With the party season coming into full swing, I thought this might be a great time to share a bit more about some of the things we’ve learned about fine cheese. It’s a very good idea to have some variety of cheese on hand any time, but for the next month or so it would be a shame not to be prepared for guests. Here is a list of some surefire winners to have on hand, all available in our specialty cheese shop across from the deli case.
Brie is the best known French cheese and has the nickname "The Queen of Cheeses". Brie is a soft cheese named after the French region Brie, where it was originally created. Several hundred years ago, Brie was one of the tributes which had to be paid to the French kings.
True French brie (for French consumption) cannot be exported to the US. Considered by purist to be the finest Brie, it is made with raw cow's milk -- and that's why these cheeses are unavailable in the United States. They don't meet our government's 60-day aging requirement for raw-milk cheese.
Brie that is exported to the US is produced from whole or semi-skimmed cow's milk. Rennet is added in to raw milk and heated to a temperature of 98.6°F to obtain the curd. The cheese is then cast into molds; several layers of cheese are filled into a mold and then kept for around 18 hours. After this the cheese is salted and aged for minimum of four weeks. Check this week’s ad for three featured brie cheeses, all worth having on your cheese platter.
Brie cheese is slightly pale in color with a grayish tinge under a rind. Its flavor varies depending upon the ingredients added while producing the cheese. In order to enjoy the taste fully, Brie must be served at room temperature.
Wines and Beers to pair with brie: Champagne, Montrachet, and Corton-Charlemagne. Beer lovers will enjoy wheat beers from Belgium and Germany, usually called weissbier or hefeweizen.
Cotswold is named after the picturesque region in southwest England, known for its rolling hills and lush pastures. Similar to Cheddar, it has a creamy, smooth texture that melts in the mouth. Chive and onions are added giving it a distinctive flavorful enhancement that melts well. Cotswold goes well with grilled meats, especially burgers, and on baked potatoes. Cotswold is served in pubs in England on toast or rustic bread.
Suggested Pairing: Brown Ale or Shiraz
Produced in the mountainous region of Auvergne, this cheese tends to be milder, creamier, less salty and more approachable than other French blue cheeses. Aged for about four weeks, it has a natural rind, often with some white surface mold. Typically buttery and moist, the flavor is spicy, but not sharp or biting. Hints of grasses and wild flowers prevail on your tongue. Serve atop a burger or in salads. Bleu d’Auvergne is wonderful warmed in a mushroom cap or crumbled on a meatloaf.
Suggested Pairing: Red Bordeaux or Porter
A Hardy French Gouda, The Mimolette is a most unusual cheese, spherical like an Edam but with a rough, moon-like surface and a bright orange interior. It resembles a melon when cut open. The texture is firm and oily and the color a vivid orange. With ageing it slowly hardens and dries and the color changes from carrot to orange-brown. It has a firm texture with a very nutty flavour and a thick brown-gray crust.
Suggested pairings: Chianti and Sangiovese and Port, Acme Brown Ale
Huntsman is the combination of two British cheeses: Double Gloucester and blue Stilton. It is a trademarked name, owned by the Long Clawson Dairy, which is located in Nottingham. The cheese is made by alternating layers of these two classics. The layering is done by hand and is a very labor-intensive process. The result, however, is a striking combination of fudgy, rich, tangy and earthy sensations. Because of its layering, the appearance is gorgeous on a cheese tray.
Suggested Pairing: Nut Brown Ale or Shiraz
Wensleydale with cranberries
Pasteurized cow’s milk is used in this handmade cheese. Drawn from cows that graze on sweet limestone pastures around the Yorkshire area of upper Wensleydale, the cheese is young, mild and clean, with a honey aftertaste. Wensleydale with Cranberries uses only all-natural ingredients. Great for a sweet dip, stuffed in phyllo dough, or on a beautiful cheese plate. This would also be delicious on a turkey sandwich. Wonderful crumbled in a salad with balsamic dressing.
Suggested Pairing: Lambic beer or fruit-based wines
Have a very “Cheesy” holiday season.