the cheese being made through their viewing windows and take a self-guided tour through the cheesemaking process.  It’s almost enough to make me want to go. Almost.

Blue Juliette, is a blue version of their Juliette cheese, a simple goat’s milk camembert similar to the Chevrotina we just sampled from Abbotsford.  It looks like goat’s milk Camembert is all the rage these days, and I’m just so goat-positive, I have to applaud.  Blue Juliette differs though, in that this one is blue with is a blue mould rind.  It is made of pasteurized cheese and thus, should be safe for the pregnant but I’m not sure about the moulds.  Actually, maybe I would eat something tamer if I were pregnant.  At least Listeria shouldn’t be an issue with this cheese, let’s leave it at that.  This cheese looks very, um, alive.

Blue Juliette has a bloomy edible mould rind but is also laced with a blue-green mould, giving the exterior a distinctive appearance which is actually kind of hideous and zombie-like. This cheese is not pierced like a Stilton, the mould is introduced externally, so that mould should stay on the outside of the cheese.  As Blue Juliette is essentially a camembert, it is not aged long. Blue Juliette  is made with half  blue and half white mould!  Yummy!  Add a little penicillium roqueforti into your penicillium camembertii and throw in a little goat and a gulf island, and this is what happens.  Blue Juliette is produced using local,  goat’s milk that is purchased from farms in and around the Salt Spring Island area.

This cheese is a little show stopper.  It was served at the G20  as part the main meal for the assembled world leaders.  Um, wow!  Go SSI!

My little wet wedge of Saltspring Island Cheese Company Blue Juliette is just on its best before date, which, as I hope we have all learned, is the best time to eat a surface ripened cheese. Go and buy those marked down bries!  See it as saying “best on” date, not best before. It’s a little frightening to behold, it’s the wettest cheese I have dealt with, it almost fell apart while I was cutting it. The interior is extremely unctuous and creamy looking.  The mould is on the rind only, not into the paste. It smells faintly of goat, and also faintly of carnal thoughts.

Here goes…

Oh wow, FAR OUT! (as they say on Saltspring)  This cheese is the freaking bomb!  It’s everything at once.  It’s goaty! It’s a ripe camembert! No, it’s a blue cheese!  It’s salty and melted and strong and mild.  Holy Hannah.  Now this is a cheese. The texture is completely over the top crazy good.  It’s not just gooey, it’s wet, the cheese clings and cloys to the inside of your mouth.  It’s begging me to spread it on something, but I am a purist, and thus am resisting.  This is definitely not a starter cheese, I think this one would just about kill my husband, but to each their own.  I think we have a winner here, and I shall be back.  Blue Juliette, you are certainly my slice of cheese!

 

Day 72-St. Maure de Touraine AOC

 

This blog is unfair to goats and their milk.  I have only reviewed 2 goat milk cheeses-and have proclaimed both to be overly “goaty,” like that’s a bad thing. Just because I have lingering PTSD from goats due to my own hippie childhood, doesn’t mean I should pan a whole breed.  That’s goat-ist and wrong.  I have also neglected the most famous and beloved of all goat cheese-chèvre-which even I like.  This grotesque over site shall be rectified today.

St. Maure de Touraine is a chèvre-a fresh goat’s milk cheese from the Loire region of France,  It’s named after the small town of Saint Maure de Touraine where the cheese was traditionally made.  Goats were introduced to the Loire Valley in the 8th century during the Arab invasions.  When the Arabs left, they also left their goats, which was good of them.  This cheese is still made in the traditional manner-it’s a small log with a stick of straw running horizontally through its middle.  Originally the cheese was formed around the straw to help it keep its shape as it aged due to the delicate and fragile nature of a fresh goat cheese. The straw was also used to patch together broken cheeses. Although inedible, the straw is part of the St. Maure de Touraine experience.

St. Maure de Touraine received AOC status in 1990.  The AOC protects the name-for the most part-and also the method of production for this cheese. The goat’s milk is heated, coagulated and then ladled into long molds where it can drain naturally. After it drains, the straw is inserted-and this is the best part-these days, that formerly vestigal and useless rye straw is now pyrographed with a laser! On each straw is emblazoned a code with the identification number of the cheese-maker.  It’s like a microchip for a dog.  I’m just crazy about this combination of old-timey cheese and new-fangled technology.

After the insertion of the identifier straw, the cheese is covered with salt and ash and left to drain some more-at least 10 days, but up to 4 weeks.  The cheese ages in a cellar and is turned daily. Alas, my straw is cut up and all cheesey, so I can’t figure out the engraving, but it certainly looks genuine.  Actually, this straw engraving thing is making me anxious, why can’t I read my straw?  Most great cheeses also have great pretenders, laying in wait for those buyers not carefully looking for the details.  There is a cheese called  “Sainte-Maure” which is also made in Touraine and looks identical, but doesn’t follow the strict AOC criteria. “Sainte-Maure”  is industrially made and its straw does not bear the correct laser imprinting. This better not be an impostor.  Actually, I do believe that my little log of St. Maure de Touraine is real, straw aside-as the label claims it is AOC.  Who would be foolish enough to tempt the AOC gods?

This little log slice of St. Maure de Touraine  is perhaps the strangest looking cheese I have sampled. The paste is a creamy white.  The rind is an ash, white and blue mould concoction.  I just popped out the straw.  It is dark brown and hollow.  According to cheese lore, you should never start with the narrowest end of the log of this cheese- this is disrespectful and akin to “cutting the udder off a goat.” Alas, it all looked the same to me.  Sorry, goat udder. Speaking of goat udders, there is no mistaking the smell of this cheese.  It is quite goaty, but not in an overly offensive way.  It’s quite mild and inviting-and I say this as a person with a low goat tolerance.

Here goes…

Ohhhh, man, it’s just freaking great!  It’s unbelievably yummy. I can’t believe I’m writing this about a goat’s cheese.  This cheese is shocking! The interior is the creamiest cloud of goat love-smooth, inviting, knowing-but the rind adds a spicy kick.  It’s udderly complex and unbelievably toothsome. It’s just a little sweet, but also salty in perfect harmony.  There is no hint of uric acid-it’s completely smooth, but that rind is making my mouth and throat tingle. I haven’t experienced this before, is it the ash, is it an allergy?  Who knows?  Who cares?  My mouth is confused: it burns, and it melts.  What the hell is in this cheese? (besides a straw).  And to think I thought all chèvre was the same crumbly goat thing, not so! I’m a convert, and you should be too.  Go out and splurge on this strange little log-you can thank me later.