Clos St-Ambroise (Quebec)
Goat’s Cheese – Plain (Ontario)
Pepper and Mustard Gouda (Prince Edward Island)
Tomme de Champ Doré (New Brunswick)
For this inaugural month of the Charlottetown Cheese Company’s Cheese of the Month Club, I have chosen a selection of primarily Canadian cheeses to showcase our great (and increasing) cheesemaking heritage.
Some terms: paste is the interior of the cheese (as crumb is for bread); rind is the exterior. Bloom has to do with the bacterial or mould cultures on the exterior of the rind: a cheese such as Brie has a powdery white bloom. Cheeses are made by curdling one or more types of milk (cow, goat, or sheep), using an acid or, more often, rennet; curds are the result.
What the cheesemaker does with the curds—whether and how they are washed and in what liquid, whether and how long and in what shape they are pressed in moulds, whether they are soaked or washed in brine or wine or beer, whether they have flavourings added, and then, of course, how they are aged (are they wrapped? waxed? washed? inoculated with blue mould cultures?) and where—determines the nature of the cheese. Some cheeses are very new; others have been made in the same facilities for generations.
Each cheese is culture, very literally. The culture of bacteria makes it the cheese it is, and human culture, the work of hands and artistry and knowledge and science, makes cheese exist at all.
From Glasgow Glen Farms: Cheese Lady’s Pepper and Mustard Gouda
(New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island)
As a type of cheese, Gouda is one of the oldest named varieties still being made—mentions of it date back to at least 1184. It is named after the city of Gouda in the Netherlands, which had a famous cheese market in the later Middle Ages. Goudas are a pressed curd cheese, meaning that after the milk is curdled, it is partially rinsed and then placed in moulds and pressed. (You can see this process at Glasgow Glen Farms; their cheesemaking facilities are on display, as is their aging room.) The texture and flavour of gouda changes considerably depending on age and flavouring, from a very mild and supple paste to sharp, crumbly, and even crystalline. Most of the goudas I sell from Glasgow Glen Farms are in the medium to mature range, aged for several months.
This is a robust gouda of medium age. The heat from the pepper and mustard give it a rich flavour that goes well with other strong-flavoured foods, such as burgers or panini sandwiches. Try it with a beer—perhaps a St-Ambroise to go along with the Clos St-Ambroise.
From Fritz Kaiser: Le Clos St-Ambroise
Le Clos St-Ambroise is a semi-soft washed-rind cheese. It is made from semi-skimmed pasteurized milk, giving it a fairly low milk fat of 24%. The rind is washed in Quebec’s St-Ambroise beer over the six weeks or so that the cheese ripens, giving it nutty flavours and aromas to complement the supple and springy inner paste. As with most cheeses, the intensity varies with age.
Try it with a beer—St-Ambroise would naturally go very well. You could also try a light red wine, such as Merlot, or a full-bodied white such as Gewürtztraminer.
From Le Bergerie Quatre Vents: Tomme le Champ Doré
(Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, New Brunswick)
Tomme is the name given to a type of cheese originally made in the French and Swiss Alps, often using the skimmed milk left after butter making (in this case it has a milk fat of 24%). They are small to medium sized round cheeses (when compared with the giants of Alpine cheesemaking, intended to get inhabitants through hard and long winters). Tommes are usually given place-of-origin names, in this case “the golden field” is the one where Monique Roussel’s herd of Jersey cows graze, near Sainte-Marie-de-Kent!
The Tomme le Champ Doré is made of raw cow’s milk. It has a rich, smooth paste, with a moderately acidic bite to it and a lingering, slightly bitter finish, along with notes of caramelization. The rind can be sticky and the bloom full of mixed moulds, including some blues, which add to the complexity of the flavour.
Try it with a full red wine, such as a Burgundy.
From Champignon: Cambozola
Lauben, Bavaria, Germany
Invented around 1900, Cambozola came into prominence in the 1970s when the German company Champignon (who still make it) started marketing it. It was developed as a combination of a triple-cream Camembert-style cheese with Gorgozola—the name is a portmanteau of the two—and is a rich, smooth, creamy cheese with pockets of blue in it. The combination makes it a good way to edge into eating blue cheeses, as the “blue flavour” stays fairly isolated from the rest of the paste (not something that happens with a blue such as Stilton!), but, of course, it is a delicious cheese for those who already like blues.
It is a soft-ripened cheese, meaning that as it ages it grows softer—letting it come to room temperature (as I recommend) and ripen a bit will cause it to ooze deliciously. The rind has a grey-white bloom (grown, as is usual for Camembert and Brie cheeses, from a culture of Penicillum candidum); the blue is Penicillum roqueforti, the same bacteria used for Gorgozola, Stilton, and, of course, Roquefort.
Try it with a white wine such as Chardonnay. It’s a good cheese to try with something sweet, such as fruit or even a drizzle of honey (which you might try on the Tomme le Champ Doré as well). I really like blue cheeses with dates or dried figs, too.
From Celebrity: Plain Goat’s Cheese
Celebrity Goat’s Cheese is made from the milk of humanely raised goats from a variety of family farms in southern Ontario, using a vegetable rennet. The plain cheese is delicious on its own and forms a superb base for cooking: try it rolled in dried cherries or cranberries or chopped figs; for a completely different flavour, in sundried tomatoes; crumble it over salads or pasta or use as a base for a crostini or a tart … You can even freeze it for a bit to help it crumble better.
