Monday, January 18, 2010

Cheese of the Week: Mimolette

Normally when I think about Mimolette, I think of cheese mites. Those little insects that I used to brush off from hard mature cheeses with a big brush when I was doing my apprenticeship at the caves in Murray’s Cheese.

The mites normally are present in cave environments and they like to eat cheese. They are cultivated in the sense that they are allowed to exist in small quantities to help the cheese-rind of some cheeses develop, but are controlled to impede that they destroy whole wheels of cheese.

Mimolette is also famous for its orange color and its buttery taste. I bought a piece last week and have been nibbling on it everytime I’m craving for something salty. I like it cold as it is firm and so I leave it in the cheesedome in the fridge. The sharpness is nice and once the piece gets a little older I will put shavings of it on top food.

Lately, I been craving really salty food and eating a ton more. I blame the studying for the PhD exam that I have coming up, but I need to control this nibbling habit because my jeans are starting to be tight. This is also to say that I will be a little absent as the studying intensifies. But before, I go on a break; I wanted to write a more political cheese post. I know this has been less the case lately, but never worry cheese politics are still my driving force for this blog.

So, apparently those mites really have an effect on cheese beyond making the craters in Mimolette. Recently, I find out that Montgomery Cheddar is having a problem with mites, which is making a lot of its cheese blue inside. I know Jaime Montgomery from the WCA and I know he is working hard on fixing the problem, but in the meanwhile exports are on hold for this fine cheese.

The people in cheese blame a recent change in European health code, which required cheesemakers to change production methods impacting the way the cheeses mature and therefore the way it develops. Although, I am not sure of the precise changes this seems to be a case where standardization is affecting local products.

The European Union in its drive to make products acceptable across countries has been setting up standards on productions, products and techniques for cheesemaking. Many of them go against traditional ways of making cheese and affect the flavor of the end product.

A lot is said about the terroir of cheeses, highlighting the importance of maintaining ecosystems (grasses, air quality, insects and nutrients) to preserve the original taste of cheese. Terroir is often times credited for specific flavor profiles and used as a call to stop transformation of traditional agricultural lands into corporate fields where production yields are fostered by pesticides.

The recognition by wine and cheese makers of the importance of terroir, should now be followed by the idea of craftsmanship. This would not only encourage cheesemakers to maintain production methods, but would also foster traditional techniques for making cheese. This obviously would impede many cheesemakers to optimatize their cheese production by standardizing processes, which may translate into smaller production. However, the concept of craftsmanship then could also be marketed and we the educated consumer should start paying for it as well.

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