Saturday, August 28, 2010
I have found myself surrounded at work by some of the best cheeses available today in Australia - as you might imagine it has been sheer Hell!
Pure, tasty, delicious, Hell!
My lovely place of employment sell many other tempting foods that I am sure I won't be able to help but wax lyrical about some other time.
For now I am off on a Cheese ramble...
My introduction to artisan cheese has been a true revelation for me. I previously had only really tasted supermarket cheese, which pales in comparison to the 'real McCoy'. So to improve my knowledge and appease my rumbling tummy I have been treating myself to our delicious cheese. I have been so dedicated (greedy) tasting our products, I have pondered if maybe I should ask if I could get paid in food...and I do wonder if I can claim any purchases on tax next year...I am not completely serious you know...back to cheese -
While Australia is only "allowed to sell" cheese made with pasteurised milk, (there are exceptions) it is a law that we hope will change and soon. I imagine that the countries with unpasteurised milk cheese look down at pasteurised milk cheese like we might see our supermarket cheese here. I must tell you that until recently Supermarket cheese was the sum total of my experience. Supermarket products are a world away once you start to taste the real McCoy, there is no comparison between flavours. The bland plastic, waxy, fat they call cheese with its worrying and 'unnatural extended life' leaves me cold these days. I am more satisfied by buying a little piece of something utterly delicious than getting a slab of something mass produced that is lacking quality, and it is healthier that way. There are some exceptions here but mostly what you find in a supermarket is a sad reflection of what we have led our food producers to do to our food. We have encouraged a lack of respect and love for/of our produce and created a society which is so detatched from nature that 'the how we make it cheap' question does not even rate as an issue. I am biased, obviously, and I am not a fan of our supermarket culture...I will be kind for now though and I will spare you my "Not so 'Super' market" ramble for now...back to Cheese...again
If you are new to cheese and curious to know what the fuss is about, do yourself a big favour - when you find a good cheese seller, do feel comfortable enough to ask them for a taste! Unless it is 'outrageously busy', I am always encouraging people to try something, regardless of whether they are standing staring at our delicious range of cheeses or showing no interest in it whatsoever. I hate to push a sale and think I am lucky that our products are so good...I know damn well that after people experience quality cheese, once you take that step - you can never go back!!! Insert villians laugh here *
If you would like a good reference book on cheese, "Cheese" is a great choice. It is written by Patricia Michelson and is an inspirational reference book. Jamie Oliver wrote the foreword, describing it as like a "cheese encyclopedia". It is full of beautiful cheeses and written with contagious enthusiasm. She has such reverence for the land, animals and special, passionate people who create these cheeses. It makes me dream of getting a small herd of animals and becoming a cheese maker. Patricia also has some recipes and suggests the most suitable style of wine to accompany the different tastes of cheese. I Love this book!!!
La Luna Holy Goat is a beautiful soft goats cheese. It has a cute wrinkly soft white rind and its taste is quite complex for goats cheese and has a beautiful tang. It is undeniably goaty - so this might not be a great place to start if new to cheese. This cheese is made in Victoria (Australia) by Sutton Grange Organic Farm, and has won many awards. Fantastic!
Gruyere is one of my favorites at the moment, Patricia describes the flavour as savoury and almost toasty. I love the tiny little crunchy salt crystals that you get through this cheese. This is way too easy to like!!!
Yummy Blue cheese!!! We have strong 'assertive' blues, creamy, subtle blues, some are made of cows milk, some goat, and some lovely sheep blue too. The Fourme d'Amert, (cow) although it appears to look strong flavored because of the amount of blue bits...it is actually a subdued buttery blue.
The work and love that goes into the world's artisan cheeses is awe inspiring. Look at these pretty cheeses - it seems a shame to cut into some of them...almost.
Things to try if you are just starting-
A good cheddar like Montgomery Cheddar - you can't beat a good cheddar!
A washed rind such as Artavaggio or Taleggio - the centre has a fudgy texture, with mushroom nuances. The rinds have an earthy flavour and gritty texture.
A brie style such as Fromage de Meaux (when young the taste is creamy, as it matures the flavours get stronger)
Delice de Bourgogne is the most decadently silky triple cream cheese that melts in your mouth instantly, its soft white rind when ripe has a strong taste that reminds me of blue cheese.
Membrillo Paste 'aka' Quince paste is a favourite in our house, I have to hide this deep in the fridge if I want to keep any for me. I love this with almost all blues and creamy soft cheese - I have no idea if this is 'correct' but, each to their own.
When you do have a nice selection of cheese, remember to get it out earlier. 1-3 hours before you want to eat it...even earlier in cold weather. Cover with a slightly damp tea towel, this will stop any edges drying out. The flavours and textures are more apparent when it is left to come to room temperature. Psssst - don't forget some nice wine!
It is very important to remember that people can have very different taste to your own and your Cheese seller/fromager can help you choose the safe options or a more daring selection for your cheese platter - you should feel comfortable when in a good fromagerie to taste new cheeses - we want you to enjoy. I like to be a bad influence on people (getting them to indulge) I think Australians are put off by American style sales pitches and I think our products are so good I do not need to push - I just stand back, smile and relate to that look of bliss on a customers face.
Warning - to the uninitiated, the strong and stinky cheeses might put some people off for life. I have had and enjoyed some fairly smelly ones but there are some that I find way too much, they are repulsive to me but, they have fans that would wriggle over hot coals for a crumb...vive la difference! It is worth considering that if you are in a small room, like I was recently, and you have a slightly whiffy cheese out, it can become a little overwhelming. I will maybe save that choice for an outdoor 'do' next time.
Have a Happy Saturday night!
I hope your weekend is full of...tasty cheese...beautiful wine...and a good laugh!