Ode to a Stilton Cheese
Stilton, thou shouldst be living at this hour.
And so thou art. Nor losest grace thereby;
England has need of thee, and so have I—
She is a Fen. Far as the eye can scour,
League after grassy league from Lincoln tower
To Stilton in the fields, she is a Fen.
Yet this high cheese, by choice of Fenland men,
Like a tall green volcano rose in power.
Plain living and long drinking are no more,
And pure religion, reading Household Words,
And sturdy manhood, sitting still all day,
Shrink, like this cheese that crumbles to its core;
While my digestion, like the House of Lords,
The heaviest burdens on herself doth lay.
The conlusion of the sonnet gives a hint to the effect that Stilton is a strong cheese and can occasionally be a bit rich for delicate constitutions. If you’ve never had Stilton before, I recommend starting out with a small amount—and not too late at night. It is one of the cheeses long reputed to produce strange dreams. But of course, as one of the classic cheeses of the world, well worth trying—especially with a glass of port, in the great Georgian tradition, still holding strong in England especially around Christmastime.
Red Leicester (England)
This month’s cheeses showcase a few famous European types, along with one from Quebec’s Fritz Kaiser fromagerie (whose wares you may have already tasted in the form of the Clos St-Ambroise in February).
(La Mancha, Spain)
Manchego is perhaps the most famous of the Spanish cheeses, both because of its undoubted deliciousness and the fact that it comes from La Mancha, home of one of the most famous of all literary characters, that indomitable Don Quixote. As you may recall (from the book, the musical, any number of adaptions, illustrations, or general cultural osmosis), the plains around La Mancha abound in windmills. It is a high, dry, windy plain (the name comes from the Arabic Al Mansha, ‘without water’), suitable more for sheep than for cattle—and indeed, Manchego is a sheep’s milk cheese, from sheep who graze on the brush and aromatic herbs of the province.
Manchego bears distinctive zigzag markings on the rind, once made by encircling the fresh curd with plaited grass but now the less picturesque though perhaps more hygienic plastic moulds.
This particular Manchego is aged for 12 months. It is a hard cheese, with a rich lingering taste and a dry yet creamy texture. Manchegos tend to have a slightly greasy texture (which is, in this case, desirable!), with flavours of Brazil nuts, caramel, lanolin, and a slightly salty finish. Try it thinly sliced on the cheese board with a strong red wine, a crisp white, or sherry.
From the French Alps: Comté AOP
Comté is an ancient cheese from the Massif du Jura in the Franche-Comté and the Rhône-Alpes: it has been made in small cooperative dairies, called fruitières, for over eight centuries. As is often the case with the hard mountain cheeses intended to preserve the summer’s flush of milk through the winter, the full wheels of Comté are huge, 35 kg (80lbs), containing the daily milk of approximately 30 cows (530 litres). As each fruitière has its own pastures and cows, the terroir of each cheese is slightly different, and with it the taste. Generally speaking, Comté has a firm, dry texture, slightly grainy, but denser than Cheddar. It has a beige rind, and flavours ranging through the warm notes of toast to caramel and melted butter, with a slight fruity tang some say resembles oranges—and others plum jam.
AOC stands for Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée, which means that the name can only be given to cheeses made according to a certain method in a certain geographic area. Manchego, above is similarly limited in geographic origin.
Comté, like the Gruyere from last month, is a great cooking cheese, melting superbly and working very well in dishes such as quiche (see below), fondue, and gratins. It goes well with fish and white meat, and indeed with white wines such as Chardonnay, which is local to the Jura.
From Leicester, England: Red Leicester
Leicester (pronounced “Lester”—much simpler than it looks from its spelling!) is a city in central England. This is a traditional English cheese, made in a similar fashion to Cheddar, but coloured by annatto (a natural red dye extracted from seeds). The red (or indeed, rather orange-tangerine) interior is its most notable feature; there is no non-red Leicester.
It has a dense, smooth, and almost waxy texture, with a sweet, mellow, nutty flavour. Red Leicester is one of my favourite cheeses to eat on toast, but it is also a nice contribution to a cheese board. It would go nicely with a beer or perhaps even a cider.
From Fritz Kaiser: Miranda
I have had a few of Fritz Kaiser’s cheeses through both my stall and the Cheese Club: Noyan, Mouton Noir, Le Douanier, and Le Clos St-Ambroise are all made by this cheesemaker. Like those others, Miranda is a washed-rind cheese, in this case a bit firmer in texture, with noticeable holes. It has a nutty, piquant flavour, with a certain edge to it from the rind.
Try pairing it with an ale, a robust red wine such as a Syrah or a Côtes-du-Rhône, or even a dessert wine such as the sherry you might have chosen to go with the Manchego.
Brie Lancelot (France)
6-year-old Cheddar (Ontario)
Mexicana Cheddar (England)
This month we have two types of cheddars, a young version of Charles de Gaulles’ favourite cheese, and a lovely French Brie.
