This creamy blue is the Bayrischer Blauschimmelkase — also frequently sold as Chiriboga Blue, after its maker, Arturo Chiriboga, the cheesemaker at Schaukaeserei Obere Muehle dairy cooperative, in the village of Bad Oberdorf, Allgäu, Germany. Arturo is an Ecuadorian by birth but has worked Germany for many years. The Bayrischer is based on a recipe, first developed by Basil Weixler in 1902 and loosely based on a Roquefort recipe. In the 1920’s the recipe was tweaked to bring it more closely in line with Roquefort; Weixler even wanted to name it “Bavarian Mountain Roquefort”, but the French vigorously protested on AOC grounds, and it became the Bayrischer Blauschimmelkase instead. when Arturo Chiriboga began making cheese at Obere Muehle, the wheels began to be sold under his name as well, perhaps to make it easier for American customers to remember.
So, got all that? An Ecuadorian working in Germany is making a blue that sometimes goes by a name that makes it sound more like a Wisconsin cheese and is based on a French recipe…
In any case, history and nomenclature aside, this is a downright lovely blue. Aged for at least two months, pale white in color and lightly blued with irregular geode-like pockets of bluing and yellow streaks scattered throughout, the texture is soft, creamy and moist, with a mild, lightly acid, buttery flavor, sweet and lactic, punctuated by a gamey, peppery, vegetal bite. Reminiscent of but not quite as decadent as Gorgonzola Dolce, this is an easy-eating blue cheese, delicious slathered on baguette or served with a fruit accompaniment.
Purchased at Bedford Cheese Shop.
Siblings: Gowanus Tomme old and new. On the left is the 4-month wheel of raw cow’s milk tomme (half-eaten), and on the right is a fresh wheel of the next generation, straight out of the brine and ready to go into the cave.
Fleur d’Aunis (“Flower of Aunis”) is a washed rind, semi-soft pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from the Aunis province of France, situated on the nort-west coast, in the department of Charente-Maritime, within the region of Poitou-Charente. It’s also considered a Vendéen cheese, another name by which the region is known, due to the Vendée river that runs through it. This pungent wheel gets its wonderful color and flavor from being washed in Pineau des Charentes, a Cognac-fortified aperitif wine that is popular in the region.
The rind is a deep amber color, slightly sticky and gritty to the touch, and with a pleasant wet-hay, barny aroma. The paste is golden-yellow, moderately eyed and fissured, smooth, elastic and softening into a bulge as it warms. In appearance and flavor it resembles a Belgian trappist style cheese (Bedford referred to it as resembling Oka, the trappist cheese of Quebec origin, crossed with Epoisse). The flavor is meaty, buttery and briny, a bit tangy, with nutty, fruity and smokey notes and a pleasant finish.
Interesting sidenote: Poitou is considered the region of origin for a significant percentage of the French emigrants who later became the Cajun and Acadian populations of North America, from Newfoundland and Quebec all the way down to Louisiana.
Purchased at Bedford Cheese Shop on Irving Place.
Sola Val Casotto, from Formaggi Guffanti in the Val Casotto of Piedmont, Italy, gets its name from the word, in Piedmontese dialect, for the sole of the shoe, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the distinctive aromas which develop in the cave as it ages. Similar to the traditional Italian cheese Raschera, the Sola differs in that it is made with whole, mixed milk, from sheep and cow (and occasionally goat from what I could gather). The Italians are the masters of mixed milk cheeses, the many varieties of Robiola being perhaps the best example, and Sola is another cheese in this vein.
Formaggi Guffanti was founded in 1876, when Luigi Guffanti — great-grandfather to the current Guffanti-Fiori family owners — began seeking out a location to age his gorgonzola wheels. He purchased an abandoned silver mine in Valganna, and many of the cheeses have been aging there ever since, with the product line expanding over the years.
