The Cheese Diaries Week 8
Check out my article in honor of American Cheese Month on TheChicagoist.com!
Check out my article in honor of American Cheese Month on TheChicagoist.com!
October is American Cheese Month, so obviously I’m going to be featuring cheeses made in the US of A.I’m going to start out with SarVecchio, a parmesan from Sartori in Wisconsin. This award-winning cheese was created by accident. Divine intervention? I think so.
Way back when I was just a simple, well-fed suburban girl, my mother would bring home 2 lb wedges of SarVecchio parmesan from the farmer’s market. the second I got home from school, I’d break off huge, crumbly chunks and snack away. This was my very first artisanal cheese and it might be the very reason why I am a cheesemonger today.
SarVecchio might not be the most complex cheese, but it is definitely noteworthy. While its more sophisticated, worldly cousin Parmigiano Regianno has a near rock-solid texture making it an ideal grating cheese, SarVecchio is softer, crumbling upon your touch at peak ripeness. It’s also much sweeter and a little feminine, with notes of Spring flowers that dance on your tongue. SarVecchio also has this fresh, milky quality that seems so characteristic of Wisconsin cheeses, but it is still just as nutty and umami-laden as any parmesan. SarVecchio is very oily on it’s own which makes it a great snacking cheese, but if you drizzle a couple slices with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse black pepper, you’ll be in cheese heaven.
Buttery German blue cheese and young Asiago melt into pure satin on this sexy, harvest sandwich. Feel free to use any cheeses for this, as long as one is crumbly and the other rubbery. This ensures a proper, gooey consistency
These different kinds of milk result in a variety of color, flavor, and texture in the resulting cheese.
Lactation period: 500 days
Milk yield: approx. 12.5% of body weight
With a little love, cows can produce milk all year round. Since they are larger than sheep or goats, they produce more milk, but proportionally the difference isn’t great. Cows also require lots of TLC: happy cows produce good milk, and they tend to be high maintainance animals in comparison to goat or sheep. Cow’s milk has the most carotene, which is why the resulting cheese tends to have a yellow hue. Cow’s milk cheeses come in all shapes and sizes, but they tend to have sweet, earthy and buttery flavors.
Example: Anton’s Liebe Rot
Lactation period: 300 days
Milk Yield: approx. 10 %
Goat’s are rugged scavengers by nature, but the animals that produce the crumbly chèvres of the world are more like pampered pets. Goat’s milk cheese has less lactose than cow’s milk cheese, making it easier to digest and a great option for those who are lactose intolerant. Goat’s milk has about the same amount of solids as cow’s, but has more beta casein and less alpha casein. This results in a fragile curd that yields less cheese.
The milk is bright white with a tangy flavor that becomes milder in maturing cheeses. The “goaty” flavors in cheese are blatant defects caused by bucks wandering too close to the milking parlors.
Example: Truffle Tremor
Lactation period: 150 – 240 days
Milk yield: approx. 3% of the body weight
Sheep are hearty, versatile creatures. They do need to be sheared, which is hard labor. However, they thrive in sparse, barren conditions. Rocky terrain and high pasturelands are no problem for them. Sheep’s milk has double the fat of cow’s, but with 50% more protein and solids. It’s just as sweet as cow’s milk, but with a nuttier flavor.
Example: Rosemary Manchego
Lactation period: 250 – 300 days
Milk yield: up to 20% of body weight
Water buffalo are very sturdy creatures that are lauded for their plowing abilities. The milk is richer in fat and protein than cow milk and has a smooth, tangy flavor with a slightly sour tendency.
Example: Quadrella di Bufala
Mastering Cheese – Max McCalman
Images brought to you by Google.
Now that I’ve become pretty familiar with the cheeses and the daily functions at Pastoral, I’ve begun building catering trays. I’ve always been very creatively inclined and I’m finding a deep tranquility in the organizing of the cheeses, charcuterie and accoutrements about the trays. It’s not only about making the trays look pretty, but also about guiding the eaters, lining the blue crumbles with figs or surrounding a tiny jar of honey with the bucheron. It’s a way to communicate to a person through food that really appeals to me.
In addition to building trays, many of the cheese mongers are required to pair cheeses with whatever wine we’re focusing on. I’m not quite there yet, but I find pairings incredible exciting. When the flavors of a cheese co-mingle with the notes of the right wine, something miraculous happens. Even if you aren’t sold on the cheese or the wine, the way they interact can make sparks fly.
