Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sainte-Maure de Touraine

Sainte Maure de Touraine cheese - commonly called "Sainte Maure" - originates from the former Touraine Province of France. This soft cheese has a distinctive, complex flavour, but mainly differs from other fresh chèvre's by being more firm and less spreadable as it ages, with a crust of bluish-gray surface mold.

A classic goat cheese with the defining feature of rye straw running through the center that originally helped hold the cheese in shape, but now it’s more traditional than anything. Producers engrave the straw with their name to ensure quality control. The cheese is almost two pounds, which represents the milk output of a goat in a single day (around two liters). In order to legally call your cheese Sainte-maure-de-Touraine it must be made from the milk of goats who live and eat in the Touraine area of the Loire valley. 
The cheese is rubbed with a mixture of salt and wood ash to form the rind. It has a short aging period of about 10 days, at which point the chalk white cheese has a smooth texture and fresh, mildly goaty taste. The rind adds just a bit of zing.

Summer is the best season for goat cheeses. Not only are they generally on the fresher side, they also tend to be lower in fat than their cow and sheep’s milk counterparts. As such, they have the light, refreshing flavor you’re looking for when temperatures start to climb. Plus they pair well with summer produce like tomatoes and zucchini. Try with  a light and fruity red wine, Bourgueil, Chinon, Gamay and Cabernet d'Anjou, or a dry white wine from Touraine.


Valençay is one of the classic raw milk mold-ripened chèvres from the town of Valencay, in the Loire Valley of France. The texture is smooth and dense with a mild, lemony, and altogether clean flavor. Made by allowing the curd to drain into a mold, it is then removed and covered with salted charcoal ash and allowed to ripen for about 4 to 6 weeks. During this period the rind of the Valencay will thicken slightly and acquire blue marks.

The AOC regulations for this cheese require raw milk, and most Valencay is aged less than the 60 days that the U.S. government demands for raw-milk cheese. As a result, true AOC Valencay should be unavailable here, yet I still see the pyramids at cheese counters. Some of this cheese is pasteurized and thus not entitled to the Valencay name. It will be similar in character and may be quite as good, but it will have a made-up name like "Tradition du Berry." (Berry is the French region from which Valencay comes.)

At the cheese counter, look for a Valencay that borders on scary, with a funky, wrinkled rind and substantial gray and white mold development. When young, the chalk-white cheeses are coated with gray ash, and then numerous molds colonize on them. With age, they will become molten just under the rind, creamy toward the center and firm at the core. The paste should have salt and tang in just the right proportions, with a faintly nutty flavor and no hint of ammonia. Pair with a Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre or Chablis.

The Loire Valley

The glorious Loire Valley in central France is rich in history, architecture and cuisine. Its sophisticated cities, luxuriant landscapes, magnificent foods, and superb wines add up to a bourgeois paradise. Orleans was France’s intellectual capital in the 13th century, attracting artists, poets and troubadours to the Royal Court. But this medieval court was fickle, never staying in one place for too long, which led to the building of magnificent châteaux all along the Loire River. Because of it’s beautiful forests rich with game, the kings and nobility made this area the preferred habitat for their fairytale castles. 

Renowned for these regal relics, the lush Loire Valley is justly called the Garden of France. Famous for its vast array of remarkable vineyards, and fine wines, it is also home to a stunning diversity of the worlds most renouned goat cheeses. The quaint villages on either side of the Loire River produce a dazzling array of various sizes and shapes.

Domestic goats contributed to the peak of the "Neolithic revolution", the period in history when humans ceased to live only by hunting and gathering and began to settle and develop agriculture . Among the first domesticated animals, goats differ from other livestock species by high genetic homogeneity on a global scale. Archaeologists and geneticists have shown that movements of domestic goats began as early as the expansion of farming, in the Middle East to Europe, 10,500 years ago.

