Cheese 131 14 Arpents-Fromagerie Medard



You know how some people like to shop for cars, or jewellery, or clothes?  I like to shop for cheese.

Every time I’m in a new store, I’m drawn to the cheese section, and my children mock me for this. Last week they accused me of being “addicted to cheese.” And that’s just unfair. I mean, addicted? Addicted means that I think about it all the time, I obsess about it, I can’t live without it. Shit. Maybe I AM addicted.

Last week when the whole “mom’s addicted” issue came up, I was elbow deep in our local Whole Foods cheese section. I do like to look for cheese here as they tend to have a decent selection, and they also have a basket of smaller “amuse bouche” tastes of cheese, which is a great way to get into cheese without making a huge commitment.

It was here that I noticed today’s cheese for the first time, a Canadian cheese, from Quebec and as it is Canada Day (Happy Canada D’eh!) I thought it an excellent choice. It’s an interesting looking square cheese from the Quebec Fromagerie Medard called 14 Arpents (FYI, that link is in French, so best of luck to you.)










If my high school French serves me correctly, 14 arpents means 14 acres, as in “14 acres of land” and the lady at the cheese counter told me it refers to the road bordering the fromagerie, called Le Chemin 14 Arpents. It’s a whole milk, washed rind  cheese made from the milk of the farm’s own brown Swiss cattle-and this one’s pasteurized (alas.) This is a true farmstead cheese as it is made from the cattle that live on the farm.



The milk for this cheese is sourced from the attached  Ferme Domaine De La Rivière,  established in  1881 when the Quebec government gave  families with at least 12  children (yikes) extra funds to settle and develop the area. The eponymous Médard (of Fromagerie Medard) was the son of one of these establishing families. The  Fromagerie Medard,  opened in 2006 took his name, so there’s a true thread of farming, history of the land in the cheese and in the cheese name, and I like that.

This is a handsome cheese, it has a lovely orange washed rind and a creamy yellow interior, spotted with eyes. It seems rather alive- it oozed slightly when I cut it, and as it warms up, it really does reek quite pleasantly. There’s that delightfully foul odour of unwashed feet that captivates me. Alas, so many are scared off by that initial “hello” from a washed rind, that’s just the bark! Don’t be afraid of the bite!  Move in, I implore thee.
Mmmmmm. This is the love child of Taleggio and Oka! It’s a round tasty flavoured cheese, with just a hint of bitter from that salty washed rind. It’s toothsome and chewy, it sticks to my teeth, it plays with my tongue. Although the smell is a little fierce, the taste is mellow, yet complex. I think this one would work on just about any cheese board. It’s salty and creamy and nutty and pleasurable in the mouth. It’s just slightly “gym-socky” but in an ever so friendly way. My only regret? I only bought a small chunk.
Go out and grab some, and Happy Canada Day

Cheese 130 Valdeon (Queso de Valdeon) DOP


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


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


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


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

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

Wow. I’ve met my match.

Cheese 115 Saint Morgon

Hello cheese lovers!

Before I get to today’s cheese, can we all just pause for a moment of silence for all the poor, murdered Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano cheeses in Italy, killed by the earthquake earlier this week.  MOMENT OF CHEESE SILENCE.  Some 300,000 wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano and 100,000 of Grana Padano, each weighing about 40 kg, were horribly damaged when they fell off shelves in warehouses where they were undergoing their two year-long affinage. This amounts to about 10 per cent of the production of Parmigiano Reggiano and two per cent of Grana Padano.  Once one of these wheels cracks, it’s game over.  Interestingly, the parmigiano consortium has asked for permission to move the remaining cheese to warehouses outside of the region…but will this affect the AOC designation that clearly states the cheese and affinage must occur in the same place?  Interesting argument against AOC/DOP regulations! As well, the production of milk used for cheese making in the area was also affected because many cows died were left traumatized by the quake and its aftershocks-bascially cow PTSD, affecting the output and quality of milk.  Poor cows!  Poor Parmigianno, poor turophiles!  YES, a moment of silence, please.