It’s German wine month at Pastoral and at our recent staff meeting, we tasted all of the featured wines. It was the best staff meeting ever. Anyway, perhaps it was my rapid yearning for the land of Deutsch, or perhaps it was my shamefully, non-German alcohol tolerance, but I decided to purchase the HM 16 by Weingut Keller and paired it with Anton’s Liebe Rot.
Anton’s Liebe Rot, aka Anton’s Lovely Red, is a washed-rind cheese out of Germany. Swiss cheesemaker Anton Holzinger named the cheese after the red-tinted rind, a result of the B. Linens. The soft, oozing paste tastes of soil and butter, leaving behind a thick aftertaste of slightly bitter moss. The rind has the pungency of salty feet and a faint note of lemon rind that melts away into the paste. Unfortunately, this wedge was a little overripe but it was still good. We ate it atop of black pepper Mary’s Gone Crackers.
I’m proud to say that I’m an official employee of the food industry! As a cheese monger at Pastoral, I finally work with the love of my life – a gift from the gods with ancient roots. I care for the cheese as if each wheel is a child in a high-class nursery – only I also get to taste the babies. ALL OF THE BABIES – including this Truffle Tremor goat cheese.
I’m sure my honeymoon phase will come to an end, but my first couple of shifts were outstanding. I’m learning more than I can keep up with and my tastebuds are forever changed for the better – as long as I can keep up eating like a complete snob. Obviously eating the cheese is the best part of the job, but working with the customers is a close second. I learned enough this weekend to recommend some favorite cheeses of mine, the crisp Prairie Breeze and creamy Roquefort. I also suggested some finocchiona, a fennel-laced salami, to join the cheeses. The ecstatic looks on these people faces as they sampled each of my suggestions was heartwarming and fulfilling. After a long timeline of miserable jobs that, this is unbelievable.
On Saturday, I was lucky enough to work alongside a representative from Cypress Grove. She was sampling out two incredible chèvres, the Humboldt Fog and Truffle Tremor. For those of you who are new to fancy cheese, Humboldt Fog is perhaps the most nationally recognized artisanal cheeses and for good reason, but I’ll get back to that in another post because the heat of the last days in August are perfect for the Truffle Tremor (pictured below).
This ripened goat cheese is laced with Italian black summer truffles, creating an explosively savory cheese experience. What’s most remarkably is how the flavors of this cheese build. A clean freshness dances on the palate, followed by a bright herbal notes and then BAM! Earthy truffle heaven. This baby is as seductive as Megan Fox in the first Transformers movie but with the elegance and sophistication of Grace Kelly. If you get your hands on this beauty, grab a glass of sweet port wine and enjoy.
As a graduate of today’s economy, I’ve been faced with the harsh reality of my naïve childhood dreams melting away under the burning sun of reality. I’m cursed with creativity, which was adorable when I was a child but is all but useless on my resume. Thus, I am caught in a vicious limbo between the practical “suck it up and find a boring desk job” and the ideal/nonsensical “I’m going to follow MY HEART”.
In an attempt to find some sort of direction, I’ve begun working as an intern at Plate, a magazine that caters to chefs. The opportunity combines my love of food with my passion for writing and my video skills. I get to edit videos of sexy demos, write short articles on cheese and talk to chefs from all over the country. It’s absolutely perfect for me, but the reality of finding food writing job in this economy… yeah that’s not likely. Now, fussing over a plate of food until it drips with sultry perfection, and then later write about said food? That sounds like a fantasy.
Looking for a way to take advantage of the bushels of rhubarb and fresh strawberries at the farmer’s market? This cake is perfect: delicious and refreshing and great for summer. I’ve always had trouble with baking up aesthetically pleasing treats, but this cake is actually pretty easy, albeit a little time consuming as it does have three parts. However, you can make the cake and the filling ahead of time, but be sure to assemble it no more than four hours before serving. Otherwise, the filling and the whipped cream will make the cake soggy. Also, be sure to allow the cake to cool completely, lest the whipped cream melt.
I suggest springing for organic cream – it really makes a difference here. I also doubled the whipped cream just for this post: my shortcake was definitely in need of extra whipped cream!
Click here for tips on slicing strawberries.