Monday, December 13, 2010

Thanksgiving Day Cheese

Now that it’s almost Christmas I’m finally going to write about our Thanksgiving feast. I celebrated with my 3 yr old nephew, my brother and sister-in-law (both vegan*) and two other friends. There was a tofurkey that word just looks really dirty in print for the vegans and a big ol’ bird for the omnivores. I made my world famous sweet potato pie with pecan butter crust and a veganized version that was bereft of the richness that can only be accomplished with two whole sticks of butter but was tasty nonetheless.

But you don’t care about that stuff do you? Of course not, you wanna know about the cheese. Before dinner we had a lovely little cheese course. The crackers were from 34 Degrees. The Apple Butter comes from Seedling in Michigan. The Fig and Black Tea jam from the amazingly awesome, super-cute and nifty husband and wife team, Matt and Clare of Quince & Apple.**

On to the cheese. First on the list is Bonne Bouche. You know my love for that cheese; my obsession with it’s silky, creamy, goaty goodness. I’m not going to expound too much except to say that goat cheese + fig and black tea jam = super awesome happy tumminess.

Next up is Quadrello di Bufala. You know that cheese from water buffalo milk is delicious right? Of course you do. You also know that water buffalo milk has a high butterfat content and makes everything super tasty right? Imagine if you a will a cheese made from the rich, fatty goodness of water buffalo milk, washed rind and inspired by Taleggio. What you get is this cheese that has a rough looking rind (a bit like tree bark), a soft (not gooey) paste and an almost indescribable taste. It’s a bit like butter and cream and sweet almond milk came together and had a delicious baby. It’s not as stinky as my beloved Taleggio, but it sure is delicious.

Here in the States you don’t usually see a lot of water buffalo cheeses, and when you do it’s usually Mozzarella. Tasty, but boring considering what is out there. Do yourself a favor and the next time you’re at the cheese shop/counter/auction ask your monger for a taste of anything with water buffalo milk . Delish!

Next is a cheese you won’t find for sale. A “Reblochon” aged for less than 60 days. Yes, it’s contraband cheese. I don’t care. A cheesemaker friend is experimenting and one of the benefits of having chesemaker friends (or in this case a friend of a cheesemaker friend) is that you get to try all manner of cheesy treats. Sometimes they’re delicious and your friend lets you cut a big chunk of treat and you share it with your friends on Thanksgiving. Some days I’m positive that I have the best job in the world.

While I’m not going to talk about this particular attempt at Reblochon (the flavor was there, but the texture needed work) I will tell you a bit about the actual AOC protected Reblochon from France.

The story behind the cheese is that back in the medieval days farmers were taxed based on how much milk their cows produced. In order to “mislead” the inspectors the farmers would milk the cows partially and then when the coast was clear would milk the cows again. The word reblocher loosely translates to the practice of the second milking. The second milking was used to make Reblochon.

Reblochon reblocher. Reblochon, reblocher. Uma. Oprah. Pretty nifty hu? Reblochon is also one of the most popular cheeses of France that you might never try in the States due to it’s raw milk, aged for less than 60 days status. If by some chance you get the opportunity to taste its luscious, creamy, paste please do.

Then there’s the BIG DADDY. My new bestest friend in the cheese world. Weighing in at approximately 12oz, coming from the rolling hills of Dodgeville Wisconsin from Uplands Cheese it’s RUSH CREEK!

About a month ago Rush Creek was released to much acclaim, and a frantic elbow-throwing desire by the public that I haven’t personally experienced since the Cabbage Patch Doll craze of the 1980’s. Yes, I'm that old. If you don't know what Cabbage Patch Kids are, think about the Tickle Me Elmo craze and you'll be on the right path.

What makes this cheese so special? I will try to speak of it critically, not emotionally.

  1. It's made by Uplands Cheese in Wisconsin. The folks who in the eleven years of entering the ACS conference have won 'Best of Show' an unprecedented 3 times including on their first time out.
  2. It's made of raw milk
  3. It is super uber soft and creamy almost like ready-to-eat fondue
  4. It's belted in bark
  5. Andy Hatch and his wife are nifty
  6. It's a seasonal cheese (come March nary a round shall be found)
  7. It's made from the fall and winter milk which is richer in fatty goodness and gives the cheese a sexy, slightly naughty feeling in your mouth
  8. Nom nom nom
Okay, so not completely without emotion, I can't help it, Andy and his wife (Mike, Carol and everyone associated with the farm and creamery) are super nice. Why does that matter to you? Here's my "logic".

People who are nice to people are also often nice to animals
Happy animals give you better quality product
Better milk = better cheese
Better cheese = happy people
Happy people are usually nice.
Nice people are nice to people
People who are nice to people are also often nice to animals

And that is my totally sciencey way of explaining why this cheese is so frickin good.

But wait! There's more! At the risk of making this my longest post ever and boring the stuffing out of you (that joke would've killed on Thanksgiving) I'm going to tell you more about Rush Creek in another post this week. There will also be a pooorly constructed video on how to remove the top rind. The video will also have unfortunate music to accompany it.

*Yes, they're vegan. Normally I would shun those who don't eat fromage, but they trust me and the cheeses I bring over and so cheese is the one exception in their otherwise vegan world.

**Matt & Clare are super awesome and their preserves are delicious. They make seasonal nummies, are very creative with new flavors (gala apple and sparkling wine is one of their newest), are wicked nice, bust their butts in their tiny workspace and are primed to be the next big thing in jam.