The process of making goat cheese was probably brought to France in the 8th century by the Saracens, inhabitants of the desert around Syria. Defeated at Poitiers, the Saracens were subesequently expelled from France, leaving behind their goats and the recipes for making incredible cheese from goats milk. There are over a 100 varieties of goat cheese in France, the majority of which are produced along the fertile banks of the Loire River. 

There are six AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controlee) cheeses in the Loire Region: Sainte-Maure de Touraine, Selles-sur-Cher, Valencay, Pouligny-Saint-Pierre, Chabichou du Poitou and Crottin de Chavignol. An AOC label indicates quality and guarantees that a product has been made within a specified region of France following established methods of production. There are currently 42 French cheeses with AOC status.

Valencay cheese looks like a small black pyramid. It is purported that the shape of the cheese was originally a perfect pyramid. But when Napoleon returned from a disastrous campaign in Egypt he stopped at Valencay Castle, the cheese reminded him of the Egyptian pyramids and in a fury he chopped of the top of the cheese with his sword. The Valencay goat's cheese has a rind of natural mould, covered with salted powdered charcoal.

Sainte-Maure de Touraine is a blue-grey mould covered long truncated log of goat's cheese. The cheese is mature, balanced, round with salt, sourness and an aroma of walnut. 

Selles-sur-Cher also has a rind of natural mould covered with powdered and salted charcoal. The pate is hard at first, then moist, heavy and clay-like as it blends and melts in the mouth. The taste is slightly sour and salty with a touch of sweetness. A glass of Sancerre or Pouilly Fume accompanies this cheese beautifully. 

Pouligny-Saint-Pierre nicknamed the Eiffel Tower or Pyramid because if its shape. The rind is of natural mould. The pate is a soft moist white and crumbly. The taste is at first sour and salty followed by sweetness. 

Chabichou du Poitou has a thin rind of white, yellow or blue mould and a delicate slightly sweet flavor. 

Crottin de Chavignol known as Chavignol is hard black and knobbly on the surface, and the taste is a balance of sourness, sweetness and a little salt.
The three varieties of Crottin de Chavignol: (R to L) sec, demi-sec, frais. The "frais" or "fresh" is the most mild, while the "sec" or "dry" and older, has a stronger flavor.

Chabichou du Poitou

Chabichou du Poitou is made in a limited geographic area above the chalky limestone soils of Poitou. Taller and leaner than its Loire Valley counterparts, this AOC protected cheese presents a white rind tinged with gray-blue, concealing a dense, clay-like interior. The surprisingly rich, mouth-coating paste is the perfect counterpoint to acid and effervescence. Try with fresh, tart cherries or a crisp, bubbly Cava. Available throughout the year, but the best are made from spring to autumn.

Legend traces Chabichou du Poitou back to the eighth century. It would have been produced by Saracens abandoned by the fleeing armies after the defeat at Poitiers in 732 by Charles Martel. The word "Chabi", short for Chabichou, is a corruption of "Cheblis" which means goat in Arabic.

The Arab armies were composed at that time not only warriors but also any kind of cohort servants with goats, poultry, etc.. When, after the battle of Poitiers, the soldiers abandoned the fields in hopes of finding better fortune elsewhere, many, no doubt, were the servants, with their families and their herds of goats who remained on site. The countryside provided excellent pasture quality and goats gave rich milk in abundance. Those ancient "Cheblis" were the great grandparents of the "Chevre's" we know today. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gorgonzola Piccante

“Gorgonzola Piccante", a formidable cow’s milk blue cheese from the mountains north of Milan, is Italy’s answer to Roquefort. Its rough, reddish rind protects a tender, light yellow, blue-flecked paste that is firm, moist, and buttery. Unimaginably creamy, spicy and buttery, the flavor is sharp, sweet, and goes on and on, like an echo cascading down the Italian alps. 

There are many tales about the origin of this great cheese from Lombardy, but until the early twentieth century it was known simply as 'stracchino' or 'stracchino verde' - a cheese made from the milk of cattle tired from their long spring and fall treks to and from the Alpine pasture.