Lille, northern France
Mimolette is also called Boule de Lille (‘ball from Lille’), an indication of its unusual round shape, irresistably like a cannonball. The young Mimolette you are trying this month has an orange rind and a bright orange colouring—almost as intense as last month’s Red Leicester. In the case of the Mimolette, the colouring comes from anatto, the seed of a South American plant used to provide that bright red-orange colour in food.
Mimolette has an interesting history: it is related (as a cheese) to the Dutch Edam, but is indisputably French. During one of the tenser periods in French-Dutch rivalries, it was decided by the French government that the nation was importing too much Dutch cheese, and called for a better internal cheese culture. In the demand for Dutch-style cheeses, Edam was born. It can be aged up to a couple of years, when the action of cheese mites on the surface of the cannonball creates a pitted and dusty appearance (and occasional eruptions of anti-Mimolette regulations), and some of you may have had the delicious aged version of a month or so ago. This younger Mimolette has a supple texture and a mild, nutty flavour, with hints of the developing complexity to come. Eat it with bread and cheese or crackers or in an omelette, or trying pairing it with a white wine or a wheat beer.
Cheddar – Six Year Old (Ontario) and Mexicana (England)
Cheddar is the world’s most popular cheese—but what a wide range of cheddars there are to choose from! From the mildest marble to the extremely strong nearly decade-old vintage, from white through coloured through flavours of all sorts, there is a cheddar for everyone.
Originating in the Cheddar Gorge in southern England, cheddars are not location-of-origin protected, and can therefore be made under that name around the world. Canada has a long history of excellence in cheddar-making, both in Ontario and in the Maritimes (Cows’ Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar recently won Canada’s Best Cheese award, and won the Vintage Cheddar category in the World Cheese Awards in the UK in 2015). In this month’s box, I’ve given you two very different cheddars—one Canadian, aged, and ‘plain’, the other British, young, and flavoured—to showcase a little of the wide range of this style of cheese.
Cheddars are marked by their large curd structure. In older cheeses the paste often breaks apart into curds, something that is very noticeable with this month’s Six Year Old. As befits an aged cheese, the flavour of the Six Year Old is lingering, complex, and rich—full of savour or umami. Delicious by itself, cheddar is also one of the great cooking cheeses, melting superbly and complementing everything from broccoli to apple pie. Carrying on the British influence, I would probably go for a beer, especially an ale, over a wine, but a strong red or a dry white would also complement the Six Year Old.
The Mexicana is quite a different cheese. Younger and therefore moister and more supple in texture, the curds in this case are coloured (as with the Mimolette, most likely with anatto) and with the curds are mixed spices and both hot and bell peppers. While I think this is an intriguing addition to a cheese plate—sometimes it’s nice to have fruity cheeses, other times savoury spice—it is a cheddar, and I think the Mexicana would be a great choice for a quesadilla (or any Mexican-inspired dish), huevos rancheros, or to add a kick to macaroni and cheese. (And it does have a bit of a kick!)
Like Cheddar, Bries are not location-of-origin name dependent, and the cheeses can vary considerably. Bries originated in the Ile-de-France region around Paris, where some of the best are still made. The ‘Queen of Cheeses’, it is probably the best-known of the French cheeses, once given as a tribute to the kings of France and a mainstay of dinner parties everywhere. This particular Brie is French and, in my opinion, quite delicious.
Bries are a soft cheese, meaning that as they mature they get softer (rather than firmer, as does a cheddar, for instance). As a result of this, they do not last as long as the harder cheeses. It is said that their flavour is at its peak as the rind starts to darken from the white bloom, but some prefer a slightly younger and less pungent cheese. The rind of Brie is edible, though some people find the flavours of the rind—mushroomy, sometimes a bit earthy—unappealing. If you always cut your rinds off, however, it’s worth taking a nibble just to see how the textures and flavours play off one another.
Brie should always be served at room temperature. Unwrap it after taking it out of the fridge and wait for it to bulge or ooze slightly. And then, of course, enjoy, with white wine or red.
Graskaas Gouda (Netherlands)
Charlevoix 1608 (Quebec)
Bleu Ermite (Quebec)
Double Gloucester (England)
Although we don’t always think of it, cheese can be as seasonal as any other product. To celebrate the spring of the year, I have some very seasonal Graskaas Gouda from the Netherlands, along with two cheeses from Quebec and, carrying on with our excursions into the traditional cheeses of the UK—and in honour of the recently completedc annual Cheese-Rolling Competition—Double Gloucester.
Graskaas Gouda 2016
Beemster’s Graskaas Gouda is made during a limited window of time, from the first few milkings after the cows go out to graze in the spring pastures. What an animal eats changes the flavours of her milk, and from the milk the cheese that follows on. Cheeses made from the milk of spring grazing in lush pastures are different from those produced after a diet of riper summer grasses or indeed winter hay. ‘Graskaas’ means ‘grass cheese’ in Dutch.
This particular cheese is aged for one month before being sold. As a young cheese, the texture is creamy and the flavour is mild, but nevertheless complex and deeply satisfying. It is also very rare: Beemster is one of the few cheesemakers to make it, and they make 2000 wheels in each year, of which only 1000 are exported. Who better, I thought, to enjoy it than my Cheese of the Month Club members?
