Il Pastore, from Latteria Sociale Santadi, is a brown-waxed sheep’s milk cheese made in Santadi,a commune in Sardinia, Italy. The color of the wax evokes the old tradition, from the region, of packing a layer of clay and mud onto the wheels of cheese to protect them, in the days before wax was in ready supply. Made with raw sheep’s milk cheese and aged for at least 3 months, this pecorino is similar to Manchego and is an excellent substitute for the Spanish classic.
The brown, mottled rind peels back to reveal a firm, golden paste turning to light-caramel brown near the rind. The paste is dry, dense, a bit crumbly, with a light oily sheen. The flavor is salty, nutty and complex, with lanolin, gamey and smokey notes and just a bit of peppery bite.
On a whim, I used the Il Pastore in a 3-green Tart recipe ( spinach, chard and kale), mixed with Bulgarian Feta, which worked out beautifully, the Feta, with it’s fresh lipase bite, complimenting the aged Il Pastore nicely.
Purchased at Stinky Brooklyn.
Tobasi, from Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown, MA, is a Taleggio-style raw cow’s milk washed rind cheese made in the heart of the rolling Berkshire hills. In 2002 Dick and Jude Sabot, hearing that the Cricket Creek Farm — the largest dairy farm in the Williamstown area — was up for sale, decided to purchase it, to protect it from encroaching development and preserve it as a working farm. A visit to Shelburne Farms in Vermont led to the decision to continue dairying and develop a cheesemaking program as well, while also converting the herd to pastured and grass-fed and moving the farm towards sustainable methods. Sadly, Dick Sabot passed away unexpectedly in 2005, but Jude and their son, Topher, have continued to develop the farm and expand the cheese offerings. Their Maggie’s Round, an Italian-Toma-inspired cheese, won First Place at the 2011 American Cheese Society Competition in Montreal, and they have expanded the makes to include a bloomy-rind, Berkshire Bloom and the Tobasi (as well as fresh cheeses).
Made from raw Jersey cow’s milk and aged for around four months, the Tobasi has the traditional square format and washed amber-red exterior of a Taleggio. This wheel had a thicker rind and an especially dramatic pattern of deep ridges and grooves from the aging racks and was lightly sticky and grainy to the touch. The yellow-ivory paste was semi-soft but stable, oozing lightly as it warmed, with a smooth, buttery texture. The aroma is pungent and gamey, but as with Taleggio the bark is worse than it’s bite, and the flavor is creamy, meaty and salty with mushroom, wet hay and distinctly fruity notes.
Purchased at Formaggio Essex.
From the Cheese Notes kitchen: this weekend I made these Three-Green Tartlets with Bulgarian Feta and Il Pastore sheep’s milk cheese (an Italian pressed-curd that is similar to a Manchego). The greens were spinach, chard and kale,and the cheeses were blended with a simple egg/yogurt custard before being mixed with the greens, which had already been sautéed with onions and garlic, and a healthy grind of nutmeg, black pepper and salt. The crust is a simple pate brisée.
via Cheese Notes on Instagram.
NPR’s The Salt looks at the importance not just of whether or not the cows are pastured, but which pastures they eat in, and how it impacts the flavor and nutritional profile of cheeses:
Contarini and her colleagues have been working to save these mountain dairy products. And fans of the cheeses say there’s more than just nostalgia involved. It’s not easy to define the flavor, Contarini says, but aficionados insist the cheeses do taste better.
The differences are definitely subtle, but researchers have figured out how to tease apart some of them. Recently, Contarini and her colleagues in Lodi even showed how to distinguish between cheeses made from cows pastured on two different sides of a single mountain. Her study appears online in the latest Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Where cows live changes what they eat — and that difference is detectable in the cheese made from their milk, says Contarini.
The rumen is the first chamber in a cow’s stomach, and it’s full of microbes. What a cow eats helps determine what microbes rumble in its rumen, and those differences play out in the chemical composition of its milk. “So some constituents of milk, particularly the fat and the lipid soluble compounds, are different,” Contarini says.
Milk from mountain-raised cows also contains chemical compounds called terpenes, which come from little flowers growing among the grass. “In the plains cows, you don’t find any terpenes,” she says. Scientists aren’t sure how or if terpenes affect cheese flavor, but they do consider them a marker of mountain cheese.
In her recent experiment, Contarini’s group took milk from cows living on two sides of a mountain in northern Italy. Milk from cows raised in each pasture was used to make a couple dozen wheels of local Asiago cheese. When the scientists analyzed the cheeses, they found they differed, just slightly, in the amounts of some hydrocarbons and trans fatty acids.
