Thursday, June 3, 2010

Flavoured cheese

Another question that I get is about cheeses that have added flavours. You know the type, jalapeño jack, dill harvarti, or truffle pecorino. I sense the question normally has two hidden agendas, depending on who asks.

On one side are the "amateurs," who want a guilty pleasure validated. On the other are the "experts," who are tasting my cheese knowledge. My answer always, for this and other questions about flavour is - eat what you like and if you have the opportunity look for non-commercial cheeses that only have natural flavours and not chemical compounds to give the extra taste.

Flavoured cheeses are not an invetion of modern cheesemaking. There are great European cheeses with a large tradition that have added flavours. My favourite of these type of cheeses is Brin d'Amour (also known as Fleur du Maquis). This Corsican cheese is covered with herbs and peppers which infuse the paste made with sheep's milk to give it a subtle pastoral flavour.

Many other European cheese have added flavours, amongst the most famous are: Pecorino Rosso, Aromes au Gene de Marc, Sage Derby, Taramundi and Nokkelost. In this category we should also consider the smoked cheeses and those wrapped in leaves like Banon or Valdeon (Blue). Of the smoked cheese the Italian - Ricotta Affumicata and the American smoked Mozzarella are two of the most famous in this family.

Lately, many Canadian and American creameries are debuting flavoured cheeses. Most famous is the amazing Barely Buzzed by Beehive Cheese Co. in Utah. This cheddar type cheese is rubbed with lavander and coffee to create a great dessert cheese. A new one that they also developed is SeaHive, which has honey and salt. I love this creamery not only because they are innovative, but also because they take risks and know their craft enough that they can turn a crazy idea into an awesome cheese.

Other amazing cheeses in this category are, the pungent Hoja Santa made with fresh goat milk's or the Rosemary Cheddar by Rouge Creamery or their Rouge River Blue.

Finally, there are collaborations between creameries and other food companies designing interesting mixes. Two that I tasted lately are made by Harpersfield Farmstead Cheese Co, both were semi-hard cheddar type cheeses. One had Raspberry Herbal Tea and the other was made with Lapsang Souchog Black Tea, both were commissioned by Harney and Sons tea.

Like always the mix is the result of the ingredients, in this case both the tea and cheese were of excellent quality, but their aging needs a little work. However, I recommend you getting some if you see them or if you buy tea. Remember that the only way that cheesemakers can improve their craft is by having people like you and me eating, tasting, and giving feedback. Here is a pic of the cheeses, apologies for the link, my computer is busted and my photo memory is lost in the immensity of the time machine.

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