Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Time Cheese

Here was our snacking, waiting for Christmas dinner cheese. Membrillo paste, 5 year Gouda, Bayley Hazen Blue, date and walnut cake, Cranberry & Walnut goat cheese and goat Tomme. They were tasty. I ate A LOT of Tomme. A LOT. bordering on too much.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Don't hurt the cheese

For the holiday I went to New Hampshire for a few days. One of the things I love about going back East is the cheese. There are so many cheeses that you can't get out here in the Midwest. This year I fell in love all over again with New England. I miss living there and know in my heart that I belong back there.

Okay, enough of that tom foolery. While I was in N.H. the question was asked: "how should I store my cheese?" Well, here's what I do depending on the cheese.

Before we get into it I want you to know that you should only buy the amount of cheese you think you're going to use. With a few exceptions (Parmigiano-Reggiano, and other aged cheeses) the cheese is going to suffer the longer it stays in your fridge. This is why it's important to get your cheese from a place that will cut to order. Now I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to leave near such a place. The next best thing is to get the smallest amount of cheese that you can.

Soft cheese: These cheeses do not want to age. They should be eaten as soon as you can. These cheese have a lot of moisture and will pick up your fridge smells very rapidly. They will also dry out quickly, and a dry Camembert makes for a sad cheese, a sad you, and a waste of good cheese and money. I usually keep my soft cheeses loosely wrapped in parchment paper or wax paper and in a plastic tupper, or bag. Then I store it in the vegetable crisper.

The vegetable crisper? Oh yes my friends, the crisper. It is the most temperature controlled environment in your fridge. If you have one of those new fangled fancy how-do-you-do fridges you can even control the humidity down there. What's more important to you, cheese or veggies? Wrong answer! The answer is cheese. Before you designate one of your crispers as your new cheese home take it out, wash it with a mild soap, dry it and put it back in. Now we can continue.

Cheddars: I gave these guys their own category for a reason. Although it is not recommended, and I wouldn't do this with a Neighborly Farms Cheddar you can in fact freeze cheddar. Now I told you that I wouldn't do it, but this summer at the ACS cheese sale I bought a ton of cheese. A lot of cheddar was purchased. A LOT of cheddar bordering on too much. There was mac n' cheese for many weeks. I didn't want the cheese to go bad, so I portioned it out and froze it. It was still just as yummy in the grilled cheese, quiches, scrambled eggs and mac n' cheese. When not freezing, wrap it in parchment, or wax paper and into the crisper it goes

Fresh Goat: Ah yes, goat cheese. This cheese wants to do it's own thing. One day the Bucheron is dry, the next day it's wet. If your cheese is too moist, cover the exposed parts of the cheese in parchment or wax paper and put it in the cold box. If the cheese is too dry, wrap it in the parchment or wax paper, then lightly wrap it in saran and put it in the cold box. How do you know if the cheese is too dry or moist? Do you think it's too moist? then it is. Do you think it's too dry? Right again. There are guidelines, but you should do what you like. Taste it both ways and make up your own mind.

Cheese is alive. Seriously. It's not just the title of my blog. when you wrap a piece of cheese tightly in plastic wrap you are suffocating the cheese. I know, you went to your local shop the other day and all of their cheeses were in plastic. I know. We are bad and hypocrites and awful. I'm going to tell you what my mother told me when she caught me smoking when I was a teenager "Do as I say, not as I do". Ok, here's the truth about cheese shops and plastic wrap. Our turnover of cheese is much higher than yours. Every night we re-wrap the cheese. If we kept cheese in wax paper how could we sell it to you? You want to see, taste and buy the cheese. We want to give you a beautiful display case that encourages you to see, taste and ultimately buy the cheese, thus the plastic wrap necessity. That being said, there isn't a single person I work with who takes cheese home and wraps it in plastic.

Blues: You should keep blue cheese in cling film. I know, I know. Listen, blues need moisture. Even crumbly blues. Blues are usually shipped in foil to keep all that moisture in. They do not want to dry out. Now, if you like a dry blue, good for you. Enjoy. Don't keep it in film. For the rest of us, film it up.

Packaged cheese: These are feta, ricotta, cream cheese, quark, burrata and mozzarella. Leave these cheeses in the package they came in. Burrata and mozzarella want to retain moisture, otherwise they will dry out and turn into that stuff that comes in the plastic bags hanging in most supermarkets next to the Kraft singles. If the original package gets destroyed find something similar and store it in that. Burrata often comes in a plastic bag, so reserve the liquid and store your leftover cheese in a round tupper. The real question I have for you is what are you doing with leftover Burrata? Seriously?