That wasn’t enough to affect flavor, but it helps to validate methods that may one day be used to authenticate cheese made from mountain-raised cows, Contarini says. And while that could be helpful for consumers looking for the real thing, it could also help to show that there is real added value in these local, artisan cheeses, she says, and worth the effort of driving herds of cattle up into the Alps.
Read the full story here.
(Photo ©2013 NPR.org)
Blu di Bufala, from Caseifico Quattro Portoni, took second place at the World Cheese Awards yesterday, coming in just behind the Manchego DO Gran Reserve that ultimately took the “Supreme Champion” title (see previous post). I wasn’t surprised to hear that brothers Bruno and Alfio Gritti, the cheesemakers behind the Blu would place so highly, as I had been impressed by their unusual water buffalo-milk cheeses in the past. The Quadrello di Bufala, an outstanding Taleggio-style buffalo-milk cheese, is one to seek.
The Gritti brothers began their water buffalo farm in 2001, in Bergamo in the Lombardy region. Their cheesemaking operations started in 2005 and have evolved and impressed the cheese world ever since, especially as they are using the milk in cheeses and formats not traditionally associated with water buffalo, which normally brings one cheese to mind — Mozzarella di Bufala. Indeed, the Lombardy region, located in Northern Italy, is not where one would normally find these water-loving ruminants; the central and southern regions such as Lazio are more traditionally their stomping (wallowing?) grounds. Add blue molds into the mix and you’ve got a truly unique cheese, out of place in region, style and tradition. Americans, being in the early days of inventing our new cheese landscape, are generally unsurprised by the idea of a “new” cheese, since most of what we do has been invented (or inspired, or, let’s be honest, stolen) in the relatively recent past. But in a culinary world as established, revered and traditional as Europe’s, new cheeses popping onto the landscape is noteworthy. One need only look to the World Cheese Awards, where the Blu di Bufala was bookended on the winners podium by a Manchego ahead of it and a Gruyere just behind, AOC cheeses which have been in production for hundreds of years and dozens of generations. However, as with Willi Schmid in Switzerland, inventive and experimental cheesemakers are putting themselves on the map throughout Europe.
Buffalo milk highly is prized for it’s high fat content, and the fat globules are closer in size to those of sheep or goat than cow, that is, they are smaller and don’t separate out as readily. The unique composition of the milk gives cheeses produced from it a signature creaminess of texture. The Blu is no exception: The paste is cakey, decadent and rich, a dense white velvet punched through with blue veins and pockets, with an outer rind aging to gray and brown and scatterings of yellow mold pockets. In flavor it is well-balanced, sweet and tangy, with a delicate gamey quality and herbaceous, caramel and meaty notes, a sustained buttery smoothness throughout, and a bit of a peppery bite on the finish.
Purchased at Dean & Deluca.
You can check out a video from Quattro Portoni on YouTube:
Brescianella Stagionata is similar in appearance and flavor to Taleggio, and like that cheese, comes from the Lombardy region, the town of Brescia specifically, for which it’s named. “Stagionata” means “aged”, so it’s essentially the “Aged Cheese of Brescia”. Brescianella is an uncooked, pressed, pasteurized cow’s milk cheese with a washed rind, aged around 90 days, on straw mats that leave the rind scored with distinctive deep lines.
The washed rind, ridged and scored with darker colored grooves, is honey-colored and pinkish, with gray-green patches of mold on the shoulders, lightly sticky to the touch. This square was firm with a bit of give and ooze as it warmed; ideally you’d want it a little further along, when the paste is softer and the aroma more pungent. This wedge had a barnyardy, cabbagey pungency; the paste, ivory-colored and lightly eyed, creamy and soft in texture, is mild in flavor, milky, slightly tangy and pleasantly sour, with nutty, meaty and grassy notes and low sapidity.
Purchased at Eataly.
Reblo Cremoso, from the Piedmont region of Italy, comes to us courtesy of La Casera, a cheese shop and wholesaler in the Northern Piedmont town of Verbania. Specializing in the cheeses of the region, they offer a variety of unusual cheeses, including this red-rinded beauty. Formaggio, which imports their cheeses, recently visited La Casera and wrote about it on their blog.