It’s great that we were able to digress before getting to today’s cheese, Saint Morgon, because this little cheese is not really talking.  Like, not at all.  I picked Saint Morgon to review as it’s always at my local Costco and thus, relatively cheap, which I like.  Also,  it states on the label that it’s from France, which I also like, so that intrigued me. Cheap Costco cheese from France, sounds good, right?  However, when I got it home and stared to research this cheese, I just found dead end after dead end.  That usually denotes a cheese with no soul or no story, only factory produced for mass export.  Interestingly, despite the charming “old-timey” label (and you should know by now to be wary of old-timey labels) this is a pretty new cheese.  One paltry source states it arrived on the cheese scene in the 1980’s but honestly, that’s the only information I could find. Who knows, it’s a cheese mystery, certainly not old-timey though, that’s for sure.

see the old timey label

the cheese revealed-a stinker!

It seems like the Saint Morgon-as it is called in Canada,  is also sold as “Presidents Saint Morgon” elsewhere, (Europe) and is somewhat bizarrely actually owned by a Croatian company called Dukat.  This may explain the lack of backstory here.  I suspect (no proof) that President was a French manufacturer bought by Dukat at some point and now exporting to Canada in mass quantities for Costco shelves as plain old Saint Morgon (with old-timey label).  That explains why only Costco seems to carry it, and no one really seems to be talking about this cheese.  It’s a little lost orphan, poor darling.

There are some clues on the label.  It states that the cheese is from French Laval Cedex 9 Cooperative, that it is made of cow’s milk, pasteurized (of course) that this is fromage a pate molle affine en surface meaning that it is a soft surface ripened cheese. It is a washed rind cheese washed in lukewarm salt water and flipped every day during affinage to remove the mold layer and creating a orangish rind similar to an epoisses, but that’s it people. Seriously that’s it!  Good thing we have the Vlog and the earthquake to spice up the blog today because this one is really stumping me.

My little round of Saint Morgon cheese is both stinky and mysterious.  The smell clearly states that this is a washed rind cheese, as does the characteristic orange and white rind with a sandpapery feel.  The uric acid whiff is both charming and repulsive to me.  The cheese looks a little dry, like an epoisses that’s been left out on the counter. I have waited until the best before date to eat this cheese, as you know that should translate into “don’t eat this cheese before” in your mind.  When I cut it it’s not as gooey as I hoped, it sill looks a little dry, the interior is creamy with small eyes.  It smells, it beckons me to forgive its lack of info on the net and to judge it by taste alone.

Here goes…

Salty, yummy, sticky….actually much stickier and gooier than I thought.  Hmm, it’s actually not bad, it is obviously a stinky little washed rind cheese, it’s not excessively extravagant or showy, but it’s a nice cheap little cheese to go with your cheap little costco baguette.  It’s not my slice of cheese particularly, I’m offended by the lack of back story, but it just might be yours.


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 97-Rondoux Double Creme

As I round out my 100 day journey into cheese, it’s important to remember that not everyone has access to cheese shops in a big city.  Although in theory there are hundreds of cheeses available in Canada-in practice, cheese selection can be quite limited, especially if you live in a small town.  That’s why I was so thrilled to discover the joy of Woolrich Dairy goat brie, and Oka cheese.  Both of these are produced in factories and are widely available, but both totally rock my world.  Cheese can be extremely expensive, especially if it has to be shipped across an ocean to get here, so I really am open to local cheese.  With this is mind I am sampling my last commercially produced Canadian cheese.  This one is called Rondoux Double Creme, and it is produced by the cheese giant Agropur in-where else? Quebec.

The name Agropur may be familiar to readers of this blog, as I discussed it previously in my review of Oka cheese.  Agropur is a large Quebec cooperative that has been making cheese and dairy products since 1937. The Société coopérative agricole du Canton de Granby, eventually became the Agropur cooperative in 2000. It is composed of 86 producers from Granby and the surrounding area.  Agropur is bucking the trend of locally operated cooperatives. It’s influence has spread across Quebec and Canada. Agropur includes brands such as Yoplait, Olympia, and Island Farms. Agropur is ubiquitous.

I have noticed today’s cheese for at least a year at the supermarket. Rondoux Double Creme and it’s Rondoux siblings are all sold in adorable little round wooden boxes, and I am a sucker for good marketing.  By my reckoning, Rondoux is a brie cheese in all but name.  Interestingly, Agropur doesn’t use the “B” word in any of its promotional material for this cheese.  In fact, there is virtually no promotional material for Rondoux Double Creme at all, despite the fact that I see its little wooden box just about everywhere.  This is a little strange, don’t you think?