Now, most other cheeses like Gouda, Manchego and Podda you can wrap them in parchment or wax paper, and put them in the crisper. If you have a lot of cheese, I would suggest that you also put them in little Ziploc baggies to help keep those cheesy smells separate.

If you live near an awesome cheese shop they'll be able to sell you some cheese paper either from their own stock, or as a retail product. This is really the best thing for your cheese. Since I know that not all of you have the time, money, or cheese wherewith all to acquire cheese paper, I have given you a few other suggestions.

Please remember that:

1. Cheese is alive and you spent money on it, so don't hurt it
2. The egg section, or butter nook is NOT a good place for cheese
3. Be nice to the cheese and it will be tasty.
4. Only buy the amount of cheese you need. A good cheese monger wants you to come to get more cheese, not throw cheese away. If you are being pressured to buy more than you think you need you might want to get out of that shop. They don't care about the cheese as much as they should.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

And the answer is......

Asiago Fresco. This fresh cheese is sold when it's only a few weeks old as opposed to the asiago we are more familiar with which is usually aged for 7 months.

This young cheese is softer and less salty than when aged. She is a smooth buttery tasting cheese that doesn't taste at all like the aged version.

Now, I'm off to New Hampshire tomorrow so won't have access to the shop. I do plan on visiting some other cheesemongers in the area and hopefully can get some posts up this week.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I am cheesewench and I can guess that cheese in 5 notes.

My favorite questions are the ones where I get to be the detective. They usually start like this....

"So I had this was__________" You can fill in that blank with any general adjective you'd like. Try using a color, or vague texture.. Or, if you want to be very tricksy you can use an entire continent. Now, lets try that sentence again.

"So I had this cheese a few months ago. It was white and foreign. Maybe from Europe. Or Wisconsin."

I am NOT kidding people. Now, this is how you can judge if you have a well educated cheesemonger. I like to play the game of "guess that cheese in less than 20 questions" in my head. I can usually get it in 5-7. It's a fun game. Usually. Now, I'll play guess that cheese with you. Here are your clues

1. It's a white cheese
2. It's from Europe
3. It's a fresh variety of a cheese we almost always see aged
4. It's a popular cheese when aged, but less so when fresh
5. It's a great melting cheese
6. It's a cow's milk
7. It's not a washed rind
8. It's not that one
9. Or that one either
10. That's kind of it right there. Wait, no that's not it either. Oh wait a minute, maybe it is.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cabot is good cheese-seriously

I realize that in the last post I made it seem as though Cabot makes mediocre cheese. I didn't mean to imply that. I love Cabot cheese, both the clothbound, and the mass marketed. The thing is, that I did a post about Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. Chances are, I will never do a post about their Swiss slices.


This is Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. It is a lovely cheese. I know, you're thinking "Cabot makes a cheese worth getting passionate about?" My answer to you is YES! YES! YES!

Ok, so Cabot makes this cheese and then, in the true spirit of Vermont neighborliness they partner up with Jasper Hill Farm (more on them soon I promise). Jasper Hill Farm takes this cheese, and cares for it. Mateo nurtures this cheese as he does all cheese. Like the precious baby that she is. Only after a year of love is this glorious cheese released from it's dark, dank Greensboro, VT cellar.

This cheese usually comes in a wheel as shown in the picture on the right.* Someone in the shop decided to be a jerk and mutilate the cheese. Usually we take the wheel, cut it in half vertically, then horizontally and work on selling the wedges. I mean, if the cheese is shaped like a triangle, why would you cut off the tip? I'm just so miffed. No, screw that. I'm downright angry. Poor little cheese. She never did nothin' to nobody. I will avenge thee my love. I will avenge theeeeeeee.

*We did not have a full wheel of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar in the store. The picture on the right is a picture that I have "borrowed" from the Cabot website until we get one in.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Australians can make cheese

This is Roaring Forties Blue from King Island Australia. This cheese here goes. Pretend that you had a piece of gorgonzola dolce, a piece of valdeon and a sprinkling of sea salt. Now, put that in your mouth and that's what this cheese is like. Now, I knew that Australia could make some tasty wine, but cheese? I had no idea.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chocolate Cheese?