The Sola comes in a pudgy square format, with a stony, cracked gray exterior speckled with patches of bright yellow mold. Cutting into it reveals an ivory paste with scattered slits and eyes, oozing to a silky, elastic texture as it warms. The flavor is mild but complex, tangy, buttery, meaty, a bit sour, with a deep earthy, musty overtone. I’m not sure if these wheels in particular were aged in the silver mine tunnels, but it certainly has the aroma and flavor of deep caves and wet stone. This is a good cheese for someone just being introduced to this style of tomme, as the earthy and sour flavors are present without being challenging.
Wheels of raw cow’s milk bloomy developing a rind. This is about six days in. The recent heat wave has had my poor wine refrigerator working overtime to maintain temp.
Hummingbird is a delicate disc of Robiola-style cheese from Doe Run Dairy in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Kristian Holbrook is the head cheesemaker at Doe Run Farm —his wife Haesel Charlesworth, manages the fruit and vegetable farming — but Doe Run is the passion project of Urban Outfitter’s founder Dick Haynes, who long had a desire to get into farming and saw an opportunity when the historic Doe Run farm came up for sale just as he was pulling back from the $2 Billion clothing business, first started as a single clothing shop in the 70’s, catering to Pittsburgh’s countercultural crowd. Doe Run is a sustainable, organic farm, with the cows, sheep and goats rotationally grazed on the 700 acres.
The creamery opened just a couple years ago, but the farm is much more than just a cheesemaking operation, with vegetables, horticultural gardens, massive greenhouses growing ornamental flowers, and more. You can read a detailed profile of Haynes and Doe Run at MainlineToday.com. Kristian has a culinary background, and is graduate of the New England Culinary Institute and a former chef at Green Seasons, outside of Pittsburgh.
Like many Robiolas, the Hummingbird is a mixed-milk cheese, made with Jersey cow and East Friesian ewe’s milk. Inspired by the likes of Robiola Bosina and Robiola Due Latte, the wheels are thin, only 3/4” high perhaps, with an elongated oval shape, akin to an oversized bay leaf. The rind is paper thin and pillowy to the touch, pinkish-orange with a white veil of mold and occasional tiny patches of blue. As soon as you cut it open, the ivory paste begins to ooze out of the thin rind, the interior molten at room temperature. The aroma is lightly fungal, with notes of wet hay.
In flavor the Hummingbird is buttery, unctuous and herbaceous, milky-sweet and with a nice salt balance, with subtle but distinct barnyard and lanolin notes on the finish.
I’m a big fan of Robiola’s, so discovering this American-made version is a pleasant surprise. (I probably shouldn’t share this, but you can see my own experiments with a Robiola recipe, which were…not exactly successful, so I appreciate it even more when it’s well-done, as with the Hummingbird).
Via RealMilk.com, Arkansas has now legalized on-farm sales of raw cow and goat milk:
Beginning in July 2013, Arkansas farms will be allowed to sell up to 500 gallons of unpasteurized cow milk per month, and up to 500 gallons of unpasteurized goat milk per month, directly to consumers. It will still be illegal to sell unpasteurized milk at farmers markets or other retail outlets. Under the new law, farmers will be required to post a sign on the farm and label unpasteurized products with a standardized label noting that the milk is unpasteurized. Neither the farm nor the cows will be inspected by the state, and the buyer assumes all liability should any health problems arise from consuming the raw milk.
This new law is not only exciting for the consumers who rely on raw milk’s nutrients for health benefits, but also for the farmers who see economic opportunity in taking advantage of the emerging raw milk market – raw milk often sells for $6-$8 per gallon. As the market continues to evolve and more farms begin to offer unpasteurized products, it will be interesting to see where costs stabilize and how farms brand themselves to stand out from the herd.
Read the full story.
(Photo ©2013 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
This gooey, fluffy ball is the Saint Nuage, a cow’s milk triple-creme from acclaimed French affineur Hervé Mons. “Nuage” actually means “cloud” in french, so this is the “Saint Cloud”, an appropriate name when you experience the texture.