As I have mentioned, I am a sucker for marketing.  The instructions on the back of the wooden box state that you can do your own home affinage, (ok, they don’t use that phrase, this is just me).  According to the instructions, this cheese is “young” 40 days before the best before date, and is thus “soft and slightly tart,” it is “semi-ripened” 25 days before the best before date and  “mild and velvety,”  and it is “fully ripened” right before the best before date and “rich and creamy.”  That’s kind of cool. My sample today is almost smack on the best before date. I never before knew this was something to aim for in a cheese.

I don’t know much about the production of Rondoux Double Creme as no one is talking, and I hate that.  As it’s a brie, it’s a young cheese, helped along by some friendly moulds.  It’s made from cow’s milk that is pasteurized.  This cheese is made in the Corneville cheesemaking factory. As this one is a Double Creme, creme is added to the cheese to make it richer, there’s also a triple creme variety out there, but I am trying to finish this blog without getting overly fat, so no thanks. Interestingly, despite the fact that no one seems to be talking about Rondoux Double Creme, this little darling is a rock star!  Rondoux Double Creme WON the 2011 American Cheese society in the SOFT RIPENED CHEESES.  That’s pretty freaking fantastic, I don’t know why Agropur isn’t screaming this from the tops of the mountains, I certainly would if this were my cheese.

My little wedge of  Rondoux is simpering quietly beside me.  It’s an unassuming little cheese.  When I cut into it my knife stuck into the interior and a little bit oozed out. This is a good sign!  There is a white bloomy rind of mould, edible-of course, and a creamy-looking interior with a few small eyes.  The very middle has turned to goo. It smells mildly of mushrooms and toes.

Here goes…

Ahhh.  Freaking fabulous!  Really, this cheese totally rocks!  It’s absolutely divine in flavour, the mushroomy paste matches the creamy, salty and slightly sweet interior. There is a hint of ammonia, but it’s kept in check by a harmonious balance of salt, sweet and unctuous joy.  The texture is great.  The gooey middle is exactly as I hoped: sticky, cloying, melting, sensual-it’s making sweet  love to my tongue and teeth.  Wow, I can’t believe this cheese is this good. I heartily recommend this one if you are looking for a fabulous and affordable little brie from Canada, you can’t go wrong.  This one is definitely, my slice of cheese.

Day 86-Castle Blue

I have a special fondness for the Fraser Valley of BC.  Just outside of busy Vancouver is a wonder of country farms and cows.  About twice a year my family will drive out to Harrison Hotsprings to stay at the hotel and lounge in the hotspring pools.  Imagine my great surprise to learn that all this time I have been driving right by a local fromagerie!  Guess where I’m going to stop next time I have a hankering for hotspring?  The Farm House Natural Cheeses is a small family dairy farm located in Agassiz, just beside Harrison.  It is owned by Deborah-Amrein Boyes and her husband, George Boyes. Happy cows and goats graze their  fields and  produce the  fresh milk used for the cheeses made on farm.   It’s old school fermiere cheese and so close to me, I can almost taste it.

Debra and her family moved to this farm in 1986. They only started making cheese in 2004 as a response to changes in the dairy industry- it was time to either grow or diversify.  George grew up on a dairy farm in England and Debra lived in the Swiss Alps for 10 years and learned cheesemaking there, so it seemed like a natural fit. The entire family is involved in the work on the farm. George looks after the animals and the farm operation, and Debra does the cheesemaking.

This farm also offers farm tours.  Visitors can connect with the farmer and the animals while touring the farm and also while visiting the  on-farm cheese shop.  If you can believe my wretched luck, both are currently closed at the time of this writing.  Wah!

Debra Amrein-Boyes, isn’t just some lady from the valley making cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with that) she was recently inducted into the French Cheese Guild, the “Guilde des Fromagers Confrerie de Saint-Uguzon. ”  This recognizes “those who protect and continue the tradition of cheesemaking around the world.”   I don’t really know what is cooler than that.  Seriously.  Debra has also written a book for home cheesemakers called “200 Easy Homemade Cheese recipes: from Cheddar and Brie to Butter and Yoghurt.”  I’m starting to get a crush Debra…I mean, seriously!