A small piece of trivia: Beemster polder, where Beemster cheese is made, is laid out on a grid system that was used as the street plan for Manhattan (once a Dutch colony, of course!).
Try pairing the Graskaas with: sparkling white or rosé, a crisp white wine, or fruit.
Charlevoix 1608 is made from the milk of Canadienne cows, the only truly Canadian heritage breed of cattle. There are not very many Canadiennes around, but those farmers that do keep them make some very nice cheeses. The 1608 in this case refers to the date when the first of the cattle that would become the Canadienne breed were imported from France. Charlevoix is a region on the north shore of the St Lawrence River; the Laiterie Charlevoix was founded in 1948 and is now in the fourth generation of the same family.
The Charlevoix 1608 is a raw milk cheese made from 100% Canadienne milk. It is made in 8kg wheels, which are left to mature for three to six months. The brine-washed rind darkens over time from pale straw to a deeper golden colour; the creamy textures and flavours deepen and grow more complex without bitterness as the cheese matures. It has a long lingering finish.
The Globe and Mail did a nice review of the cheese in 2009; the article is available online at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/le-1608-from-laiterie-charlevoix-more-canadian-than-maple-syrup/article785436/
Try with: a pale blonde beer or IPA; a white wine or a light red.
St Benoit-du-Lac, Quebec
The monks in St Benoit-du-Lac have been producing excellent cheese for decades. Bleu Ermite was their first blue, with production beginning in 1943. It is a semi-firm cheese, quite mild as far as blues go, with typically grassy and mushroomy aroma and slightly tangy flavour. In terms of texture it is slightly gritty and crumbly, which makes it excellent for salad uses—try it with early beets and arugula—or, of course, for eating on a cheese platter. It is aged around 60 days before the bloom is wiped off and the cheese is readied for sale.
Try with: port, ice wine, Riesling, or a medium-bodied red such as Shiraz. Dried fruits such as figs and dates are often paired with blue cheeses, and with good reason.
Double Gloucester (pronounced ‘gloster’) is another one of the great British cheeses. Made in Gloucestershire, it is a hard, somewhat crumbly cheese, usually pale orange in colouring (like Red Leicester, the colour comes from plant extract annatto). The ‘double’ in the name has a few different origins: it can refer to the fact that it is a full-fat cheese (unlike Single Gloucester, which is made from skimmed milk); that the cheese was once made with a combination of milks from two milkings; that the cheese is twice as tall as Single Gloucester; or that it is made from both milk and cream. In any case, it is a richly flavoured cheese, with smooth and buttery textures and nutty flavours that increase as the cheese matures. As it ages it becomes harder and flakier, showing its resemblance to Cheddar.
Try it with a red or brown ale (for instance, Island Red or—my favourite—Newcastle Brown) or with a medium red such as a Shiraz/Syrah.
Fun fact: Every year (with the exception of 2010) a full 7-9lb wheel (or “truckle”) of Double Gloucester is rolled down Cooper’s Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, so that anyone who likes can chase it and determine the cheese’s worthiness. This takes place on the UK’s spring bank holiday weekend, which in 2016 was last Monday, 30th May. The event has been going on since at least the 1800s, and, being a very British thing to do, probably some centuries before then, as part of the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake. So as you try your piece of Double Gloucester, imagine having it in the Cheese Rollers Pub after throwing yourself down a steep hill after the wheel …
Lincolnshire Poacher (England)
Knoydart with Poppyseed and Garlic (Nova Scotia)
Fresh Plain Goat Cheese (Prince Edward Island)
Cashel Blue (Ireland)
This month we have a rich Irish blue, a strong English cheese, a flavoured double Gloucester-style cheese from northern Nova Scotia, and fresh goat cheese from one of our local cheesemakers. All are small farmstead cheesemakers, raising their own milking herds and focusing on improving their farms, their animals, and their cheese. I think you will find their care reflected in their products.
Lincolnshire Wolds, England
Unlike some of the famous cheese-making counties of England, Lincolnshire is not known for either its dairies or its cheeses. Simon Jones’ farm, in the Lincolnshire Wolds not far from the sea, is an exception, with lush grass pastures over chalk. His is the fourth generation on the farm, but the first to make cheese from the herd of around 200 Holstein-Friesen cows. The farmers are dedicated to improving the natural environment of their farm for both cows and local wildlife, using windmills, traditional hedgerows, and a minimum of chemicals.
Lincolnshire Poacher is a cross between a traditional cheddar and a mountain cheese such as Comté. It is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. It is hard, straw-coloured, and with a rind that looks somewhat like rough stone. It is aged for 14 to 16 months and has a strong upfront flavour with a lingering taste. While utterly delicious on its own, its makers comment that it is a great cooking cheese—try in place of Parmigiano on pasta or use to make a wonderful cauliflower cheese.
Try it paired with strong beer or a red wine such as Shiraz.
Knoydart with Poppyseed and Garlic
Pictou County, Nova Scotia
Frazer and Angela Hunter moved from Scotland to Cape Breton to start a new life farming there (as so many Scots before them). From Cape Breton they moved to the milder climate of the Northumberland coast of Nova Scotia, right on the county line between Pictou and Antigonish—just about in sight of PEI off the Guernsey Cove shore. There they raise a certified organic herd of about 200 Holsteins and make several types of cheese, including numerous flavours of Knoydart and the Caerphilly-style Dunmaglass.