One gorgonzola legend that claims an innkeeper in the town of Gorgonzola had too much cheese developing mold on it and questioned whether they were still any good. Unable to absorb the potential loss, he served the Cheese anyway. His customers liked it so much, they had to increase production and give them time to mold. 

A More likely history is that the overall production from the stracca cows was too much milk to hold, so it was made into cheese and stored in caves where they would naturally go blue over time. The method (still used today) starts with producing curd from an evening milking, allowing it to settle overnight and topping it with curd from the morning milking. Cheeses are then pierced to accelerate the veining (referred to as parsley or erborinato) of the Penicillium glaucom bacteria. 

This cheese is at once mild in texture and bold in flavor. Pair Gorgonzola Piccante with a sweet Italian dessert wine.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Asiago Stravecchio

Asiago cheese from the Veneto Region of Italy is controlled by the DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) rules of that country and hence must meet the defined quality standards. Imported aged Asiago is one of the better values in the cheese case, delivering abundant character at under $15 a pound. It costs money to age cheese, not only in the inventory cost but also in the moisture loss and consequent weight loss that occur over time. The payoff is flavor: more aromatic compounds, concentration and a longer finish.

A cow's milk cheese made for centuries in the high plains of northeastern Italy, near Vicenza, Asiago has historically been aged, sometimes as long as two years. But to accommodate modern demand for a sweeter, milder cheese, Asiago producers now make a range of styles.

Fresh Asiago, is typically only about a month old, it can offer aromas of sweet milk and fresh grass. For aged wheels, producers use partly skimmed raw milk. (The fresh wheels are made with whole milk.) The curds are cooked to a higher temperature than they are for the unaged wheels, so the curds expel more moisture. After the curds are transferred to molds, they are pressed to drive off yet more whey, then they are salted -- either with dry salt or brine. Finally, they head to the aging room where they spend anywhere from three months to a year or more.

When released at three to five months, Asiago is known as mezzano, or medium-aged. After nine months in the aging cellars, it's entitled to be called vecchio (literally, old). The color of the cheese will deepen with age, but at the mezzano stage, you can expect a firm, golden interior with few or no eyes.

The aroma is initially fruity -- think dried apples and citrus peel -- followed by faintly nutty, brown-butter or caramel notes. A highly savory cheese, aged Asiago dissolves slowly on the tongue, leaving behind a balanced impression of sweetness, salt and acidity. As it matures, it becomes more piquant and spicy.

Most people would probably reach for a big red wine with aged Asiago. A fruity red with moderate tannins, such as a young Merlot, would work, but sparkling wine would be an equally successful and less conventional choice.

Caciotta al Tartufo

Caciotta al Tartufo is made with pasteurized cow and sheep milk from my favorite  region of Italy, Umbria. Within the Umbrian mountains, famous for their black truffles, Cacioatta comes from a sleepy town called Norcia. The color of this rindless, semi-soft cheese is pale with small speckles of truffles throughout. Mild and aromatic, the richness of the sheep's milk is the perfect vehicle for the earthy, meaty truffles within. Aged about one month, it is perfect for cooking, shaved over vegetables or pasta, or just enjoying on it's own with some charcuteire and crusty Italian bread.

Carre du Berry

Carre du Berry is a goats milk cheese from Berry, in the Loire region of France. This small square, or "carre", is fresh and zesty, partly because it is so young, ripened only about a week. A beautiful addition to any cheese plate, this chevre is lavishly covered with a blend of fresh herbs, peppercorns, and juniper berries. As the cheese ages, the herbs dry, imparting intriguing floral notes to the paste, complementing its creaminess. Although it’s not recommended to eat the floral rind, you will surely be able to taste it in the cheese. Once you bite into this naturally herbed chèvre cake you will see why so many other goat cheese manufacturers attempt to spice up their cheeses with so called herbs de provence and other additives. This is the cheese they are trying to be.

It’s very soft texture resembles that of rich, saltier cream cheese and is heavenly spread on crackers or crusty bread. Add this cheese to any platter for a stunningly woodsy accent and a beautiful flavor profile.