Although I can’t tell if the cheese made here is raw or pasteurized, I am leaning towards raw as it is made on farm, and that’s kind of the whole point.  If it matters, you really should ask.  All the cheese here is made from the milk of their own herd of Brown Swiss, Guernsey, and Holstein cows as well as the family farm goats.

Castle blue is one of the 21 cheeses offered by Farmhouse with cow and goat milk versions of many of my favorites available.  I’m not really sure what a Castle Blue cheese is.  There is reference around the net to other “Castle Blues” so I am guessing it may be Debra’s twist on a cheese classic.  For instance, there’s another “Castle Blue” from Scotland that gets a lot of press called  “Fatlips Castle Blue.” Alas,  I can’t say how long it’s aged (probably not long from the looks of it) or what else is done to it (probably mould is introduced, and a lot of that by the looks of it) it’s a bit of a cheesy mystery.  Alas.

My Castle Blue looks like a brie gone mad.  It’s actually the first cheese in 85  that has frightened me.  It really is a heinous looking cheese.  It’s kind of reptilian in appearance-the rind is green and blue and looks wet and scaly.  The interior is creamy yellow and shot through with mould.  Yikes!  I am repulsed, yet fascinated simultaneously.  If there’s no blog tomorrow, it was the Castle Blue.

Here goes…

Hmmmm. Looks can be deceiving. It’s just a fabulously creamy, wet almost liquid cheese.  It reminds me of Vacherin Mont d’or-this one’s a runner. It sticks, it runs, it clings to my teeth, it invades my tongue and my taste buds!  The texture is actually the selling point here, it’s a carnal and knowing little cheese, and I like that!  It’s actually pretty mild in taste for how heinous it looks.  It’s creamy and savoury and yes-there is that hint of blue-but there’s no unctuous ammonia hit. It’s just a sticky little foray into the fascinating world of controlled rot.

Close your eyes and make love to this ugly little local.  It’s my slice of cheese!

Day 71-Reblochon de Savoie AOC

It’s bright and early Tuesday morning.  I am ready to eat cheese. Yesterday’s unfortunate run-in with some bad rind only temporarily sidelined me.  You can’t let one bad cheese spoil the whole plate.  In all things in life-cheese included-we must persevere.

Speaking of persevering, today’s legendary cheese, Reblochon de Savoie-is a true survivor.  Reblochon  has been made since the 13th century.  However, it has spent the majority of its existence as a secret cheese! Reblochon was basically underground and for personal consumption only until the French revolution. Farmers using the pastures in the Haute-Savoie area were made to pay a tax based on their daily milk yield.  To get around this, the farmers only half-ass milked the cows while the tax-man was looking.  When he left, they re-milked the cows and made this cheese from that milk.  The  French verb “reblocher”  means “to squeeze a cow’s udder again”-this re-milked  cheese was only for the family. The French revolution removed heads and also the milk tax.  At last Reblochon was free to come out of the closet…temporarily.

After a couple of hundred years as a legitimate cheese-Reblochon is experiencing a whole new life in the underground.  Although legal in Canada, it is currently illegal for sale in the USA due to recent enforcement of laws regarding raw milk cheese.  Although there are pasteurized or locally made versions of Reblochon for sale (Le Gaulois, reviewed last month was a Canadian take on the cheese,) the real thing is-once again, an outlaw.  There is a plethora of information on the ‘net of people trying to “score” some Reblochon.  An apparent vibrant “black market” for this cheese exists, with die-hard Reblochon fans doing whatever it takes to get their fix. Some shops-unnamed-carry it “under the counter” and sell it to trusted buyers only.

In fact, the whole world of Reblochon is so fraught with issues in the USA  that a crop of fake Reblochon has flooded the market in response to this need. A cheese called Fromage de Savoie was created to try to get around the American raw-milk loophole and replace Reblochon.  Alas, it’s just no good, according to those in the know. In some places Fromage de Savoie is sold  as Reblochon, but beware…it isn’t.  Interestingly, the name “Reblochon” is protected by AOC, but this AOC designation only protects someone from producing a cheese called “Reblochon,” it does not protect a store or distributor from calling a cheese whatever they like.  This suddenly makes a lot of sense to me-there seems to be a disconnect between what some stores are calling some cheese, despite the rules I thought were in place to protect the name.  There’s a lot of mis-named cheese out there in the market place, particularly if the real thing is banned, expensive or difficult to purchase.