Knoydart, named for the farm, is a Double Gloucester style cheese. The Hunters make a variety of flavours, including the Poppyseed and Garlic including in this month’s box.
Plain Goat Cheese
Oldfields Dairy, Oyster Bed Bridge, PEI
It’s hard to get any more local than the Oldfields Dairy set up, with the goats raised less than a hundred metres from the cheese house. Andrew Millar is the cheesemaker at Oldfields Dairy, the sister company to the Great Canadian Goat Soap Company. Originally from Truro, Andrew got into cheesemaking to give him time to spend with his family—and to make delicious food, of course. He started about two years ago with the soft spreadable goat’s cheese included in this month’s box, which is available in plain, chive, or sea salt and black pepper. Since then he has added feta, and just recently has been developing a farmhouse cheddar (available starting this week at the market!).
Excellent on toast or crumbled in salad, you might enjoy the plain cheese with fresh fruit or a tart-sweet chutney. Try with a minerally white wine.
Like Lincolnshire Poacher, Cashel Blue is a pioneering cheese of sorts—not for its area in this case, but for its type: it was the first Irish blue cheese made! The Grubbs of Beechmount Farm, County Tipperary, began making Cashel Blue in 1983, and have developed the recipe and a following to make it a notable cheese of the world. It is named after the Rock of Cashel, a castle once seat of the Kings of Munster and where St Patrick is said to have begun his mission to the Irish with the famous shamrock.
The cheese is rich, creamy, and full-flavoured without being strong. The cheeses sold in North America are usually in the 14-22 weeks of age, at which point the creamy, salty, and mineral-blue flavours are commingling. The rind is untreated and is not usually eaten.
Try pairing with a Merlot or Rioja; it’s better to have a slightly sharper Old World wine compared to New World reds. For a white, try a Gewürtztraminer or a Sauternes. The cheesemakers suggest beer—particularly an IPA or stout (for two totally different complements, one amplifying the hops, the other the cream)—might be the best pairing.
Blue Fourme d’Ambert (France)
Pacific Rock (Quebec)
This month we have two Italian cheeses I frequently carry at the market, a creamy mild blue from France, and dramatic Pacific Rock—despite its name—from Quebec. The three European cheeses are ancient—dating back well into the Middle Ages and possibly even before the Romans—whereas the Canadian cheese is signifcantly younger in origin but made to an old style not dissimilar to Red Leicester.
I’ve also included a book to record your cheeses in—we’re edging into fall, the beginning of the new school year, which always feels like a good time for beginning projects to me.
Val Taleggio and area, Bergamo, north-central Italy
Named after a once-remote valley famous for its caves in the central part of northern Italy, Taleggio is (unusually for a mountain cheese) a soft brine-washed cow’s milk cheese. It used to be called Stracchino, after a local word for ‘stretched’—supposedly this refers to how tired the cows were coming down from the high mountain pastures to the plains where the cheeses were originally made. Under the name Stracchino (or Stracchino quadro—‘square Stracchino’) records go back to the 1200s, with strong evidence a similar cheese had been made locally since the 9th century and possibly all the way back to Roman times.
Taleggio is, unusually, made in a square mould, usually around 8-10 inches across and 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches high. Its straw-coloured paste (interior) is soft, creamiest towards the centre, with small holes—eyelets or ochiatura. The rind is rose-pink to orange, sticky, and sometimes develops grey and white moulds on its surface as it ages. Traditionally aged in the caves of the Val Taleggio and Val Sessino, the cheeses are washed with salt and water or brine as they mature to develop this rind. The rind is edible (including the grey-white moulds) and generally considered to add to the complexity of flavours of the cheese, though of course that is up to you and people often clean it gently with a damp cloth. The cheese has a pungent smell, a meltingly creamy texture, and a slightly fruity, buttery flavour that makes it particularly delicious simply spread on good bread. It also melts superbly.
Try it with a northern Italian red wine such as Lambrusco, or a lighter red such as Pinot Noir. For a white, try Gewürtztraminer or even a sparkling wine.
Friuli Venezia Giulia, north-eastern Italy
From a bit further east in northern Italy to Taleggio, Montasio is another cow’s milk mountain cheese originating in the Middle Ages. It was originally called Carnia, after the location in the Carnic Alps of the Moggio abbey, where it was originally produced. It is now made by a number of producers using the milk from three different breeds of cattle, Friesen, Swiss Brown, and Pezzata Rosa. The moulds used for the cheese are stamped with ‘Montasio’.
Sold at a variety of ages in Italy, the Montasio in this month’s box is medium-aged, with a salty, nutty, somewhat sharp flavour to it similar to the more familiar Asiago. Very nice eaten alone, it is also a good grating cheese, used to make a traditional dish called ‘Frico’.
Try it paired with one of the white whines of the area, or a full-bodied white from elswhere such as Sauvignon Blanc.
