Cheeses

Feta Cheese: Ancient & Awesome

Feta is one of the most ancient cheeses in the world. In fact, some claim it was the “first” cheese ever created. Since this was many thousands of years ago, we may never know the full story, but suffice it to say that Feta has witnessed every major world event since the foundation of human society. Wow.

Feta is very simple – a fresh cheese whose curd is pressed and then preserved in salty brine. Stored this way, Feta can last for months, which would have served ancient people well in the days before refrigeration.

Milk: Originally, Feta would have been made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. Today, most Feta in the world is made from milder cow’s milk, as it is more plentiful (Feta is very popular).

Taste: Because of its unique preparation, Feta is a very salty cheese. If made from sheep’s milk, it is also quite full-flavored (almost gamey). When made from cow’s milk, it’s still salty, but you won’t get that nice full flavor – you get mostly salt.

Texture: Since the curd is just lightly pressed together, Feta is very crumbly, and works beautifully as a topping to other dishes. When you put it in your mouth, however, high quality Feta will become quite creamy, not grainy.

Cooking: Feta melts well, turning soft, not gooey, and maintains its flavor when heated.

One way to serve Feta which will blow your mind is to mix it with fresh melon of any kind. It’s a life-changer. Check out this recipe, where we pair Feta, melon, and grilled Grouper (yes – FISH!) with Feta. If you think fish can’t go with cheese, this will change your mind.

Filed in: Cheeses

An Epic Battle of the Goudas

Just for kicks, we decided to have our own little Battle of the Goudas at Chez Erber. The final decision was made by a toddler, so that’s always exciting.

Beemster XO (right), with its deeper color, advanced crystallization, and brittle texture competes against Wilde Weide (left), with a more buttery color and firm but creamy texture.

The first contestant was the ever-popular (and eternal Cheesetique staple) Beemster XO, a 26-month pasteurized cow’s milk Gouda renowned for its deep butterscotchy flavor and dense, chewy texture. The second, a relative youngster, was Wilde Weide, a raw cow’s milk Gouda aged for about 15 months. Both cheeses hail from the Netherlands.

The big question is: will advanced age beat out raw milk?

Aroma: You can smell Beemster’s sweet richness a mile away. Your hands smell like butterscotch after you’ve handled it. Wilde Weide is more delicate so you don’t get that same aromatic punch. Winner: Beemster.

Texture: Beemster is chewy and crunchy, bordering on brittle. Wilde Weide is also super-firm, but raw milk makes it more creamy on the palate. Winner: Wilde Weide.

Flavor: Beemster is intensely sweet and savory at the same time, tasting of salty butterscotch. Wilde Weide is more subtle, still having butterscotch notes, but not so “in-your-face.” Winner: Wilde Weide.

Overall: For a more nuanced flavor with excellent creaminess, go for Wilde Weide. If you want an intense “a little goes a long way” experience, go for Beemster.

To make the final decision, I checked with the nearest 2-year-old child, who happens to be the exact same age as the Beemster we tested. Which did she prefer? The pictures speak for themselves.

The moment of anticipation. Which will she choose?

The moment of anticipation. Which will she choose?

The first bite. Not necessarily the method I'd recommend in good company.

The first bite. Not necessarily the method I’d recommend in good company.

Hmmm...

Hmmm…

The face says it all. The winner is... Wilde Weide! (at least for this toddler)

The face says it all. The winner is… Wilde Weide! (at least for this toddler)

Filed in: Blogging, Cheeses

Brebirousse, a Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing?

Brebirousse d’Argental is one of my all-time favorite cheeses, not least of all because it’s kind of sneaky. Why? At first glance (and sniff), one might think this is a washed-rind cheese. But unlike cheeses that are rinsed in brine to foster the growth of orange-hued, stinky bacteria, Brebirousse is a “simple” soft-ripened cheese with natural color added to the rind.

Sheep’s milk makes Brebirousse sweet and rich, and its mold-covered rind creates an unctuous texture and heady fragrance.

But it’s NOT washed. Let’s just call it a sheep in wolf’s clothing!

(Pair with Champagne or lightish-reds like Red Burgundy or Cotes du Rhone).

 

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Burrata Beautiful

Burrata is a cloud of creamy goodness – a palm-sized purse of fresh cow’s milk Mozzarella filled with creamy curd. When you cut into Burrata, it is super-squishy, like cutting into a water balloon (see video below). The taste is all fresh cream and luxurious simplicity.

Burrata with Roasted Red Peppers

Burrata with roasted red peppers, chopped pistachios, olive oil and sea salt.