The St. Nuage is a cow’s milk triple-creme, made by a Burgundy cheesemaker, and affinaged in the famous Mons tunnels before being sold exclusively through Whole Foods. I’m not sure if this is actually the first one, but I don’t recall seeing Mons cheeses with custom packaging and the Hervé Mons logo prominently displayed prior to this, at least on this side of the pond. I’ll certainly keep my eyes peeled for others.
When warmed to room temperature, the St. Nuage is almost unmanageably soft and must be moved with care lest the skin tear open in your hands. The rind, butter-yellow with a thin white mold layer, rippled and puckered, opens to reveal an incredibly gooey, delicate interior, the texture almost whipped in consistency. If you’ve ever baked a cake, the texture is kind of like the room temperature butter after sixty seconds of creaming, it’s that soft and fluffy; pretty impressive for an aged cheese — albeit briefly aged from what I can tell.
The flavor is mild but intensely buttery and rich, milky, a little tangy, with hints of mushroom, a nice salt balance, the paste melting in your mouth. Terms like “decadent” tend to be abused in the cheese world (including, admittedly, by yours truly), but this is a cheese that truly deserves that descriptor. I usually prefer my cheese neat, no bread or crackers, but this is a cheese that is tailor-made for slathering on a crusty baguette or with fruit. This is not a challenging or complex cheese, but it definitely puts the “creme” in triple creme.
Belgium has been woefully underrepresented in the American cheese case for a long time, but that’s changing now; in NYC, cheesemongers such as Formaggio Essex, Bedford Cheese Shop and Artisanal in particular seem to be been making an effort to carry more cheeses from smaller and farmstead Belgian producers, judging from their cases. I even purchased a raw milk, Camembert-style, under-60-day Belgian cheese at one of the counters in the city recently, although I’m not going to name where I found it (although it should be said that they were surprisingly cavalier in advertising the cheese’s black-market status).
One of the cheeses for which Belgium is best known are “Trappist” style, cow’s milk cheeses washed in, Belgian beer; legend has it that the monks of the Trappist monasteries developed these cheeses as a full-flavored substitute for the days on which they were required to abstain from consuming meat. Le Charmoix is another cheese in this family, from La Fermiere de Méan in Maffe, in the Wallonia region of Belgium (I previously reviewed the Cabricharme, also from the same cheesemaker, whose recipe is essentially a goats-milk version of the Le Charmoix).
Made with raw cow’s milk in the Spring and early summer, the wheels are lightly pressed and then aged for four to six weeks, getting a regular beer brine wash. The final result is a a pungent, soft wheel, the golden, lightly sticky-gritty rind giving off a hoppy, sour aroma. The paste is ivory-colored and smooth-textured, the wheel settling and bulging as it warms. The flavor is mild in the young Charmoix, but this wedge had definitely had a chance to develop a beautiful stink, with a yeasty, fruity, meaty flavor and notes of onions, hardboiled egg, hay and barnyard.
Purchased at Formaggio Essex.
Colston Bassett, maker of one of the most highly regarded British blues, celebrates it’s 100th anniversary this week:
A Nottinghamshire village is celebrating 100 years since it began producing Stilton cheese. Stilton cheese can only be made in five dairies in the East Midlands. Colston Bassett has one of the five dairies, located in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, licensed to produce Blue Stilton.
The village is celebrating the anniversary with a series of events including a special church service. The Reverend Claire Le Marchcant-Connell, said the dairy started in 1913 to help troubled farmers.
Mrs Le Marchcant-Connell, who is also a farmer, said: “It gave an outlet for their milk and meant they could improve the value of the product. “Thank God that we’ve kept going and we’re still producing good cheese.”
Billy Kevan, dairy manager and chairman of the Stilton Cheese Makers Association, said: “Hygiene is completely different now than in 1913. “Farmers would have come in their muddy boots with a milk churn and poured it in the cheese vat, probably smoking a pipe with cow muck on their legs after milking the cows.”
Stilton cheese gained a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) from the EU in 1996.
The photo above comes from the Colston Bassett Stilton page on the Murray’s site, where they note that Colston Bassett’s version of Stilton is unique for using traditional calf rennet, unlike the other producers.