Blue Fourme d’Ambert
An even more ancient cheese dating back at least to Roman times, Bleu Fourme d’Ambert is very similar to Fourme de Montbrison, even being protected under the same designation from the 1970s until 2002, when the two were recognized as distinct cheeses. It’s shown in a carving above the door of a chapel in La Chaulme, Auvergne. The word ‘Fourme’, from the Latin forma or ‘mould’, refers to the cylindrical shape of the cheese.
Bleu Fourme d’Ambert is a very mild and creamy blue, firmer in texture than last month’s Blue Cashel but milder in flavour. Try it with a red Côte-du-Rhone wine or a sweeter white such as a Riesling or a Sauternes.
Alexis de Portneuf, Quebec
A hard washed-rind cheese from Quebec, named after the rugged West Coast, Pacific Rock has won several awards in the past few years, including Best Canadian Washed-Rind Cheese at the International Cheese Awards in 2014. It is an orange cheese with a darker orange rind, something like an aged Red Leicester. Pacific Rock is hard, crumbly, and full of complex nutty and caramel flavours. It is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and aged for a minimum of 6 months.
Try it with a brown ale or a full-bodied white such as Muscadet or Chenin Blanc.
Vacherin Fribourgeois AOC (Switzerland)
Port Salut (France)
Golden Blyth (Ontario)
I always enjoy putting together these notes, for I learn a great deal about the cheeses myself. For instance, I had no idea that Port Salut was named for an abbey in the Loire Valley in France (though, with an old European cheese, guessing that it comes from an abbey will probably be correct a good portion of the time). I also learned a bit more about the differences between making cheddar and making gouda. I had thought it was primarily a matter of the size of the curds and length of time being pressed, but it turns out that cheddars are more of a cooked cheese—the curds are brought to a temperature of 85 degrees—whereas for a gouda the curds are brought only up to 29C. We don’t have any cheddars this month, but I am giving you two very different goudas: one is a mild goat’s milk gouda from Ontario, and the other is the Bluda from our own Glasgow Glen Farms. Rounding out the box are Vacherin Fribourgeois, a rare Swiss cheese, and Port (du) Salut, a delicious, squishy cheese from France. In honour of the arrival of fall, the recipes are for two cooler-weather dishes, perogies and fondue.
Vacherin Fribourgeois AOC Extra
Bulle and Fribourg, Switzerland
Vacherin Fribourgeois is named for the town and canton of Fribourg in west-central Switzerland, and also for the Fribourgeois breed of cattle whose milk is used to make the cheese. It’s a rare cheese, made by a small number of artisanal cheesemakers according to traditional recipes in order to make the best use of the excellent milk.
The paste of the cheese is straw-coloured with an open and buttery texture, its flavour nutty underpinned with notes of grass and hay. The inedible washed rind is more pungent, but don’t let that put you off. Vacherin ‘Extra’ been aged in cloth for a minimum of 12 weeks, so it’s had some time to develop its flavours and aromas.
Like many Alpine cheeses, Vacherin Fribourgeois is a good melting cheese as well as good as a table cheese. It is a traditional component of a half and half fondue—half Gruyere and half Vacherin Fribourgois. (I’ll try to bring in more closer to Christmas so we can try it!).
Try it with a full-bodied red wine from Burgundy, Bordeaux, or the Rhône.
Loire Valley, France
Named for the abbey of Port du Salut in Entrammes in the Loire Valley, Port Salut is made of pasteurized cow’s milk. It was developed by the Trappist monks in the 19th century. The story goes that the monks learned to make cheese after they fled the French Revolution. When they returned to Entrammes in 1815, they began production of Port (du) Salut for themselves. In 1873 the abbot visited Paris and arranged to distribute the cheese—a move that proved so popular that the monks had to register Port Salut as a trade name to protect their product. It is still very popular today, though mostly made in larger factories.
Port Salut is a semi-soft cheese, usually made in 2kg wheels, with a distinctive bright orange rind. It has almost the exact inverse of the fat content of Golden Blyth—72.7% for Port Salut, 25.8% for the Golden Blyth (the Vacherin Fribourgeois is in the middle, with 50% milk fat). Not that this should really concern you, for according to the British Telegraph high fat cheeses help maintain good cholesterol.
Port Salut is a mild cheese. It has a creamy, elastic paste, with a hint of sweetness. Since it has a washed rind, it can be somewhat pungent, but this does not affect the mildness.
It is an excellent companion to fruit. Try it with Loire valley wines such as Chinon.
New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island
If you’ve been a member of the cheese club since the beginning, you will likely remember the Pepper and Mustard Gouda from Glasgow Glen Farm we had in February, the first month. Jeff McCourt, the current cheesemaker, took over the Gouda Lady’s business in 2013 after twenty years in the restaurant business. (Glasgow Glen still makes pizza using their own cheeses, so he hasn’t left it entirely behind.)
The Bluda is a gouda with a twist—in this case, a blue one. Although it has no visible blue veining, the Bluda is made with blue cheese cultures and does have the distinctive sharp tang of a blue. That sharpness and acidity increases as the cheese ages. This particular wheel is a young cheese, meaning it is mild in flavour, springy and somewhat creamy in texture, and with a subtle complexity of flavour from the blue cultures.
Try it with a crisp white wine to complement, perhaps a local maritime Acadie Blanc.
