Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cheese of the Week: Rogue River Blue

For this week, I wanted to choose something that could be served for Thanksgiving dinner. Perhaps a blue cheese is not the best option after a meal of turkey, cranberry sauce, and pies. But I have chosen this chesse for its politics and story.

Rogue River Blue is made in Portland, Oregon - out of raw cows milk. After the cheese is pierced, it is covered with grape leaves that have been macerated with Brandy. The flavour is salty, creamy and boozy (this may help you when coming out to your family during dinner.)

The cheese is the first American raw milk cheese allowed to be exported to Europe. The cheesemakers behind it are strong advocates of raw milk and have designed a cave that mimics those in Roquefort. However the wrapping in grape leaves resambles more a Spanish cheese than a French one.

The great thing about American cheeses is the possibility to combine various cheesemaking techniques and come up with great new cheeses. The proccess of innovation in Europe has stopped and for the most part new cheeses there are only commercial inventions responding more to market forces than innovation.

Some cheesemakers blame this on the strict DO rules, while others attribute it to a saturation of the market. In North America there is more space to innovate because we still have huge markets to enter. Still, cheesemakers in Canada, the USA and Mexico are not just looking for market niches, they are trying to figure out the terroir of their regions and develop cheeses that will appeal to consumers in the same region.

For this reason a lot of the great new American cheeses can only be found in local farmer's markets and access is limited to where the cheesemakers can get without compromising their product.

The conjuction of old techniques, new terroirs and opportunities to young cheesemakers is the driving force behind the growth in artisanal cheesemakers in North America. For this reason, I think we should support them and help them find their own place in the cheese world.

Enjoy and happy thanksgiving.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone.

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