Reblochon is a washed rind cow’s milk cheese, designated AOC in 1976.  The AOC regulations stipulate that it is made from raw cow milk only, and made and matured in the Haute Savoie/Rhône Alps region of France. Milk for this cheese comes from the Montbeliard, Abondance and Tarine breed of cow.  Reblochon is made  Industrially, cooperatively and by individual producers.  Reblochon is still made with the creamy milk of a second milking. The curds are poured into molds which are covered with a cheesecloth. The cheesecloth gives the trademark texture to the cheese rind. The cheeses are put into a cellar or caves to dry for the next 6-8 weeks.  They are flipped every second day and washed with whey to aid the development of the rind.
My wedge of legal and authentic Reblochon is just minding its own business.  You couldn’t tell it was a little bad-ass rebel simply by looking at it-it looks like an innocent  brie to me.  The paste is yellow and the rind is white and slightly sticky. The smell is strong-not a gagger.  This is clearly a washed rind cheese though-and all that implies.  There’s a little bit of toes in the nose, but I like that.
Here goes…
Mmmmm.  It’s mild, and buttery, with a little hint of uric acid. It’s mushroomy.  It’s not sweet or salty, and my tongue is always searching for those notes in a cheese.  It’s surprisingly light and savoury and kind of eggy.  It’s pretty chilled out unless you add the rind, which kicks the piquancy up a notch.  Do this at your own peril. The texture is fabulous, it’s gooey and sensual.  It’s a sticky and carnal little cheese that seems to have made great friends with my teeth. I’m torn between the great story of this Rebel-ochon and the underwhelming taste profile.  It’s not the best tasting cheese I have sampled, but I do like it-it’s a saucy little survivor.

Day 68-Roquefort societe

There’s a state of cheese crisis in my home.  My fridge died.  It’s been failing for the last couple of days, but it gave up entirely last night-with 12 cheeses waiting for review tucked away in the cheese drawer. Calamity!  I have called fridge repair, and  have gone “old school” in the meantime- turning the fridge into a giant cooler by placing large bags of ice around my precious cheese.  I mention this to explain my next cheese choice-Roquefort.  It’s out of sequence, but it did seem to be suffering a little in the heat of the fridge. Not that a blue cheese can really spoil- can it?  I guess we shall see.

The history of a cheese is almost as important to me as the taste. Roquefort not only has a legendary flavour, but its own legend of origin.  A young shepherd was eating his lunch of bread and sheep cheese in a cave when a lovely young girl wandered by in the distance.  He abandoned his lunch in the cave to follow her.  The shepherd returned several months later (let’s hope it was good for both of them) and found that his cheese had been transformed by the combination of natural mold, bread and time.  Despite this he decided to eat it anyway.   This is scientific proof that love makes you crazy.

Regardless of its actual origin, a Roquefort-like cheese is mentioned in literature as far back as AD 79 by Pliny the elder.  King Charles VI granted a cheese monopoly in 1411 to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon for ripening the cheese in this manner.  Archaeological evidence exists of this kind of cheese-making in this area for millennia. It is truly an ancient cheese.

Roquefort is the second most popular cheese in France after Comte.  However, the French keep most of it for themselves-this cheese is not exported in large amounts. Roquefort is an AOC designated cheese (protected name, protected area,) one of the first to receive the designation in 1925.  The rules of  designation state that all Roquefort is made from the raw milk of the Lacaune sheep. It is produced in southern France in the commune of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon only.

The same mold responsible for my favourite Stilton, is working its gnarly magic here.  This is the eponymous Penicillium roqueforti-which is found naturally occurring in the local caves.  What a lucky coincidence!  In the olden days cheese-makers left chunks of bread in the caves for a couple of months to seed and encourage the bacteria-these days they do it in a lab.  Much less romantic, but much more dependable.  Roquefort is cave-aged in natural limestone Combalou caves.  The largest producer of Roquefort-including my sample today-is the Societe des Caves.  Which is potentially the best name ever.  Visitors are welcome to tour the caves, check it out at URL:

Roquefort contains Butyric acid -which is also found in vomit. No word of a lie. Butyric acid is partially responsible for the um, aroma and flavour.  Before the discovery of penicillin, Roquefort was commonly used by shepherds to apply to wounds to avoid gangrene.  My children and husband all steadfastly refuse to eat any blue cheese.  Perhaps if I explained it also contained the same acid as vomit and could be used to cure gangrene, this would sway them.  Perhaps not.