Blyth Farm, Blyth, Ontario
Blyth Farm, home of the Van Dorps, is a small producer of goat’s milk cheeses from near Lake Huron (and the town of Blyth) in Ontario. The Van Dorps began making cheeses in 2008 and have continued to expand their repertoire since. They currently make a small number of gouda-style cheeses on their farm, of which Golden Blyth is one.
Golden Blyth is a mild, relatively young cheese, aged four to six months. It has a light texture, and a firm paste. It is a surprisingly sweet cheese with a hint of caramel mingling with a slight saltiness. Curiously, it is lactose-free—though that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in flavour!
The makers suggest pairing it with rustic bread and crisp white wine, and I can’t say any better than that.
Drunken Sailor (Newfoundland)
Urban Blue (Nova Scotia)
Squeaky Curds (PEI)
Saxon Shires (UK)
This month we have three Atlantic Canadian cheeses, one from Halifax, one from up west on the Island, and one from Newfoundland, and, because I realized too late that the New Brunswick cheese I’d carefully kept back was one the Cheese Club had had in the spring, one exciting layered cheese from the UK. Altogether, I think they make a very nice spread on a cheese plate and showcase some of the amazing cheeses we have here in Atlantic Canada (and can bring in from overseas!).
Five Brothers Artisan Cheeses, the Goulds, Newfoundland
Five Brothers is the sole producer of cheese in Newfoundland and Labrador, a distinction they have held since their founding in 2011. With a repertoire of delightful names and delightful flavours, they use 100% Newfoundland milk to produce their cheeses. At the moment, these are all cows’ milk cheeses, although I was informed that if I could find someone to milk a moose, they would be pleased to make cheese from it. (So if you happen to know anyone …)
Drunken Sailor obviously pays homage to the long tradition of seafaring and fishing in the province. The base cheese is a queso fresco (‘fresh cheese’) in the Latin American and Portuguese tradition, made by Five Brothers under the name White Fleet in honour of the long connection between Portugal and Newfoundland. This cheese is then soaked in Port wine to become Drunken Sailor. The wine gives it its characteristic deep maroon rind and flavour with hints of berry and spices.
Try pairing it with a rich red wine—or perhaps even a ruby port.
Blue Harbour Cheese, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Lyndell Findlay, the founder of Blue Harbour Cheese and the maker of Urban Blue, makes her cheese in a small facility in the North End of the city of Halifax. Small-scale cheese making is something one associates with rural properties with a handful of goats (such as is indeed the case with Oldfields Dairy here on the Island), but a wonderful licensed facility can be made in the basement of an old building well within city limits. I visited Blue Harbour Cheese last week and discovered both a wonderful, creamy blue and learned all sorts of things about making cheese in an urban location—such as the difficulties with getting a tanker in to deliver milk, and how Ms. Findlay has teamed up with a local farmer so that her whey (left over from the cheesemaking process) goes to enrich the land rather than into the municipal sewer system.
There’s a small card with some further information about Urban Blue, so I will let the cheesemaker tell us about her cheese herself. I find it a delicious mild blue (note that it is in the style of Gorgonzola dolce [‘sweet’], not the fierce kind!), and accordingly very flexible for cooking. A Halifax restaurant is even using it for a blue cheesecake! Urban Blue has an edible rind which adds a definite dryer texture to a bite containing it. Ms. Findlay suggests pairing it with late harvest wines; you could try it with a minerally white or perhaps with the port left over from trying the Drunken Sailor, or indeed with a craft cider.
Squeak-ies Cheese Curds
Artisan Cheesehouse, Mont Carmel, PEI
Mathieu Gallant began making squeaky cheese curds this past summer. Traditionally left on the counter at room temperature, the curds are best brought up to room temperature after chilling for maximum squeakiness. They’re made with a cheddar base, and are considered a fresh cheese—although they are generally very tasty for a month, they can be eaten immediately after being made.
Cheese curds are famously used for poutine, of course, and are also excellent eaten out of hand as a snack. I’ve included a recipe for Kaffeost, a recipe from northern Sweden that traditionally uses curds from whatever milk is available—cow, goat, sheep, or, of course, reindeer! My father was travelling there recently and was offered the dish, and naturally brought back the recipe for me to share with my cheese club members.
Coombe Castle, England
Saxon Shires is a layered cheese bringing together five famous English cheeses (themselves named after four shires and a gorge): a white Cheddar (Somerset), Red Leicester (Leicestershire), Derby (Derbyshire), Double Gloucester (pale orange, Gloucestershire), and Lancashire (also white). While each of the individual cheeses can be tasted, overall it has the flavour and texture of a sharp cheddar. It is not primarily a cooking cheese, though one could use it in place of a cheddar in a recipe such as cauliflower cheese or pasta. It does look magnificent on a cheese plate. Try it with an English ale or a medium-bodied red wine.
Kaffeost (Kaffe-ost: ‘Coffee-cheese’)
Ingredients: curds, strong black coffee, sugar to taste
This particular recipe comes from Pello, a small town north of the Arctic Circle in Lapland, which manages to be simultaneously in both Sweden and Finland due to the vagaries of history and geography. Kaffeost is traditionally made from Leipäjuusto (‘Finnish squeaky cheese’), which is a simple fresh curd made from the early milk of whatever animals are around, including cows and reindeer.
