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!

Advertisements

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 91-Edam AKA Dutch Edammer

Have you ever woken up with your neck bent to the side in excruciating pain because you slept on it wrong? If so, did you then have to write a cheese blog post with your head bent 45 degrees to the right? If not, please have some empathy for me today, as I am literally-a little bent. This will be my first ever sideways written post…interesting.  As we do the final 10 cheese count down (it almost makes me cry to write that) I notice that I have neglected Edam, one of the most beloved and popular cheeses in the world. Zoiks!  Luckily I caught that little oversight in time.

Edam cheese is a pasteurized Dutch cow’s milk cheese first mentioned in 1439 when it was made and shipped from the Port of Edam north of Amsterdam. Although mostly made in Holland, the majority is exported.  The Dutch prefer  Gouda over Edam.  As I am a huge Gouda fan, I am curious to see where I land in this debate! The name “Edam Holland” is protected and thus cheese bearing that name is guaranteed to be of Dutch origin.  However, cheese called Edam is made all over the world and labelled as plain old Edam. So watch out, if it matters, it’s “Edam Holland” you are looking for.  Usually Edam made outside of Holland will not have the distinctive red wax coating. But to confuse this formula, that red wax coated Mini Babybel cheese we all put in our kids lunches is Edam, is red wax coated, but is not made in Holland.  Confused yet?

Edam AKA (Dutch Edammer) is traditionally sold in flattened disks of cheese with a coat of red paraffin wax. The cheese is named for the town of Edam in North Holland. From the 14th until the 18th century, Edam cheese was the most popular cheese in the world especially at sea and in the colonies.  Edam could mature very well at sea and could tolerate a little off grid affinage in the hold of a ship, so it was easy to bring it along to eat while travelling. According to legend, Edam cheese became even more popular in that time that as ships used these cheeses as bullets for their cannons. That sounds like bull ship to me, I mean, really?

The Edam cheese of today is not the same cheese as old school Edam. It’s been made from skim milk since the 1800’s while it historically was a full fat milk, like its close cousin, gouda.  Traditional ” farmer style” Edam cheese had a strong flavour and has all but disappeared and been replaced by a factory made version, soft and rather insipid in comparison.  Edam is now sold mostly in a “young”  version which is mild and salty and red waxed.  The aged and traditional version-which will be more flavourful-has a black paraffin wax coating to help distinguish it from the younger type.

My Edam bears the label, “Royal Hollandia,” this company was a little tricky to track down, it turns out that this is a trademarked name of the international dairy giant Friesland Foods company from The Netherlands. I am assuming this cheese is made in Holland, as the parent company is Dutch, but  it is not calling itself the protected name  “Edam Holland ” so that’s kind of strange. I’m not sure where this cheese doesn’t meet the standards set by the protected designation, but my neck hurts too much for further sleuthing at this hour.

My slice of Edam has a firm yellow cheese paste with a bright red wax rind-which I shall remove, of course. The interior paste is solid with no eyes. It looks like a large Babyel that has been sliced.  The smell is extremely mild, in fact, does it smell?

Here goes…

Well, this certainly isn’t Babybel! This cheese is much saltier and more tart than I was expecting. There is no hint of sweet at all, it’s kind of an astringent soya sauce flavour- mild with no raunchy notes, but also not as appealing as I thought it would be. It’s kind of boring and chilled out with no hint of anything carnal or dark to distract me from the banality. It’s safe, very safe, you can see why it is sold to children in tiny little versions.  The texture is really great though, it’s chewy and tensile-you could slice this one and put it on a sandwich no problem, or even shoot it out of a cannon, I suppose, but I must have some Dutch heritage-I vastly prefer a Gouda too, this one’s not my slice of cheese.

Day 77-Mizithra DOC

 


A feel a little badly for my review of Kefalotyri yesterday.  I kind of picked on that poor cheese- like a school yard bully roughing up a little kid with no older siblings around to protect it.  Interestingly, Kefalotryi is actually-almost literally , the big brother of today’s cheese- Mizithra, so no bullying today.  Promise.