My little slice of Roquefort Societe didn’t really need to warm up much, after the great fridge melt down of 2012.  It’s quite a white cheese shot through with green-blue veins.  You can see lines where the stainless steel needles pierced the cheese to allow the penicillium to enter-these show up as green lines in the cheese.  It’s quite pungent, just a little vomity-but in a really toothsome sort of way.  There is no rind, it is wrapped in foil. It looks like cream cheese that’s gone off.

Here goes…

Wow, it’s really salty and raunchy, that’s a weird combination.  It honestly tastes like salty sick to me.  I’m trying to be open-minded, and I do like a blue cheese, but I’m having a hard time with this one.  It’s not mellowing out, it’s not subtle, it’s like a punch in the face.  It’s making me feel sick,  That being said, the texture is amazingly creamy-it’s like a triple cream brie-just luxuriously melting all over my mouth.  Alas, it’s melting a really wretched flavour all over my mouth.  I think it needs something sweet to go with it, fruit or wine, sugar, gum-anything.  I can’t wrap my mind or tongue around it.  Well, it’s been around for 2000 years, so obviously it’s not going anywhere, but it’s not going anywhere near me again either.

Day 58-Oka (Agropur Signature)

I’m excited to be tasting and reviewing Oka cheese today. Oka is perhaps the first non-Industrial cheese I ever tasted-ironically, it’s now an industrial cheese-but back in the 1980’s a Québécois friend of ours dropped by with a wedge of cheese unlike anything we had ever seen or smelled before.  It wasn’t orange, or marbled and it didn’t come in a pre-shrunk plastic wrap.  When we opened it up we reeled from the pungent stench.  What in the world was this?  I was terrified of the cheese, but my mother dived in and proclaimed it to be the “feet of the Gods.”  And so her love of Oka began, and my interest in cheese piqued.

Oka cheese is named after the village of Oka in Quebec, also known for the “Oka crisis,” which luckily, had nothing to do with cheese.  The cheese was originally made in this village in 1893 and was a Canadian version of “Port Salut” cheese, a French washed rind cheese. Monks originally from Port Salut established a monastery in La Trappe, (Trappist monks)near the village of Oka and started making their own cheese, and thus- Oka was created.  Oka and Port Salut are yet more examples of so-called “monastic cheeses,” meaning  washed rind cheeses made traditionally by monks. What’s up with monks and washed rind cheeses?  I keep running into this connection-if anyone knows, please let me in on the secret!

Alas, the Trappist monks sold the rights to Oka in 1996 to a commercial company-Agropur.  The Trappist monks got out of the cheese business, but I do hope they made a tidy profit.  It’s a little sad for me, as I was under the impression that this was still a monk-made cheese, and I don’t know why I should care, but I do.  It’s somehow not as romantic this way-not that there is anything overly romantic about monks making cheese, I concur.

Thus, the rights to Oka is now owned by the Agropur company, which is a fascinating company in it own right.  This Canadian owned dairy co-operative was founded in 1938 and has  5,000 employees and 27 plants and offices in Canada, the US and Argentina.  Agropur doesn’t just own Oka, it also produces Yoplait and Island farms, amongst others.  There are 3,500 dairy farmers in the Agropur family making it the  largest dairy cooperative in the country.

Oka is now industrially produced.  It can be either raw or pasteurized, and my little label doesn’t state which, so I’m not sure.  If it matters, ask your cheese monger.  It’s still a washed rind cheese, and made in the same manner as before, except no monks are involved. Sigh. After the cheese is pressed it is washed with brine to encourage the ripening of the rind during affinage-the cheese is at least one month old when ripe, although the “classic” version is ripened 2 months.  Agropur offers 6 types of Oka cheese: creme, raclettte, light,  mushroom, classique, and l’artisan.  I don’t know which type of have as my label called it “Signature” so it’s a bit of a mystery.

