Cheese 144 A real “Dutch Treat” Opulent Oplegkaas-Boeren Goudse

One of the biggest issues for me in becoming educated about cheese, is that my family is getting educated about cheese too. In the past, I could simple buy a big block of cheap orange crap and throw it in their general direction-and they were happy. But oh, how things have changed. Last week, my teenager begged me for some gouda. Some very pricey gouda. A rare, raw milk, gouda. “Oh mommy, it looks so yummy, oh please!” She said.  And I relented, even though I wasn’t in the mood for expensive, raw milk gouda. Teenagers can be so demanding!

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Thus, today I bring you-literally out of the mouths of babes (because that’s where it’s going once I complete this post) a fabulous looking (and pricey) gouda: Oplegkaas, from Holland. Boeren Goudse Oplegkaas is a traditionally made gouda. It is typically aged 3-4 years before sale (opleg means ‘aged’ in Dutch.) Alas, I don’t know how old my sample is, but let’s assume three years minimum. It is  made from raw milk, and only from milk sourced during the summer season, when cows are grazed in the pastures of the peat meadows of the “Green Hart” region of Holland-between the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht.

Gouda has a kind of great origin story. The actual town of Gouda became a central cheese market in the seventeenth century. The first “weighing rights” were granted in 1668 in the town of Gouda. Farmers and traders were obliged to weigh their cheeses here and taxes were imposed. It was a cheese based economy of sorts. Over the next 200 years or so dairy cooperatives took over most cheese production in Holland from individual farmers. Fortunately, the Gouda cheese makers resisted, and traditional farmstead cheesemaking has persisted in this region. Approximately 250 farmers in the Gouda region, still produce raw milk farmstead cheese (called boerenkaas). Their numbers are shrinking, so go out and get some, if you have a hankering for the real thing.

Like all Gouda, Boeren Goudse Oplegkaas is a washed-curd cheese. Washing the curd helps to removes part of the lactose, which reduces the acidity and bitterness in the aged cheese leaving it sweet and caramel-like in affinage.This Oplegkaas-Boeren Goudse is a true raw milk product. This means the milk and curd are not heated above 40 degrees celcius during the production, resulting in this cheese being labelled with the EU label for guaranteed Traditional Speciality (GTS). And for the record, gentle readers, that means I am back on raw milk cheese-who could stay away?

Only a handful of cheese makers still produce Gouda in this  traditional way, making the cheese in wooden molds lined with natural linen. The rind of the cheese forms naturally with a minimal use of plastic. No, this is not that red plastic covered crap you see in every market claiming to be “Gouda.” This, my friends, is the real thing.

My tiny sample of This Oplegkaas-Boeren Goudse-wrestled away from a teenager, is a handsome, tall chunk of cheese. I couldn’t get a shot of the larger round-sadly, but it’s clear that this came from a large cheese. It’s very firm and aged, and was challenging to cut-hence the crumble in the second shot. It smells just divine when I remove the wrapper. It’s been waiting for me, for years!  It’s a creamy yellow cheese, darker near the wax rind, there are some large eyes and it’s crusted with tyrosine crystals (mmm).

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Here goes…

Dry. Sweet. Crunchy. Caramel. Salivary glands working over time. Intense! Aged. Complex.Melting butterscotch. Hint of mould Crazy! WOW! OPLEGKAAS BOEREN GOUDSE!!!!!!

Go out there and support a Dutch tradition, with this ” Dutch Treat.” I’m keeping the rest of this one for myself.

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Cheese 128 Isle of Mull Cheddar

I recently asked one of my favourite cheese sellers to name his favourite cheese. I realize that this is a cruel question. People ask me this cruel question all the time, and you might as well ask me who my favourite child is, it’s just wrong. Instead, ask me what my favourite washed rind cheese is, or my favourite mountain cheese, or perhaps, my most beloved cheddar.Still challenging, but much more realistic.

However, my cheese seller, when pressed (that’s a cheese pun) admitted to one favourite and that favourite is today’s cheese, “Isle of Mull Cheddar.” It’s taken me quite a while to track some down, as this is a very rare and precious cheese, but for you, readers, and for cheese, I will do just about anything.

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Isle of Mull cheddar is made by one family only, the Reades. They are the only family with a dairy herd on the Scottish Isle of Mull, which lies along the coastline of west Scotland. The island is quite “wee” with a population of no more than 3000. Proprietors Jeff and Chris Reade have been making cheese here since 1979. Their cheese is made from the milk of their own herd of cows, and due to the small area of the island, this milk is very affected by terroir-limited grain, and limited grass. To supplement the available food, these cows are fed the “spent grain husks” from the nearby whisky distillery, which is added to their feed (lucky cows). Apparently, this adds a slightly yeasty and perhaps alcoholic tang to this cheese. Wow! I mean, most of us have heard of wine and cheese, but this is the first whiskey IN cheese I have run across.

This is a relatively young cheddar, aged about 18 months, and it’s wrapped in cloth. Can I just say here  how mad I am for a cloth-wrapped cheese? I believe this is only my third cloth-wrapped cheese in the over 130 I have reviewed. Maybe I’m sentimental for the days of yore when more cheeses were wrapped, or maybe it’s that  funky smell the cloth gets when the bacteria move in, but I really give extra bonus points for this. More cloth please, cheese-makers of the world!

OK enough waxing on, now a word of warning. This is not a cheap cheese. Do you see this slice? Yes, it’s a tall slice, but it cost $8.00 here in Canada. That’s kind of crazy. It is a raw milk cheese (I’m not sure if it’s organic, it doesn’t say) and yes, it comes all the way from a wee Scottish Island where the cows drank spent grain husks all day, but this is one of the priciest cheeses I have sampled to date. Don’t grate this cheddar into your mac and cheese!  SAVE  IT FOR A RAINY DAY AND A GOOD FRIEND.