As we discussed yesterday, Kefalotyri is a traditional Grecian cheese known as a male cheese as it is made with full-fat milk.  Mizithra is the corresponding female cheese, as it is made from the whey of the same cheese-making process.  In fact, Mizithra is considered the ancestor of all whey cheeses, yes, whey!  When I compare it side by side with Kefalotyri, it has 10% less milk fat, so it’s not just the little sister, it’s the skinny little sister.

Like Kefalotyri, Mizithra is a truly ancient cheese, made since at least the 10th century, BC.  Mizithra, also known as Myzithra is a traditional unpasteurized Greek cheese made from sheep, goat or a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk.   Mizithra is mainly produced on the island of Crete but is also made in other regions of Greece, it is DOC protected, so all Mizithra is Mizithra.  Except it isn’t.  The name Mizithra can actually refer to three different types of cheese-actually three different ages and stages of the same cheese.  Mizithra is enjoyed at each developmental age by the local Greeks, although only the oldest age tends to make it to export.

Mizithra is perhaps the simplest cheese in existence.  It is basic cheesemaking at its finest.  Milk-either sheep, goat or a combination is brought to a scald and then curdled with the addition of rennet or whey from a previous batch.  The curdling can even occur with the addition of something acidic, like vinegar or lemon juice.  Once the curds form they are poured into a bag of cheese cloth and then left to drain. Sometimes the whey dripping out is saved to start the next batch of mizithra.

After a few days of dripping, the mizithra has formed into a soft ostrich egg-shaped ball of cheese described as “sweet, fresh and moist.”  The cheese is often sold and eaten at this stage, where it is used as a desert cheese due to it’s mild and sweet taste-like a ricotta.  Or it moves on to the next stage, the raunchy middle age.  At this stage the cheese is rubbed with salt and left to air dry.  The longer it ages, the firmer and saltier it becomes. In the olden days it was placed in little bags of cheesecloth and hanged from the trees near the ocean-apparently imparting an “oceany” taste to the cheese.  I’m unclear if this still occurs, but I like to think that it does. If the cheese is sold and eaten at this age it is both firm and sour  and is known as xynomizithra or sour mizithra.   This stage is described as an “acquired taste” with a “sour tangy flavour” and an “unpleasant smell.” Doesn’t that sound fabulous?

If the Mizithra ages even longer (and let’s hope that’s swaying from a tree in a muslin sack overlooking the Mediterranean)  it becomes extremely hard and salty and is lastly known and sold as anthotyros-this is the sample I have today. Anthotyros is used grated or crumbled over pasta dishes, or eaten plain with bread and olives.

My little half-ostrich egg of anthotyros Mizithra did not appreciate being cut at all. It crumbled into a little cheesy pile and was nearly impossible to slice (see photo below). It’s a bright white-coloured cheese with an almost powdery looking paste.  It doesn’t even look like cheese.  There are no eyes and no discernible rind.  It smells faintly of barn–like there’s a sheep herd about a mile away over the hill.

Here goes…

What the f*ck?  No seriously, what is this?  I don’t think it’s a cheese.  I think it’s  a desiccant. I just popped a chunk into my mouth and all the saliva disappeared.  It’s outrageously salty and barny and dry and weird and awful. How in the world did it last 2000 years? I’m serious! And to think that this is the aged and more generally acceptable version, imagine what sour mizithra tastes like!  Yikes!  Luckily I think you can only get that one in Crete.  I don’t get this cheese at all-unless if grated over a pasta dish it turns into something else entirely-but lots of hard grate-able cheeses also taste good on their own.  Not this one.  Beware!