My little wedge of somewhat mysterious Oka has been warming up beside me on my desk as I write.  It’s a pale yellow, speckled with holes (eyes) and it has an orange washed rind with a little white mould and it is ever so slightly sticky. The cheese is relatively firm and tensile, it’s not a wet cheese.  The smell is actually mild, which surprises me-my original memory of Oka was that it reeked, but this cheese is pretty chilled out for a washed rind.  Mind you, it was my first experience ever with washed rind, so maybe I’m jaded now-or maybe the monks put something in their rind back in the 1980s that’s missing here.  Who knows.

Here goes…

Mmmmmm.  Yes, I do still like this cheese.  It’s actually freaking fantastic. The flavour is complex and delicious-intense, but not overly raunchy. It does taste like the feet of the Gods-mom was right!  It’s kind of foul, and kind of fabulous.  It does have a  hint of mould, especially if you include eating the rind-which you must-and a faint hint of ammonia.  But it all really works.  The texture is also really great.  It’s much more tensile than the other washed rinds-meaning it has a chew to it-it’s not floppy or wet or slimy, this cheese could keep it together on a sandwich.  You know, I actually wasn’t prepared to like this Oka, not being made by monks anymore, but Agropur has done a great job here.  It’s the cheese I remember and definitely a keeper.  Damn, it’s all gone.  Got to get some more.

Day 35-Fougerus

Are you fretting because there are only 65 cheeses left? Please don’t, my darlings, after this next remaining week in the land of bloomy rind, we shall sharply deviate (yes, we do like the sounds of that) and start sampling more types of cheese in somewhat less breadth. This will allow for a thorough accounting for all the cheese groups, with perhaps less of an OCD-like focus on every exact type as I concede this is virtually impossible.  By some reckoning there are over two thousand cheeses in existence-not to mention all the extinct cheese which we shall take a minute of silence for now.  Done.

Today we shall be sampling Fougerus-and I just realize I am referring to myself in the third person again, which must be some sort of cheese poisoning.  Truthfully-I’m not like this in real life.  Fougerus is a pasteurized cow cheese (note this, pregnant women!) with a bloomy rind.  The wrapper says, “Coloumiers style brie with fern leaves on top which are not only decorative, but impart an earthy taste.” When I was a child my auntie dated a man who made sand cast candles with ferns in them (yes, hippies) and this image of the fern cheese is somewhat reminiscent of his candles.  I was always under the impression that ferns were actually poisonous unless eaten in the “fiddle leaf” stage where they are tightly curled, but, evidentially not.  Or let’s hope not.  If there is no blog post 36 please alert the authorities that it was the fern.

Fougerus is a new twist on an old cheese, and belongs to the brie family (incidentally, who knew it was a family, didn’t you think there was just one brie?) A cheese very much like this-without the fern-was produced on the farm for personal consumption in Ile de france (Northern France). The cheese is traditionally made with unpasteurized milk, but the commercial variation is made with pasteurized-likely to please health laws and the pregnant. I do find reference on the net disparaging the negative impact this pasteurization has on the quality of the cheese.

Fougerus is made by one company only, Rouzaire, and was created by our old friend, Robert Rouzaire, who also invented Pierre Robert cheese by taking a perfectly good piece of Brillat Savarin and leaving it in a cave for too long. According to legend he was creating a new cheese and there was a flaw on the rind which he tried to hide with a fern, then he sort of liked how it looked-the French word for fern is “fougere” so there you have it.

My little slice of Fougerus looks like a sticky little piece of brie-white on the outside, yellow with tiny little eyes on the inside, glistening and slightly oozy. It’s got the real eau du chat-box when you bring it up to your nose, thus it’s clear that the ammonia has had a chance to develop.  Mmmmm. OK, enough.

Here goes…

This is a nice little cheese, quite salty-that’s the first hit is salt, not sweet at all, which is a little disappointing.  I don’t taste fern, but I suppose that’s a good thing. It has that, well “brie” taste, smooth, buttery and a tiny bit uric-just a little!
The texture is really quite divine, it’s perfectly smooth and creamy and just a little overly unctuous, a little overly friendly.  This cheese wants to pack up its bags and move right in with you, and it’s only the first date!

Fougerus, I give you a 4 out of 5, great-if overly familiar texture, but I would love a little hint of sweet to bring you a perfect 5.