The goats grazing on the pastures of Berry, south of the Loire River produce exceptionally rich milk that contain all of the typical flavor components of fresh goats milk. It is creamy and rich with a tangy finish. The cheese produced is delicious with nuances of clover, herbs, pines and walnuts.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Selles-sur-Cher is the quintessential AOC-protected goat's milk cheese from the fields around the Loire River in central France. Immediately recognized by its dramatically dark, charcoal covering, this light dusting of ash on small discs attracts beneficial mold, protecting the subtle, gentle interior of the cheese. The tapered shaped molds are filled with a ladle, failure to break the curd helps to ensure all the finesse of the original paste. Maturing lasts ten days (minimum) to three weeks.

The rind ranges from black to dark blue with a pure white porcelain paste. Slightly goaty to the nose, the taste is sweet and nutty, with a touch of citrus. Primarily an after-dinner cheese best served with its terroir wines: a dry white, Touraine white or a light and fruity red. Presented in thin slices, it can also be served as an aperitif. It is important not to scrape the crust: it is what gives the cheese its special character. Very decorative, Selles-sur-Cher brings a fresh note to a cheese buffet.

Le Chevrot

Le Chevrot is a small cylindrical goat cheese with a dense, semi-soft texture and generous, complex flavors typically found in well-aged goat cheeses. Don't judge it by it's wrinkly rind! Inside lies a rich and creamy center that will delight all palates. The particular aging of this cheese - it might look old, but it's actually quite young- makes Chevrot's flavor incredibly complex and rich. It's not too pungent or "goaty", so this is a perfect choice for even those who claim not to like goat cheese. These petite rounds are made by Sevre et Belle; a small cooperative in the village of Celles-sur-Belle in Western France, founded in 1893.

Like many cheeses from the area, Le Chevrot has been described as a French masterpiece. It is an unquestionably superb goat’s milk cheese, handmade near the province of Poitou (which borders the Loire Valley to the southwest) with a fresh, buttery, faintly winy taste, and an inviting aroma of ripe figs. It is also known for having a distinct freshness of flavor and a supple, lush quality that is nothing short of magnificent, with a slightly nutty, almost fermented taste that borders on the addictive. The wrinkly rind is edible; eating it will strengthen the flavor of Le Chevrot. The cheese itself is moderately aged and serves as an excellent compromise between mild taste and rich texture. Its flavor intensifies when grilled, and in fact, broiled Chevre is the basis of a delicious Chevre salad popular throughout France. The serving of this particular salad is often performed to mark the beginning of the spring season. Serve with Pouilly-Fume or Sancerre from the Loire Valley.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Produced by Fromagerie des Chaumes at Mauléon, in southwestern France, Etorki, or "origin" in Basque, is a pasteurized sheep's milk cheese. Native, black- or red-faced Manech sheep have lived in the region for centuries and produce very high quality milk that is ideal for cheesemaking. It takes a total of six gallons of milk to produce just one wheel of Etorki, sourced from the flocks of local shepherds and dairy farmers.

Production of Etorki requires the curds to be pressed but not cooked. After unmolding, cheeses are placed in a brine solution for two hours before being dried and dry salted (salt rubbed on the exterior) several times during the first week. Cheeses produced at the factory are then vacuum-packed and matured at a low temperature (39°F) in order to produce a slow maturation for a period of three to six months.

The texture is supple, velvety, and voluptuous on the tongue. The paste is ivory to golden, pocked with occasional holes or slits. The aroma is earthy, with rich, sweet notes of hazelnut and caramel.

Vento d'Estate

Vento d'Estate (VEN-to dess-TAH-tay) debuted less than 10 years ago but already has a considerable American following. This striking cheese is herbal and fruity, with nutty notes and a tangy finish. Its complexity is partially due to its treatment: Wheels are stacked in wooden wine barrels to age, cushioned by clean green hay, giving it a lovely aroma.