Day 63-Mahon

I got a little panicky yesterday. I have less than 40 cheese slots left.  I worry that I wasted too much time mired in an endless onslaught of triple cream brie.  Now there is so much cheese to eat, and so little time.  In order to address this I have done some research and made a “hit list” of cheese.  Really, 100 cheeses is just scratching the surface.  However, if I do manage to find the remaining 40 or so on my list I should be representing a relatively even-handed look at the cheeses of today.  Just so you know, there is a method to my madness!

Back to the Mediterranean!  Well to Minorca, which is the most northerly of the Balearic islands in the Mediterranean, technically part of Spain.  Minorca is the home of a historic and beloved cheese – Mahon, also known as Mao. It’s an ancient cow cheese that comes in both raw and pasteurized-lucky for me, mine is raw! Do you know why raw is always better?  It’s because cheese is all about bacteria-pasteurizing milk kills all the bacteria-then you have to start all over again.  It’s never going to be quite right-that’s why-if you aren’t pregnant, and if you have the option-go for raw. Raw will almost always be more intense and more delicious.This message was brought to you by raw.

Minorca is quite a remote Mediterranean island. Historically, the people there made cheese as a subsistence food  to keep their precious commodity of protein safe in a land of no refrigeration. Back in the day it was always a sheep cheese-and records of cheese making here go all the way back to the 13th century.   However, the British invaded in the 1700’s and brought cows with them.  Luckily, they left the cows behind, and the island switched to making cow cheese with the same methods: enter, Mahon.

Things got kind of interesting for Mahon after the British left.  The cheese became a trade commodity on which an entire new class of people based their livelihood- the “gatherer-ripeners.”  These folks emerged as a distinct social class, the first real cheese middle men.  They controlled all aspects of the cheese on island and made it a consistent product.  They traded goods to the farmers and received fresh cheese from the farmers in exchange.  The gatherer-ripeners then took these cheeses to their caves for the finishing. They then sold these cheeses at market, often for export, where its fame spread.

This basically  continues today on the Island. About 300 families create the milk which is now ripened by one of a few affineurs on island-perhaps a descendent of the historic gatherer-ripeners!  Affinage is really where it’s at with the creation of Mahon.  All young Mahon is kind of the same-generic, it’s the ripening in underground caves with a controlled climate that makes all the difference.  Depending on the desired finished product, the cheese will spend between 2-10 months in affinage.  The rind is created by rubbing butter, paprika and olive oil into the cushion shaped cheese at regular intervals during this period-which kind of sounds like fun!

Mahon is eaten at different stages. I think mine is the older version, as it’s pretty hard and parmesan looking, not a light and supple cheese. The rind is orange and I think inedible.  The interior is pretty yellow looking and a little speckled with crystallization, I hope I’m in for a crunch! It’s a very hard and firm looking cheese, but it’s not crumbling at all.  It’s totally keeping its act together. The smell is mild and almost nutty, no hint of nastiness in the least.

Here goes…

Astringent!  Salty!  Holy Hannah, my mouth just puckered right up.  I wasn’t expecting that kind of tartness in a cheese aged like this-usually a cheese has mellowed a little.  It’s super sour and my saliva glands have just gone into overtime, squirting like mad in order to deal with this taste.  The flavour has no subtlety to me at all.  I taste salt, I taste bitter.  Those tastes are so strong that any other note I should be catching is completely annihilated. The texture is firm, but does break down nicely on  the palate.  It doesn’t melt really, it just evaporates into a salty liquid.  You know how sometimes a really ugly chick is the most popular girl in her home town because she’s basically the only girl?  I suspect this may be sort of the case with Mahon. If you were stuck on an island in the Mediterranean with really only one cheese available, I bet you would think it was pretty fantastic too.  As for me, I’ll take a pass.

Day 49-Kirkham’s Lancashire

 

I went to the cheese store yesterday to get some “just eating” cheese.  It was great to feel like I actually had some idea about what to buy instead of feeling so overwhelmed.  The gentleman before me ordered some Emmenthal and I almost stopped him to ask him if he was sure he “really wanted it,” but I didn’t . To each their own…but really, Emmenthal!  Yuck!

