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.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Adventures in Cheese-buying

Cheese selection @ Murray's Cheese / Bleecker St. (NYC, NY)

I got Caciocavallo, Crottin, St. Maure, Mimolette and Tomme Crayeuse.
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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cheese of the Week: Jalapeño Jack

For a while now I been really into Jalapeño Jack. Yes, there I said it. I however think there is no shame in writing this. It has a nice flavor and normally the stuff that I get is spicy enough that I don't have to add salsa to my nightly quesadilla.

Other cheese people turn their nose to added flavour cheeses, and while I certainly don't like or understand the idea behind truffles in cheese. I think there is something to be said about the everyday comfort-food cheese.

I think most of the objections againt added flavor cheeses are related to the idea of "fancy" that most people have about artisanal cheese. That concept is what allows pieces of imported cheese to be sold for US$ 36 dlls a pound.

The price matches our idea of quality, unlike in other places where prices pay for the craftsmanship. Yes, price many times can signal quality, but only if the product is actually produced in a special way and not just because it has a label on it.

My cheese budget is only second to my rent. I even pay more for cheese than internet and phone combined. However, in that budget I always save a little for the cheese that is consumed everyday at home. So normally along the pieces of Appenzeller (Will's favourite) and Grayson, there are always some slices of Jalapeño Jack and a quarter pound of Quesillo.

I get the Jalapeño Jack at my local Armenian deli and I only get enough to last for two days. After that the slices are dry and the flavor of the chilli has turned bitter. This probably is due to the cheesemaking process and not because the cheese is necessarily bad. After all cheese and chillis are not historical from the same place, but nonetheless they taste good together.

Here is my recommendation: only get the cheese that you are going to consume during the week. Cheese does not keep well in the fridge once it has been cut. If a week has passed and you still want to eat that cheese, no matter what it is, it is better to cook with it. Cooking with cheese gives a little extra to your dish and a second life to that piece of nice cheese.

For last week's recommendation of Point Reyes, I still have a piece in my fridge that is still nice to eat with a piece of crusty bread or over toast in the morning, but I am rather using it to make potato & leek soup with blue cheese to fight the cold winter nights of New York City. This way I'll enjoy the flavor of the cheese and give it another use, leaving me space to get another blue cheese for the week.

If you have an added flavor cheese that you would like to recommend, let me know. I hear that people really like the Havarti with dill and the Horseradish Cheddar.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cheese of the Week: Point Reyes Blue

Point Reyes Blue is probably one of the most famous artisanal blue cheeses made in the US. Even before I got into cheese, I had heard of it and had tasted it. Because it is really famous the makers now commercialize small wedges individually wrapped perfect for display in super market shelves. This, however, is not a sign of poor quality associated with some mass produced/marketed cheeses.

I got one of this wedges while on vacation in San Francisco. The Cowgirl Creamery shop in the Ferry Plaza had them on display next to big pieces ready to cut to order. The really nice cheesemonger, gave me a taste of it and it was amazing.

It was sweet, little salty and you could really taste the milk. It had that characteristic mineral flavor that good blues have and it was so fresh that it melted in my mouth. I have had Point Reyes many times, and definetely it had never tasted so good as in California.

I attribute this to the shorter distance it had to travel from the farm, the less refrigeration and the less handling and movement it had to endure. Being so close to the source meant that the cheese was fresher and more like the cheesemaker intended to have it sold.

Most blue cheeses don't know how to travel well, they all lose moisture in their trip and become saltier in the process. Unlike hard cheeses, subtle temperature changes really change the way a blue cheese develops.

If you have the oportunity to travel to California seek Point Reyes, as well as any other local cheeses that you have had and are curious of their taste closer to the point of origin.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Adventures in Cheese-buying

Cheese selection @ Cowgirl Creamery (San Fransico, CA)

I got a Point Reyes Blue, and small pieces of Batch #16, San Andreas, and Capricorns

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Adventures in Cheese-buying: New Year's Eve

Cheese selection @ Whole Foods (Cambridge, Mass.)

Here are again some pictures from the cheese counter at Whole Foods. These ones are from the one in Fresh Pond in Cambridge, Massachusetts, during my last minute run of 2009.

This time the guy behind the counter was super knowledgeable and was good at talking to me about some good NYE cheeses. He recommended Rogue River Blue and Tomme de Savoie, both were great. I also got some Brie de Nangis and a piece of Comte. A pity that the Irish cheeses they get from Neal's Yard Dairy (Durrus and Ardhrahan) are always too dry to buy. I know that the people at Neal's Yard, Whole Foods and even at Durrus are trying to have the cheese be in better condition once it arrives in the US. However, the problem is that these raw washed-rinded cheeses are too delicate to travel and need constant supervision by an affineur. Also because of the raw milk regulations they cannot be shipped earlier from Ireland, which means that by the time we get them in the US, they have already passed their prime.

You can also see in the corner of the picture on the right some of the Herve Mons camemberts. The NY Times published an interesting article on it (
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