The name means "summer wind," an evocative moniker for a cheese with a pronounced herbaceous aroma. The wheels are aged under a blanket of hay, a procedure that cheesemaker Antonio Carpenedo dreamed up -- according to company lore -- when he and his wife Giuseppina were driving along a country road and found themselves behind a hay wagon. The grassy scent was so pleasant that they stopped the driver, bought some hay and started their cheese experiments.

La Casearia, the Carpenedo family firm that created Vento d'Estate, is based in northeastern Italy, in the Treviso region. The company has a history of cheesemaking invention. Its first product, a resounding success, was Ubriaco (meaning "drunkard"), a cow's milk cheese steeped in red wine. More than 20 years later, in the late 1990s, the company introduced Vento d'Estate, a 5-pound wheel made from pasteurized milk and matured under hay in oak barrels.

The wheels have a waxy rind artfully adorned with bits of hay. The paste is ivory to straw colored, firm, dense and crumbly, with an aroma that mingles grass and sour milk. The flavor is moderately sharp, but it leaves a strong sourish impression. Vento d'Estate needs a generous red wine to stand up to it, rich with fruit but not overly tannic.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Brebiou is a semi-soft, pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese from the Pyrenees region of France. The interior paste is milky white and smooth; it is solid and unmarred by holes or cracks. To the touch, the paste is smooth and squishy.

In contrast, Brebiou’s bloomy rind is deeply cratered, dry and firm to the touch. The rustic rind also shows markings from the linen wrappings and bowl-shaped mold used during its production. The rind has a light musty odor.

This cheese is gentle, not overly complex. The flavors are brief and simple–a light sourness and mild saltiness. Brebiou’s semi-soft consistency is creamy, smooth and nice on the tongue.


Most of the sheep's milk cheeses you'll find in retail shops are firm, aged wheels in the style of Manchego or Pecorino Toscano. Fresh, young sheep's cheeses are much rarer. Brinata is a delicious Brie / Camembert like cheese from Tuscany and is made from sheep milk. It has a velvety rind, like it is dusted with white powder. The Italian word brina means frost, and that's exactly what it looks like.

The cheese has a pale white interior, that is moist, milky and floppy with some small eyes. The paste is off-white with a fresh, delicate, cultured-milk aroma. You can't expect a lot of flavor development in a cheese that is probably only 30 days old, but you'll be surprised at how much character Brinata has. The salt level and acidity are just right. The rind is not remotely harsh or ammoniated, as Camembert rind can be.

Il Forteto cooperative makes a wide line of sheep's and cow's milk cheeses but what you may not know is the compelling back story of the business. It was established by a group of disaffected young Italians in 1977, some only 19 or 20 years old at the time, with the assistance of a philanthropist from Milan. The idealistic young people settled on agriculture as the basis for their cooperative, although they knew nothing about farming, and they proceeded to build a communal lifestyle, starting with 40 sheep, three cows and three pigs.

Over the years, the cooperative members have welcomed many abused, orphaned, homeless or psychologically troubled young people and put them to work on the farm, in the dairy, or in the retail market they now operate on the premises. They are paid for their work and educated, fed and sheltered at no charge. Every day, the cooperative members and young workers -- about 120 people in all -- gather in a giant dining room for a full-scale Italian lunch. The cooperative still has almost all of its original members, and today are one of Italy's biggest producers of Pecorino Toscano.

ST. Andre

Crafted in Coutances, in the Normandy region of northwestern France, St. André is a pasteurized cow's milk cheese, covered with a satiny, edible rind. Enchanting and celebratory, inside the downy rind you'll find a rich center that boasts up to 70% butterfat. The downy white outer layer offers a complex counterpoint to the wildly rich and silky center. As dense as pure butter and with the richest of flavors, the tongue-pleasing salty tang derives from the ocean air blowing through the pasturages of the Normandy coast. Produced in the shadow of the mystical island of Mont Saint-Michel, St. André cheese is just as breathtaking as the landscape of the surrounding Cotentin Peninsula.

