Cheese 136 Blue Mountain Blue

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It’s rare that a cheese is also a palindrome: Blue Mountain Blue. OK, I guess it’s not technically a palindrome, but it practically is, and that is a very special thing in a cheese.

Another really special thing in a cheese, is when a cheese monger personally recommends it. I recently made a road trip to Seattle, Washington and visited the charming Calf and Kid cheese shop. It’s always such a thrill for me to find a brand new cheese shop, and I was lucky enough to bring home three local Washington cheeses all recommended by the staff there.

The first of these is the new hot cheese in the shop this month, Blue Mountain Blue. The cheese monger told me it’s fantastic and has been selling like crazy. Honestly, she had me at “Blue.”  Blue Mountain Blue is a new blue-veined cave matured cheese from the eponymous Blue Mountain Blue Cheese company from Walla Walla (another almost Palindrome!) in Washington State.

According to their website,  (which you must go and see, it’s beautifully done) Blue Mountain Blue debuted on 4 July 2013, so it’s practically a cheese newborn. It’s made from the raw milk of a small herd of Irish Shorthorn-Holstein cross dairy cows. The herd is lead by a cow named  Old Blue. Old Blue and her sisters cows graze on natural  stands of lush grasses, and are solely pasture-fed, establishing the terroir of the cheese. I do love it when a cheese is named after a cow, Blossom’s Blue from Saltstpring Island is also named after a cow, and there’s something lovely about that. In fact, I recommend more cheeses be named after cows.

Blue Mountain Blue is a raw milk cheese made with natural rennet. After being formed, the cheese curd is sliced with a special multiple-blade knife.  Sea salt is sprinkled into the cubed curds which are stirred to break down their size further. A “proprietary complex of several strains of Penicillium roqueforti”  is introduced into the curd with stainless-steel needles, creating pathways which permit air (and mould spore) to get into the interior of the cheese. The cheese develops its veining for 120 days, then the rounds are transported to a solid-basalt cave in the Blue Mountain range above the Walla Walla Valley to continue their affinage over 12 months. Wow, a solid basalt cave. I would like to see that with my own eyes.
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This all sounds fantastic to me: 12 month affinage, raw milk, great terroir, happy cows, solid basalt caves, a cheese named after cows, a swanky website, and a proprietary mould….

But what about the cheese?

Well, this cheese is an attractive  blue cheese. It has a nice creamy yellow looking paste shot through with light blue and green mould, but there’s still a lot of creamy looking paste there. You can clearly see where the stainless needles pierced the cheese as the veining develops along those lines. There’s no discernable rind. The smell is gentle, yet absolutely divine. I’m drooling a little as I type, you can smell that cheesy blue aroma with just a hint of alcohol.

Here goes…

Mmmmmm. smooth, creamy, salty, round and spicy. It’s very much like a Stilton, but a little more salty. Actually there are chunks of sea salt in it that are just sumptuous and kind of crunchy. But it’s got a sweetness from that raw cow milk that helps keep the spice of the blue in balance. Really, it’s fabulous, very nice and very approachable for a blue. It’s so well-balanced and not overly aggressive that it should be welcome on any cheese plate.
Great job, Blue Mountain Blue, I can’t wait to see what you are up to next!
Yummy, it’s Yummy.
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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!

 

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 101-Gjetost


Welcome back, turophiles!

It’s been 10 days off.  As promised, the cheese and I have returned.

I have been wanting to review today’s cheese, Gjetost since the beginning of the blog, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Imagine my surprise to run into it at my local IGA store, of all places.  It just goes to show that you really have to look carefully at your local store’s cheese. You might find something special hiding!