- Make strong black coffee. Add sugar to taste.
- Add a few cheese curds to the coffee. Stir with a small spoon.
- Eat the cheese.
- Drink some of the coffee.
- Add more cheese and repeat.
- Continue until coffee or cheese is finished, or one’s appetite is sated.
The recipe’s originator, who lives in Rantajärvi—a small village that is expecting the Arctic Circle (whose exact location, like the North Pole’s, moves) to arrive in 3004 and is already planning the party—informs us that Kaffeost is good for breakfast, particularly if one was, for instance, practicing for the 3004 party and over-indulged in vodka the night before, but it can certainly be enjoyed at any time of the day or night—both of which are quite long north of the Arctic Circle.
Rosemary Iberico (Spain)
Ciok al Vino (Italy)
Marquis de Temiscouata (Quebec)
This month, we have a range of Mediterranean cheeses (and one from Quebec, for Canadian Content) that should make for a splendid pre-holiday cheese tray. Vlahotiri from Greece is a new cheese (new to me and new also to the importers), one of several related sheep’s milk cheeses used for a dish called Saganaki—which can involve lighting the cheese on fire if one so chooses, always a good use of one’s foodstuffs. Rosemary Iberico is a mixed-milk cheese made similarily to the classic Manchego, obviously with a strong herbal overtone from the rosemary crust. CIOK al Vino from Italy is also an encrusted cheese, this time with dried wine grapes left over from the winemaking process—wine and cheese are, of course, one of the classic combinations. Finally, we have Marquis de Témiscouata, a soft cheese from the Fromagerie le Détour in eastern Quebec.
Rocinante Rosemary Queso Iberico
Castille-Leon and La Mancha, Spain
Rocinante Rosemary Iberico is named for Don Quixote’s horse (Rocinante), which gives you an important clue as to the origin of this cheese—from the heartland of north-central Spain, La Mancha and Castille-Leon. Made from a mixture of cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk, Queso Iberico is an ancient cheese very similar to Manchego, but because of the rosemary and the mixture of the three milks, is a distinct cheese with its own history and flavour. The flavours have a complex roundness due to the three milks, with the cheese’s natural herbal overtones much strengthened by the rosemary coating of the rind. The exact percentage of each type of milk varies with seasonal availability, but to be called ‘Queso Iberico’ must have a minimum of 50% cow’s milk, 30% sheep’s milk, and 10% goat’s milk—the other 10% is where the nuances come into play. It has a long after-flavour reminiscent of nuts and hay (and, of course, rosemary).
Try it with a young red, perhaps a Rioja, and the traditional accompaniment of quince paste (or, for an easier thing to find, fig jam).
Vlahotiri is a sheep’s milk cheese from Greece. It is related to Kefalograviera and Kefalotiri, though slightly less salty than either of those (which I also regularly carry, if you fall in love with the Vlahotiri). It is a new cheese to Canada (and possibly in general—there’s not a great deal of information about it), and I am pleased to share it with you. Cheesemaking is a very ancient art in Greece, mentioned in the Odyssey (if I recall correctly, it’s one of the arts of the Phaiacians, the people to whom Odysseus tells most of his adventures), and said to be the gift of Aristaios, one of the sons of Apollo. Some people say that there is more cheese consumed per capita in Greece than anywhere else in the world.
Vlahotiri would go nicely with a sparkling white or some of the brandy you use to flambé it, if you should choose that route.
Marquis de Témiscouata
Fromagerie le Détour, Notre-Dame-du-Lac, Quebec
If you drive from New Brunswick towards Quebec City, before you reach Riviere-du-Loup you will see signs for the Fromagerie le Détour shop—which is only a very small detour from the highway; it’s in fact visible from the road (and well worth a visit)—and for Lake Témiscouata, from which this cheese takes its name. The ‘Marquis’ is not some ancient French or Quebecois title, but is the nickname of the cheesemaker, Mario Quirion.
Marquis de Témiscouata is a soft cheese with a bloomy white rind. It begins with a chalky dry texture that gradually ripens into an unctuously creamy paste. It is made with milk from the Jersey cows of the family farm (also called Marquis), whose milk reflects the particular qualities of the land—the terroir—of Témiscouata.
Pair with a Chardonnay or a sparkling wine.
Ciok al Vino Rosa
Perenzin, north-eastern Italy
A semi-firm cow’s milk cheese from Italy, Ciok al Vino carries on last month’s ‘drunken cheese’ theme with another wine-soused offering. In this case, the cheese is washed in red wine and then covered with marc, the grape skins left after the wine-making process. It is then aged for several months to imbue the cheese with a complex aroma. The cheese is made in the foothills of the Alps in north-eastern Italy, in Treviso and Belluno (north of Venice)—obviously a good cheese-making region, as Montasio and Asiago are from the same area.
Somewhat romantically, it is suggested that this procedure came about not because of any desire to refine the classic wine-and-cheese pairing, but as a way of hiding cheese from bandits or landlords or others who might be inclined to take more than their fair share.
Try the Ciok with a red wine, naturally, especially an Italian one.