The triple-cream cheeses originated in the Champagne region of France and are unique in that they are made with more butterfat. As a soft ripened cheese it has a white surface mold rind that over time changes the firm, chalky curd into a very smooth paste. Because the form size is about 3 inches high, the cheese is usually sold with a firm center surrounded by a very smooth ‘halo’ of softness. 


Tumalo Farms is a recent addition to the American artisan cheese scene. The company was founded by the Flavio DeCastilhos family in 2004. This was the year that Flavio left his post as one of the founders of a leading medical software business to seek a more serene life in the country. He struck gold when he found an eighty-four acre tract of raw land near Bend, Oregon. After locating the best site for a house and a barn, Flavio hooked into the electrical grid, found water and began to cultivate pastures.

Next, he purchased 180 dairy goats to begin an new enterprise-cheesemaking. Flavio approaches the cheesemaking process as a harmonious union of art and science. His love for Van Gogh brought him to Holland, where he experienced a deep appreciation for well- made, traditional Goudas. He then embarked on a cheesemaking journey guided by knowledge gathered there.

The Tumolo Farms goat herd has grown to a substantial size over the years and the DeCastilhos are now milking over 700 French Alpine and Santa goats making theirs the largest herd in the Pacific Northwest.

Rimrocker, named after the rocky bluffs that line the edges of the land, is a blend of cow milk from a neighboring farm and the goat milk of Tumalo Farms. Semi-firm with a thin, burnt-red rind, Rimrocker certainly makes a statement on the cheese counter. Its buttery yellow paste has an aroma reminiscent of aged Parmesan with hints of roasted nuts. The flavors are smooth and savory, offset nicely by a bit of tang, and a rich, deep finish.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Petit Pont l'Eveque

This is another ancient Norman cheese made in the area of its namesake town, Pont l'Evêque. A cow’s milk cheese with a soft pâte, and washed yellow-orange to straw yellow rind, it is much more restrained and less pungent than some, rather with a grassy and mellow bouquetThe flavor is savory, reminiscent of Camembert, with a rich, creamy texture, the fat content is at least 45%. This smaller version of Pont L'Eveque will ripen more more quickly than the Grand Pont L'Eveque.

This cheese was already greatly appreciated in the Middle-Ages. Its name comes from the little town of Pont-l'Evêque, between Lisieux and Deauville, in Normandy. It was at first called “angelon” in the 16th century, maybe to recall the precise origin of this cheese developed in the Pays d'Auge, in the Touques valley, particularly abundant in rich pastures. It has been known as Pont-l'Evêque since the 17th century, and is possibly the oldest Norman cheese still in production.

Tomme de Fedou

Produced at Lozere, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, near Hyelzas. Tomme de Fedou is a raw sheep's milk cheese whose paste becomes butter-colored, semi-firm, smooth and moist on the palate. Characteristically sweet and nutty, with aromas of grass, juniper and wildflowers, especially from cheeses produced in the summer months. Produced about 3,000ft. above sea level, on a plateau that covers about 130 square miles.

The sheep's milk is sourced from 13 herders in the area, who have formed a co-op. Farmers are paid according to the quality of the milk and, as such, if the farmers are able to provide better milk, which depends on the animals' diet and general husbandry, they receive more mone

During production, the curds are hand-ladled into forms and pressed. Cheeses are then aged for between three and six months prior to sale. The rind of the cheese is pale, gray-brown in color with a slightly pitted appearance. The paste is smooth and ivory-cream colored, close textured with occasional small holes.

Tomme de Savoie

Tomme de Savoie is a semi-firm cow's milk cheese made in the Valley of the Savoie in the French Alps. It has a delightfully nutty flavor and a smooth, straw colored paste that melts in your mouth.