I first had Gjetost three years ago while traveling in Iceland, and there’s a bit of a story here.  I was in a tourist store called “the Viking.” The proprietor was chiding me for being a tacky tourist.  Feeling injured I informed him that I actually was an Icelander, by heritage.  To this he responded, “oh, so you think you are Viking?  Then come with me.”  and he led me through the back of his store and onto a small deck in the alley.  Yes, this was stupid of me. When we were alone on the deck he pulled a massive knife out of some hidden place in his body and pointed up.  A large, toddler sized hunk of dark purple meat hanged from a hook, swaying in the breeze above my head.  It smelled a little fishy. Literally.  The man reached up and cut a slice of this hideous looking meat and handed it to me, “if you are Viking, you need to eat this, it’s in your blood.” He menaced.  Yes, it was whale.  Minke whale.  Shudder! What could I do?  He had a knife.  But more importantly, he was questioning my legitimacy!  I ate the slice, it was chewy and kind of raw.  It was hideous and my stomach roiled with guilt.  But I had to, you understand?  It was cultural.

Where is the cheese in this story?  Well, the next day I returned to the store.  The same man was eating a large plate of crackers.  On each cracker was a slice of brown stuff that looked like peanut butter, and on top of this was a slice of whale.  “You have to try it this way”  He proclaimed” “Everyone loves this cheese in Iceland.”  The food gauntlet being thrown down again I had no choice and tried this concoction.  I don’t know if it was the whale or the cheese-(which I later discovered was Gjetost) but it was truly hideous, one of the most horrifying taste combinations of my life. Think of sweet, fishy peanut butter cheese cracker, with an extra serving of bad karma.

Thus, of course, I have been searching for this cheese ever since. Gjetost is Norwegian for goat’s cheese, pronounced “yay-toast.” It was customary throughout Norway to boil whey to “prim” – a soft, sweet, brown cheese made from goat or cow’s milk. Anne Hov, a farmer’s wife, was the first person add cream into the kettle of prim making a full “fat cheese” she called Gjetost, Apparently by adding the cream Anne got a higher price than her regular prim and she is reputed to have saved the Gudbrandsdal valley from financial ruin in the 1880’s through the invention of this cheese.

Gjetost is actually not technically a cheese per se, as it is made from whey, not curds.  This puts it into the same category as ricotta and mizithra and other whey “cheeses.” Gjetost is sold in Canada under the name of “Ski Queen” and is made by the Norwegian giant, TINE, which I recently discussed in my review of Jarlsberg cheese.

Gjetost is extremely popular in Scandinavia and is typically eaten cut into thin wafers and on toast with different sides, fruit, vegetables, or-apparently-whale. Gjetost is also used in fondue. Gjetost’s unique colour and taste are the product of the natural caramelization of the sugar in milk (lactose) that occurs during the cheese’s production process. Gjetost is made by boiling a mixture of milk, cream and whey carefully for several hours so that the water evaporates. The heat turns the milk sugar into caramel. Once evaporated to the proper consistency, Gjetost is molded into blocks. As Gjetost isn’t really cheese, it doesn’t need any aging, it’s ready to eat when it’s made, although it will keep for up to a year.

My chunk of Gjetost looks more like maple fudge than peanut butter.  It’s a caramel brown and well, fudgey looking cheese.  The colour is uniform through the paste, and there is no rind.  The smell is quite mild, if there’s goat there I can’t tell, and that’s a first.  It smells faintly of barn but you really have to get up close for that.

Here goes…

OMG this is weird! It’s basically candy fudge in a goat cheese form.  It doesn’t just look like fudge, it IS fudge.  I know I have said that some cheeses are sweet before-but this one is actually SWEET, like as sweet as candy sweet.  No kidding. Then there’s that chewy fudgey texture, and yes, a little kick of goat at the end. It’s like eating goat candy. I actually don’t know what in the world this is. It’s totally fascinating and repugnant, yet appealing simultaneously.  I definitely recommend it without the whale-this one seems much more palatable.  Wow, I’m really blown away by this cheese, I can see how it could become a strange little habit.

Gjetost, you are freaking me out-you might just be my slice of cheese, after all.

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 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!