Similar in both appearance and texture to the French Brebirousse d’Argental, the Reblo is a soft-ripened, pasteurized sheep and cow mixed-milk cheese, with a rind that is red not from the B.Linens of a washed rind mold but — as with the Brebirousse — from the addition of Annatto natural coloring to the white molded bloomy rind.
The rind is thin and delicate, cracking over the soft, ripe paste, which is lightly eyed and ivory white. Creamy, oozing and buttery, with a wonderful mouthfeel, similar to a Taleggio, in both aroma and flavor the Reblo is mild and delicate without being boring, milky, mushroomy and grassy with a subtle lanolin undertone from the sheep’s milk.
NPR’s food blog The Salt reports on an amazing event that took place last night in Italy, for the love of Parmigiano-Reggiano:
In Italy tonight, everyone’s having the same thing for dinner, and there’s no doubt that it’s going to smell terrific.
Forbes magazine food and travel writer Larry Olmsted tells NPR’s Jacki Lyden that it’s Parmigiano-Reggiano night in Italy. It’s all about the cheese — and not that stuff you buy in the green plastic canister — but the real stuff, made in the country’s world-famous Emilia-Romagna region, in the city of Parma.
Using social media and other methods to spread the word, Parmigiano-Reggiano promoters are “trying to get people all throughout Italy to eat the same meal at the same time, sort of a virtual, national sit-down dinner in people’s own homes, and to a lesser extent, restaurants,” says Olmsted. They’re calling it the biggest Italian dinner in history.
Watch the video below to see acclaimed 3-Star Chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana talk about the event and the dishes that he prepared for it.
Check out the full story over at The Salt, where you can also stream the original radio segment.
The New York Times has an interesting profile Craig Ramini, Silicon Valley Entrepreneur turned Water Buffalo farmer and aspiring Mozzarella di Bufala cheesemaker:
Go Ahead, Milk My Day
Buffalo mozzarella from Italy is perhaps the most difficult cheese to replicate. Is the Silicon Valley consultant-turned-dairy-farmer named Craig Ramini in over his head?
Buffalo mozzarella is the Great White Whale of American cheesemaking: a dream so exotic and powerful that it drives otherwise sensible people into ruinous monomaniacal quests. Despite all the recent triumphs of our country’s foodie movement (heirloom-turkey-sausage saffron Popsicles; cardamom paprika mayonnaise foam), no one in the United States has, as of yet, figured out how to recreate precisely this relatively simple Old World delicacy — a food with essentially one ingredient (buffalo milk) that is made every day in Italy. Over the last 15 years, in fact, the attempt to make authentic buffalo mozzarella — to nail both its taste and texture — has destroyed businesses from Vermont to Los Angeles. It seems truly doomed. “A Polar wind blows through it,” Melville might have written about it, if he had been a food writer, “and birds of prey hover over it.”
Enter Craig Ramini, the latest American adventurer hellbent on making fresh buffalo mozzarella — one of the very few people in the United States currently brave or foolish enough to do so […] Ramini has spent three years getting over the most basic hurdles: assembling enough animals (he has a herd of 44) and coaxing milk out of them (he had to redesign his barn and stalls, and he’s still taking in only 60 gallons of milk a week — about a ninth of his goal) — and beginning the daunting process of turning that milk into perfectly formed cheese. There have been some disastrous moments and plenty of sleepless nights. The first few months’ worth of batches weren’t even close to being viable. So he hired two Italian cheese consultants to help guide him. Although he says the product is improving, he still hasn’t been able to get it right. When I visited him, he had yet to sell a single ball of mozzarella.
Read the full story here.
(Photo ©2012 New York Times)
This funky looking little wedge is Taleggio, or more specifically, Stinky Brooklyn’s custom version of this classic Italian cheese, washed and affinaged with loving care in their own caves before being offered for sale. This semi-soft, washed rind, raw cow’s milk cheese is actually made by Ca d’Ambros in the namesake Valtaleggio region of northern Italy, near Lombardy, where it has traditionally been made since the 9th century.
The rind is sticky, pinkish-amber with gray and yellow mottling, ridged and grooved, splitting easily with handling to reveal the soft paste beneath. Taleggio’s tend to be on the pungent side to begin with and Stinky’s version does not disappoint: this cheese lives up to the store’s name for sure. The flavor itself, as with all Taleggio’s, is milder however, but still assertive; the puddingy, oozing paste is lactic, brothy and meaty with distinct musty and mushroomy notes and hints of fruit. Delicious smeared on a hunk of crusty baguette from Bien Cuit.
Purchased at Stinky Brooklyn.