Yes my friends. Chocolate cheese. Today I introduce you to the Bourbon Chocolate Torta which comes to us from Capriole in Indiana. Yummy goat cheese, bourbon soaked raisins and coated in toasted pecans this cheese is scrumptious. Ok, that's a fib. I'm trying to not let my personal love or slight dislike infiltrate how I look at cheese. This is an impossibility though.

I find this cheese to be too sweet, and I wish that I could love everything that Judy makes. I mean, as I speak I have a Wabash Cannonball in my crisper and Mont St. Francis is one of my favorite washed rind cheeses. Ever. I just don't want my cheese cluttered up with malarkey. This cheese is filled with malarkey. I'm so sorry Judy's goats. I love everything else your mama does with your milk.

Now, that being said, We sell the shitake out of this cheese. When we get it in for Christmas, or for Valentine's day, it doesn't matter. We sell a goat ton on this cheese. People love it. I don't, but that should not discourage you from trying it on your own. We are all different people with different palates. I will say this: if you're going to try a chocolate goat cheese, you don't get better quality than what's coming out of Greenville, IN.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Andante Dairy

One of my favorite chesemakers is Soyoung Scanlan of Andante Dairy in California. She has wonderful cheeses. One of my favorite cheeses is Rondo.

Rondo is a mixed (cow and goat)milk cheese. It is a small disk of ooey gooey goodness. She is covered with herbs which add a delicious and well balanced grassiness and as you might guess, herbaceousness to the cheese. It has a slight tangy lemoness that you'd expect with a goat cheese, but the cow's milk mellows out the tartness making this cheese camembertesque when ripe. It ripens from the outside in, and goes from ripe to "oh sweet mother of pearl this cheese is tooooooo ripe" in a very short period of time and should be eaten sooner rather than later. I have never had a problem with that.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My first love

The year was 2003 and I was working in a kitchen in Virginia. That is where I first met Humbolt Fog. Now, as time has passed I have fallen in love with many other cheeses, including others from Cypress Grove, but none compare. Humbolt Fog was my "first". Our love affair was full of passion and wonder. Was it her sweet slightly funky aroma or the fact that I have a bias towards goat cheeses? I have no idea. All I know is that it was the first time that I remember eating a cheese and being wowed by it.

She ripens from the outside in. When ripe the paste has both a creamy texture (not unlike Bucheron) and a chalky, crumbly texture. She is lovely on her own, but becomes a superstar when she goes out on the town with a hunk of warm crusty bread and some good honey. Oh Humbolt Fog I adore you. You are the reason I love cheese now. You showed me that Kraft is a cheese food but that you my soft, sultry goaty one are the true definition of an American cheese.

Friday, December 5, 2008

New Cheese Sighting

Today I fell in love-again. This time it was with a sultry, soft, blue, creamy, musty, banyardy, cellar smelling cow's milk blue cheese from France. Her name is Montbriac Rochebaron. She is the love child of Camembert and Blue cheese. A Co-worker is showing off the cheese above. She is gooey. She is ripe (the cheese, not the coworker). Unfortunately our love affair will end soon as she is a young cheese and should be enjoyed when she's young, and pert of paste.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


The cheese below on the left is American Muenster Cheese. The cheese on the right is the original, wonderfully stinky, yummy, soft glorious French cheese called Munster. These two cheese have nothing in common except the name. The original Munster has a reddish-orangey rind that is surrounding a creamy (although not like a Camembert) holey center. American Muenster is bland, boring and has no barnyard funk to it. American Muenster melts well. It has a place. Just as Kraft singles have a place. That place is in the grilled cheese sandwiches of small children who don't know any better.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cheese is good

This picture is from the 25th anniversary American Cheese Society cheese festival. The ACS conference was held right here in Chicago at the Chicago Hilton. This is a cheese sculpture of the Chicago skyline.
So I was watching The Daily Show today. Jon had Arianna Huffington on the show promoting her new book about blogging. She mentioned that you should blog about your secret passions. When she mentioned that her passion was cheese there was some mocking. She made some claim that 9 out of 10 Italian cheese are "fake"cheese from Wisconsin.

How many times have I come across the snobbish customer who only wants European cheese because they just don't like American cheese. There is so much great American cheese out there. A lot of it is from Wisconsin, Vermont and California. there's also cheese from Texas and North Carolina and Georgia. My current favorite cheddar comes from Seattle, Washington.

Well Mr. Stewart, Arianna and studio audience cheese is awesome! There is nothing silly about cheese blogs and the obsessive foodies who love the cheese.

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