For my own eating pleasure I ordered Cave Aged Gruyère, Old Amsterdam Gouda, and then some Beaufort D’Apage for my daughter, who is addicted.  That selection should say something to you, if you know your cheese.  These are all really, really aged, semi-firm cheeses that have spent a good deal of time in a cave, maturing. They are all quite strong with a tyrosine crunch of protein in them.  It turns out that I like a little chew to my cheese, and I like a big bite.  I’m also not crazy over ammonia in my cheese.  Like my friends, I like my cheese a little aged, a little raunchy,  a LOT sassy and with no discernible odour of urine.

Today is my first English Cheese!  That took long enough  What a oversite.  Honestly, when I started this cheese journey I thought I would be in England quicker than day 49.  Well thanks to Kirkhams Lancashire, I have arrived.  Kirkham’s Lancashire is a raw milk cow cheese which according to its label is, “the most traditional Lancashire in production.”  Of course, what the heck is a Lancashire cheese, anyway?  You and I might rightly ask.

Well, Lancashire cheese has a several hundred year history in England, and is one of England’s founding cheeses.   Lancashire was a true  “subsistence cheese” which was traditionally made by dairy farmers for their own use from extra milk.  Often farms wouldn’t have enough milk in any day to fill a cheese mould, so they would curd milk for three days in a row, and then make a cheese from these mixed curds.  This unique technique is still used to make Lancashire cheese today.  Three days worth of curd is milled to add a depth of flavour. The cheese maker can adjust any given batch of cheese for balance- some days it may call for a little more day one curd, other days, a little more day three.World War 2 almost did in Lancashire cheese, by 1948 most of the farms making it had closed down.  Today there are only three farms making the real stuff.  It’s on the verge of extinction.

Kirkham’s Lancashire is the most rhapsodized Lancashire out there, and the only one that seems to have made it across the pond to Canada. It’s the only one making raw milk Lancashire, and the only one with its own dairy-which seems to be crucial in making raw milk.  Like all the best cheeses, it even has its own website!  http://www.mrskirkhams.com/.  According to the site, Mrs Ruth Kirkham has been making this cheese on the family farm-Beesley Farm-for over 30 years.  She learned how to make this cheese from her own mother, and now her son, Graham, has taken over cheese production. So it’s all in the cheesy family.  Kirkham’s uniquely uses butter to seal up these cheeses, it helps to the cheese to mature and keeps the texture-um, buttery!  The family has been growing their herd and now have 100 cattle and a fancy new milking parlour. Dad still milks the cows every day, and mother and son make the cheese.

As you can see from my photo, it’s quite a crumbly looking little slice.  Locals call this cheese a “buttery crumble,” however, apparently the Kirkham’s call it a “fluffy monster.” It’s a large cheese with no visible rind-I guess the butter coating is gone.  You can see the pattern of curds in the cheese, I think that’s what’s making it crumble. It smells like lemon yoghurt, no whiff of ammonia or rot in the least.

Here goes…

Sour! Not lemony, but sour and salty. It’s not a fluffy monster, Mr. Kirkham, it’s a sour monster!  Yikes, this cheese is not kind, nor subtle. The texture is really cool, I like how it crumbles before it even hits my mouth-but, holy Hannah, why is this cheese so sour?  It doesn’t even taste like cheese.  It tastes like dehydrated lemon yoghurt.  This is not a sexy cheese.  This is not a delicious cheese. This is a cheese that people ate because they had no options. Let’s try it melted…hmm, this mellows out the lemon and brings out a hint of blue-that’s different, it’s a totally new cheese melted.  Still not my cup of cheese, any way you melt it.

This is a cheese that served a purpose for hundreds of years, and I respect that history-but with a low addiction factor and overly sour taste, this is not the cheese for me.