Tomme de Savoie is often made with skim milk after the cream has been used to make butter. This is why Tommes are traditionally low in fat content (20-40 %). There are many varieties of Tommes and are often named after the village where they are produced. Tommes, made in winter are from the milk of cows that are fed hay very different from the Tommes made with the summer milk from cows that gaze in the high mountain pastures.

The maturing process often takes several months which gives the cheese a thick rind with a rustic appearance. It is gray in color with patches of yellow or red moulding. Delicious with wine from the Côtes de Beaune region as well as Alsatian Rieslings.

Grès des Vosges

The pungent raw-milk Munster that frequently ends a meal in Alsace is surely one of France's finest cheeses. Many creameries make Munster, but only one makes Grès des Vosges. It is a proprietary cheese commissioned by Fromi, a large European broker that makes the cheese in multiple sizes but only two are available here. France can only send us versions made with pasteurized milk because of Food and Drug Administration regulations.

Grès des Vosges (gray day vozh), is a similar cheese made by an Alsatian creamery that also produces Munster. Both wheels are washed-rind cheeses made with cow's milk and matured for about a month, but the lesser-known cheese delivers more pleasure. Both are relatively flat, less than two inches tall, with a moist, tacky, sandstone-colored surface and a fern leaf on top.

Bring this cheese to your nose before you taste it. Its yeasty aroma will seduce anyone who appreciates stinky cheese, although it is not nearly as robust as some. Notes of garlic, mushroom, barnyard and cultured milk, all fuse into a compelling scent.

Just underneath its thin, crunchy rind, the cheese is creamy and the color of pale butter, becoming firmer and paler toward the heart. The texture is semisoft and supple. Consider a spicy, racy white wine from Alsace, such as Gewürztraminer or Pinot Gris.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Roaring 40's Blue

Roaring 40's Blue Cheese comes from King Island, located south of Melbourne in the Great Southern Ocean, is one of the last remaining remnants of the land bridge once time linked Tasmania to the Australian mainland. Exceptionally picturesque on a fine day, but ferocious westerly winds which blow directly down the 40°S Longitude can, and do, create treacherous seas. These winds came to be known as the Roaring 40's, and are the basis for the mystique inherent in the Island's history. Thousands of souls have been lost in shipwrecks on its rocky shoreline. All around the island, you can find memorial cairns which tell tales of the lives of those shipwrecked, their brave rescuers, and the lighthouse keepers who worked tirelessly through the night.

It was these very tragedies that gave the island its unique ambiance, and literally seeded the foundation upon which the island's dairy industry now rests. During the 15th and 16th centuries, as the Roaring 40's swept their fury across the trade routes causing shipwrecks, straw mattresses from many parts of the world drifted ashore. Their seeds germinated in the rich island soils and created the lush pastures that set the King Island dairy industry apart. The dairy herds graze on these dense, verdant pastures, supplementing their rich diet occasionally with a helping of kelp washed up after heavy storms. There is no need for the artificial feed supplements and stock growth additives that other farmers have come to rely on. And so, King Island cows have become renowned for producing the sweetest, creamiest, purist milk, leading to an array of fine dairy products and award-winning cheeses.

A full flavoured blue with honeyed, slightly nutty character, a rich mouth feel and delightful aftertaste, this rindless cheese is matured in its wax coating, which cuts off the oxygen supply, promoting its sweet and fruity flavour. The wax also assists in retaining the blue's moisture, creating a smooth and creamy texture.

Red Leicester

What we call “Red Leicester” cheese today can be traced back to 17th century and the style of cheese was much influenced by cheesemaking practices in other parts of England. Farmers recognised the need to make their cheeses look, and if possible taste different from cheeses made in other parts of the country and the convention of colouring cheese with annatto – a vegetable dye derived from the husk of the fruit of the annatto tree found in South America and the Caribbean – spread from Gloucester and Cheshire to Leicestershire.

Cheese with a rich orange hue was much valued as it signified high quality. Milk produced by cows grazing on rich grass pastures would naturally have a high carotene content which gave it an orange hue. The cheesemaking process would have concentrated that colour. Other regions of the country then started to colour their milk to mimic Gloucestershire cheese and Leicestershire was routinely coloured.

