Showing posts with label annatto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label annatto. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cheese Mites....I mean Mimolette

If you love Mimolette don't read this post. If you've never had Mimolette read this post, but remember that my posts are only one wench's opinion. Try this cheese. Try all cheese.

OK, I've gotten my disclaimer out of the way.

The background of this cheese is that in the 1600's the French minister forbade the import of foreign goods and so the French started making a French version of Edam. The bright orange of the cheese comes from our lovely friend annatto seed.

Mimolette is shaped a bit like a cantaloupe except instead of being completely round it has a flat part on top and bottom. It is said to have been the favorite cheese of Charles de Gaulle. Of course it was. I totally believe that in all of France, with all of the hundreds of cheeses to choose from, he would pick Mimolette. The blandest cheese in all the land.

According to all of the books I have, my belief that the cheese is boring puts me in the minority. People speak about the caramel, butterscotchy and deep flavors. Hu? Mimolette? Really? On the best of days, this cheese tastes like a orange cheddar. The rest of the time it's a bland, waxy, dare I say boring cheese.

The most interesting part of the Mimolette story is that this cheese is inhabited by cheese mites. Little microscopic critters that like to burrow their way through the rind and help the cheese to breathe. The mites which are microscopic look like dust on the cheese. Mitey dust.

Steven Jenkins' describes this cheese in the book Cheese Primer better than I ever could,
"Mimolette is one of the blandest cheeses you'll ever taste-though one particular aged version is passably tasty"

I love Steven Jenkins. Mimolette? Not so much. Pleh.

*This was a post that I was working on last night. I thought that the next time we opened up a Mimolette I'd take pictures and finish the post. Well, I went into work and we needed to open up a wheel, so lucky day, I have some photos to go along with the post. Thus proving in no scientific way that this post was meant to be.*

I will admit, that when freshly 'cracked' this cheese has a lovely aroma. Upon tasting it is good. It tastes like a good orange cheddar; milky, creamy, even a bit tart. Lovely. After a few minutes it becomes muted. Here's the thing, truthfully speaking, all cheese tastes ridiculously awesome when you first cut into them. After being open for a while, they all lose that initial 'kick'. Most of the cheeses in my experience don't go completely flat though. Mimolette goes flat in a big big way.

I hate to say anything bad about real cheese. It's not the cheese's fault. It is what it is and who am I to demand more from it? Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim. Mimolette is what it is. Nothing more.

A whole wheel of Mimolette

This is not the moon. It's the work of the mites on the cheese. Maybe this is one of the reasons people thought the moon was made of cheese. Maybe this is really CHEESE FROM SPAAAAAAACE! I know I'm a dork, no comments needed.

The paste of Mimolette is a deep orange. Very creamy and smooth.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cheese is Alive, and Milk is NOT ORANGE.

I don't believe in orange cheese. Let me rephrase that. I know that some cheese ages into a deep orange-y, caramal-ish, yummy thing that must be devoured and savored simultaneously. I'm not talking about those cheeses. I'm also aware that milk color varies based on what the animals are eating. Just as there is no blue food, there is no orange milk.

Yet, people insist on dyeing their cheese orange. Here in the Midwest especially. When I first moved to Chicago I went out for a burger with some friends. I asked for Cheddar on my burger. When it came it had some orange stuff on top. I sent it back. When it came out again with the same orange stuff I told the server that I had ordered my burger with Cheddar. She then told me that that's what was on my burger. Now, up until a few years ago I lived on the east coast; NY, VT and MA with a VA stop as well. When you ask for cheddar on a burger you get white Cheddar. The way God, and farm animals intended. I was flummoxed by this orange "Cheddar."

I am going to get in so much trouble for this post I can tell.

Everyone says that coloring the milk doesn't affect the taste. Cow patties. Of course it does. Just like pasteurizing milk changes the taste (now is not the time for me to get up on my soapbox-another post I promise).

What is it that makes the cheese orange if it's not aging? Annatto seed. More specifically, it's the red flesh that surrounds the achiote seed. For centuries it has been used in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America as a coloring and flavoring agent. Let me repeat that last part, a coloring and FLAVORING agent. In this country annatto is considered a natural additive exempt from certification.

Annatto is peppery and slightly sweet. Some say it has a nutmeg-ish quality to it. I've never noticed that myself though. For me, annatto dulls the natural flavor of a cheese. It's why the aged annatto dyed Cheddar from WI isn't nearly as bright and exciting to me as the 1 year White Cheddar from VT. It's the reason why when I taste the VT cheese I get grassiness, and acidity and tang and milkiness and why when I taste the WI I get a muted general milkiness and some sweetness like a roasted red pepper. Not unpleasant, just not what I want in a Cheddar.

You don't need to dye your Cheddar to have a delicious product. Just take a taste of Beecher's Handmade Cheese out of Seattle, WA. They make a ridiculously good, clothbound, Cheddar of love called Flagship Reserve. Without Annatto. It is scrumptious.