Cheese Tasting: Inaugural Edition
In my quest to learn everything there is to know about cheese, Saturday evening, I traveled to Whole Foods’ cheese department. There, located in a little basket, are remnants of random cheeses ranging in price from very inexpensive to somewhat inexpensive. Because of this basket, one can try various cheeses without truly breaking the bank. As you will come to find out, I am not too fond of this particular Manchego cheese, but luckily I only spent $1.70 on it, and not upwards of $10.00 for a normal sized chunk. I would recommend that you find a Whole Foods, or check your local market, and try as many cheese remnants as you can. I plan to do this as much as I can in the future.
Unless otherwise noted, a lot of the information included in this and future cheese tasting write-ups is taken straight from Cheese Tasting by Laura Werlin. So far, it has turned out to be a great read.
Now let’s get started on the cheeses…
Hollandse Chevre Goat Cheese
Style: Fresh Cheese
Category: Soft Cheese
Similar: Cream Cheese, Cottage Cheese
Country of Origin: Holland
Courtesy the cheesemaker:
Aged at least six weeks, Hollandse Chèvre is handmade from 100% goats milk and has a rich, nutty flavor. Its creamy, semi-hard texture makes it more versatile then most chèvres in the kitchen: it’s easy to shred, grate and melt. Adds full flavor to any dish. Imported from Holland.
Out of the three cheeses I tried, this one hit me hard. I fell in love with it the minute I tried it. Sure, I have had Goat Cheese before, but not like this and not in a chunk form. I normally buy it already crumbled. As is the case with most Soft, Fresh cheeses, this particular Goat Cheese, which is also known Chevre Cheese, was creamy, smooth and crumbly. Upon first bite you can experience the tangy flavor and then the awesome texture takes over. From there, the amazing finish lingers in your mouth allowing you to enjoy the cheese for minutes after your first bite. I could eat this cheese all night and hope to include it in a grilled cheese in the future.
Edam imported from Holland
Style: Semi-Soft Cheese
Country of Origin: Holland
Edam (Dutch Edammer) is a Dutch cheese that is traditionally sold as spheres with pale yellow interior and a coat of red paraffin wax. It is named after the town of Edam in the province of North Holland, where the cheese is coated for export and for tourist high season. Edam which has aged for at least 17 weeks is coated with black wax, rather than the usual red or yellow. Edam ages well, travels well, and does not spoil easily — these qualities made it the world’s most popular cheese between the 14th and 18th centuries, both at sea and in remote colonies. It is popular in North America, the Nordic countries, and many other countries around the world.
Edam cheese has a very mild taste, is slightly salty or nutty, and has almost no smell when compared to other cheeses. It also has a significantly lower fat content than many other traditional cheeses being approximately 28 percent with an average protein content of 25 percent. Modern Edam is quite soft compared to other cheeses, such as Cheddar, due to its low fat content.
If it weren’t for the awesomeness of the Chevre/Goat Cheese, the Edam would have been my favorite. As Ms. Werlin puts it, Edam has a taste that is mild but distinctive. It is soft and creamy but definitely has a nutty taste that lingers in your mouth for a bit. It is a very meltable cheese that would be perfect for a grilled cheese sandwich, where the cheese would be the star. I have already begun thinking about the perfect companion ingredients. Another winner in my book.
Manchego El Trigal made with Raw Milk
Style: Semi-Hard Cheese
Country of Origin: Spain
Courtesy CheeseFromSpain.com: (I suggest you visit this page and read everything contained within. It is very interesting.)
Manchego cheese is the most important and well-known sheep’s milk cheese in Spain. The shape of this cheese is very characteristic and defined, due to the traditional use of esparto grass molds which imprints a zigzag pattern along the side of the cheese. The small wooden boards used for pressing the cheese also imprints the typical wheat ear pattern on the top and bottom.
Manchego is an aged cheese, from semi-cured to cured, made only with milk from manchega sheep breed, unpasteurized or pasteurized. It is produced through an enzimatic coagulation. The paste is pressed and uncooked.
This cheese, although the most costly at $16.99/lb, was my least favorite of the group. Again referencing Ms. Werlin, she categorized this cheese in the “stand up and take notice” column and I definitely agree with that. The minute you taste the Manchego there is no doubt that you are tasting this particular cheese. Whole Foods made a point of putting “made with raw milk” on the label so I would assume that has some bearing on the taste. (There is a big debate brewing over raw vs pasteurized cheese.)I believe that to be part of the reason this particular piece of cheese was so strong and, well, raw. My father tried all 3 of these cheeses and made a point of saying he did not like this one. I will need to find a Manchego cheese that does not specific “made with raw milk” and see how that version compares to this one.
The entire time I was tasting this cheese, I went wavered on whether I liked the Manchego or not. I ended up in the not like camp, but that could very well change with another taste so I do not plan on giving up on this particular cheese just yet. It is cheese after all.
Located in this cheese are holes as a result of the bacteria that is added to the beginning of the cheese making process. As explained, the rind, shown above, has a specific pattern that I think is really awesome. Cheese rinds fascinate me. As I continue along this cheese journey, I hope to encounter more and more interesting rinds that have great and storied histories.
I would love for this to be an interactive experience. Please, if you have tried any of these three cheeses, or similar cheeses, please let me know your thoughts in the coments below. Maybe if I am able to create a schedule, I could announce ahead of time which cheeses I am tasting and then ask you out there in blog land to try the same ones and then write about them. Who knows?! I don’t want to get ahead of myself…