Most of the cheese was traded in the county town of Leicester and so important did this become that a cheese market was established in the City in 1759 and rules and regulations put in place to determine quality. Henceforth the cheese became to be known as Leicester Cheese. 

Leicester Cheese was highly rated owing to the fine grazing conditions available in the County and although cheese was sent to other parts of the country – notably London – most was consumed in the county. 

Flavours and Texture

Red Leicester is a russet red hard pressed cheese which will be sold at anything from 3 months to 12 months of age. The traditionally made wheels tend to be firmer and drier but have a luxurious creamy texture and a slightly sweet mellow flavour that becomes stronger as the cheese matures. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Achadinha Cheese Company

Achadinha Cheese Company is owned by Jim and Donna Pacheco of Pacheco Family Dairy. Established in 1955 in Bodega Bay then relocated to Petaluma in 1969 by Jim's father. Jim and Donna reside on the ranch with their four children to carry on his family legacy.

Jim Pacheco is a third generation dairyman and cheesemaker. The Pachecos raise over 1500 goats who roam freely. Depending on the season, the animals eat varying amounts of pasture supplemented with feed hay and brewers grain purchased from local breweries. The goats are never given hormones or antibiotics.

In 1997, Jim and Donna sold their cows and bought dairy goats. They now have close to 1600 goats. The girls are able to eat pasture all year long on 290 acres and eat all of the brewer’s grain from the local breweries they want. When it rains and they refuse to go out, then they are supplemented with alfalfa hay. Along with the goats, Jim and Donna have dogs, horses, beef cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens .

Most of the milk that comes from the Pacheco's goats is used to produce Achadinha Cheese Company cheeses; the rest is sold to other cheese companies. The Pacheco Family strongly believes that it is important for people to know where their food comes from. All cheeses are handmade by Donna Pacheco.

Capricious (Ca-pree-shus) ~ won "Best in Show" at the American Cheese Society event in 2002 and named one of Saveurs "50 favorite cheeses in the United States" in 2005. Capricious is an aged cheese hand rolled in an old european style. A truly unique artisan cheese made with attention to detail and naturally aged in the fresh Pacific Ocean air. Savor the flavors as this cheese travels through the palate.

Broncha (Bron-ka) ~ Inspired by a Portuguese family recipe and infused with the subtle flavors of the brewers grains fed to the goats, Broncha is a gentle table cheese. Try shaving it over your best veggie recipes to add the special flavors that only goats milk can provide.

Feta ~ Pacheco Dairy's pasteurized goat's milk Feta is a fresh style Feta, that is soaked in a sea salt brine and delivered to market within four weeks. The Feta has a sweet creamy taste and texture with a fresh brine finish.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Oriol de Montbrú

A dense and dreamy little wheel of cheese, ours came with a patchwork of bright yellow mold on the outside as vibrant as spring mustard in bloom. Creamy and mild at first, the flavor slowly develops complexity to become the curious and charismatic Spanish party guest that captures your imagination.

This semi-firm pasteurized buffalo milk cheese is made by Formageries Montbru in the Catalonia region of Spain. Buffalo milk is rare in Spain, but thanks to a Northern Italian with too many buffalo on his land, 1,500 head were relocated to a nature preserve in Catalonia and Oriol de Montbru was born.

Pere and Imma began making goat cheese in 1989 with milk fr
om their own herd at their farmhouse Montbrú in Moià, (Barcelona). Their son Oriol joined them 7 years later and has since taken over as cheesemaker. It was Oriol who took on the project of developing buffalo milk cheeses and the first one he has chosen is young, creamy, sweet and very versatile. Aged 20 days, it is a small wheel with a slight covering of blue-gray mold, very similar to Garrotxa. Each wheel is wrapped in paper and attractive Raffia. Serve on a cheese plate alongside honey, dried or fresh figs, with fruits such as pears and sweet, mild apples.