 

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First, this is a handsome cheese, that’s the best way to describe it. It’s an old-fashioned cheddar, with a creamy coloured paste but it’s very pale-much more pale than most other cheddars, and darker as it approaches the rind which I am thrilled to say is wrapped in cloth (don’t eat that part, for heaven’s sake.) You can see the texture of the cheddaring in the paste, a little pattern of pressed curds with tiny cracks. It’s a firm cheese, but a little moist, it’s not crumbling like some cheddars. The smell is crazy! I can actually smell whiskey in this cheese, I kid you not, these cows must have been truly “lit” as we say here in Canada. I know human moms who are breast-feeding aren’t supposed to drink as the alcohol passes on through the milk…that’s what has happened here folks. I can absolutely smell booze in this cheese, it’s so interesting!  Talk about terroir.

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Now the tasting-it’s so complex! It’s actually really hard to explain. The texture is a nice cheddary chew, yes, no crunch, but the taste. It’s meaty, salty, boozy. There’s no tang that I sometimes taste in cheddar, that tang is replaced by an alcohol note. It’s not sweet either, despite it being a raw cheddar. It’s fruity, but without any sweet, like a savoury fruit. It’s completely unlike any cheddar I have ever tasted.It’s funky and yeasty and aggressive. It’s boozy and sexy and weird. I don’t even know that this is cheddar, I don’t even know what it is, it’s kind of out of this world.

Wow, Isle of Mull Cheddar, I think, for once, I’m kind of speechless, or maybe I’m just drunk from eating you. Crazy!

Day 80-Blossom’s Blue


 Saltspring Island, or  SSI-as it’s known to locals-is one of the Gulf Islands found between Vancouver Island and Vancouver.  It’s the most populated Gulf Island and arguably the most groovy of the uber-groovy Gulfs. SSI was a hotbed of hippies back in the 70’s.  Every second cabin or teepee housed a candle-maker, potter or creator of organic delicacies.  These days SSI is sadly a little more highbrow and in many ways a victim of its own coolness.  Everyone wants to be on Saltspring.  Slowly the hippies and freaks are being pushed out by gentrification, development and the ensuing high price of living.  This is sad, but inevitable.

Despite the move towards yuppiedom on SSI, pockets of awesomeness still exist.  You can still find and purchase almost anything fabulous your heart could dream of-which is also hand-made by someone cool right on SSI-even the cheese!  One of SSI’s most successful and well-known exports is today’s cheese, Blossom’s Blue made by the local Moonstruck cheese company,  http://www.moonstruckcheese.com/.  Moonstruck has been around since 1998 and initially made its debut at the summer market in the town of Ganges on SSI.  Incidentally, I heartily recommend a trip to the summer weekend market in Ganges, its one of those things that just has to be experienced for oneself. It’s like a strangely upscale outdoors hippie haven.  If you can imagine it-it will be there for sale, I kid you not.

Moonstruck has struck the big time now.  Although still available at the market and on the island their cheese is  available outside of SSI at your finer cheese shops in BC and across Canada.  Moonstruck produces a range of cheeses including several blues, a camembert a Tomme d’or and a farmstead feta.  Moonstruck is  a certified organic cheese company-which is a special and rare thing in and of itself.  The company makes limited runs of cheese from the milk of its own on-island small herd of Jersey cows, totally about 25 cows.  The cows are happy and healthy Saltspring Island free-spirits who range at will grazing in the organic fields.  Blossom’s Blue is actually named after their first head cow-Blossom.  Awwwww.  Come on, how cute is that?

Blossom’s Blue is a blue cheese made from cow’s milk,  raw and organic.  It’s aged longer than their other blue, Beddis, which is more of a starter blue. Blossom’s Blue is made in fairly small quantities and uses the bacterium penicillium roqueforti to develop its funky mould.  This is the same bacterium responsible for Roquefort and Stilton cheese.  In fact, this Blossom’s Blue sounds an awful lot like Stilton-a sweet Jersey milk cow cheese made using penecillium Roqueforti.  I’m absolutely mad for stilton, so I’m getting a little excited here. This could be the perfect storm of Gulf Island, Jersey cow and bacteria to put me right over the edge.  Sadly I haven’t been able to find any intel on the actual production of this cheese-they seem pretty close mouthed over at Moonstruck.  However, as it really appears to be a local Stilton I am guessing it’s aged for about 9 weeks.  You can see where the cheese has been pierced to introduce the bacterium, and that’s usually done about one week into production.

My little slice of Blossom’s Blue (thanks Blossom!) has been waiting for me, patiently.  It really does look like Stilton.  It’ s quite a yellow cheese, that’s the high fat from the Jersey cows.  The interior paste is shot through with the green and blue mould, but it’s mostly contained to the middle of the cheese-more like a stilton, less like a gorgonzola or roquefort. There is a thin brown and soft natural rind.The cheese smells deliciously raunchy to my nose.  My nose hairs stood right up to attention when I sniffed it, this is an odorous little cheese!

Here goes…

Mmmmm. It’s smooth and raunchy and quite salty-a little overly salty to me. Maybe it’s putting the salt into saltspring.  It’s not as sweet as Stilton, there’s really no sweet note at all-just a creamy salty blue.  Blossom’s blue has a spicy little bite to it, it’s making my mouth tingle.  The texture is a delight, very smooth and just a little carnal, I like that!  It is a yummy cheese, but not quite as fabulous as I was hoping, alas. My tongue is searching for sweet and is somewhat repelled by salt.

Blossom’s blue is an organic and local blue made from happy cows on a gulf Island.  Who cares if its a little overly salty, pair it with something sweet and it will do just fine.