 

Feel free to adorn your Burrata with olive oil and Balsamic – or roasted red peppers and chopped pistachios as we did here. But honestly, eating it straight with a spoon is also lovely!

Filed in: Cheeses

5 Reasons Halloumi is One of the Coolest Cheeses on Earth

Halloumi cheese (sheep & goat milk from Cypress) is one of the coolest cheeses on earth. Here’s why:

1. It has a crazy shelf-life (brine-soaked, it almost never goes bad)
2. Its salty flavor and chewy texture make it a perfect substitute for bacon (vegetarians rejoice!)
3. It squeaks when you chew it (yes, really)
4. Cook it in a hot pan or on the grill and it won’t melt (it just gets toasty and tender)
5. It’s been made the same way for over 1,500 years. Wowzas!

Watch our video for an intense slo-mo Halloumi flipping experience!

Filed in: Blogging, Cheeses

Blue mold gone bad… how to tell?

We received a great question on the “Ask the Cheese Lady” message board. Anytime you have questions, post them and I’ll get back to you!

Question:

Hi Jill
How do you tell or is there an easy way to tell when “veined” cheeses like Picos Blue, stilton, Roquefort and American blue cheeses go bad? I love these type cheeses but the flavor intensity usually means I eat a couple of times and then want to “pause” a bit but by the time I get back to them..well I am not sure if they are still edible, hence in the trash!
thanks in advance

Answer:

Hi there!

You have hit upon one of the great cheese questions! Since blue cheese is already intentionally moldy, it can be hard to tell when good mold goes bad. The best method is to watch the paste (the actual cheese part) of the cheese instead of the mold. It should be consistently colored throughout (some cheeses have a brighter white paste, some have more of a tan color, some are almost grayish). But the key is that is should be uniform. If most of the paste is white and the edges are turning brown, that’s a sign your cheese has passed. Likewise, if it begins to dry out, become rubbery, or develop cracks, let it go.

It can be hard to get through a big wedge of blue because of the intensity that you mentioned. I recommend taking home only what you can eat within a week, then come back and get more. That way, you’re not storing it too long. And speaking of storing, keep it unwrapped in a lidded Tupperware container (not plastic wrap). That will preserve it nicely.

Enjoy your cheese!

Jill

Cow vs. Buffalo Mozzarella

One of the most delicious and versatile cheeses on earth is fresh mozzarella. Things can get a little confusing, though, when we are forced to choose between cow and buffalo versions. Here’s a little guide to help you out.

mozzboth-smallerCow milk (left): While still very tender and mild, this mozzarella has a slightly tighter, springier texture. Its flavor is more mild than buffalo milk, and it will hold up better to cooking.

Buffalo milk (right): This version is more succulent and lacy in texture. Its flavor is more robust, which makes it great for eating at room temperature. When heated, it will liquify more easily, making foods like pizza soggy.

Once cut, the texture differences are even more obvious. The cow (top) has a tighter paste while the buffalo (below) is more lacy.

Each version has benefits. When cooking, I choose cow milk. When eating in a salad or with fresh tomatoes, I choose buffalo.

P.S. “Buffalo” here is not American bison. It is water buffalo, a cow-like critter which won’t crush you to death when you try to milk it 🙂

Filed in: Blogging, Cheeses

What makes a great cheese?

At Cheesetique we have hundreds of cheeses, each chosen for a specific reason, from flavor to color to story. With so many cheeses, how do we answer the question, “What makes a great cheese?”

I decided to go right to the experts: the amazingly talented folks of Cheesetique. I asked each one the simple question, “What makes a great cheese?” And here is what they said…

  • Thomas (Store Director): “Depth of flavor. It has an initial flavor that develops into something else.”
  • Charisse (Bartender): “Flavorful, not too funky.”
  • Ellie (Cheesemonger): “The perfect balance of sweet and salty.”
  • Ross (Server): “Flexible. Both physically and within the cuisine.” (I’m not quite sure what he means by “physically flexible” – does it need to be able to do a back bend?)
  • Angel (Manager): “Starts from the ground up and is taken care of every step of the way from the dairy to the creamery to the customer and gives you a sense of place.” (Angel wins for the most beautiful answer delivered so smoothly you would think he’d practiced it.)
  • Moe (Kitchen Supervisor): “To me, the texture. A lot of cheeses I don’t like just because the texture is wrong.”
  • Jeff (my husband): If it’s called “Mt. Tam,” “Beemster Gouda,” or “Shropshire Blue,” it’s a great cheese. (For the record, he had the most trouble answering this question. It was like pulling teeth. Perhaps Angel could tutor him.)

So that settles it. A “great cheese” has depth of flavor, lack of funkiness, balance, flexibility, a sense of place, pleasant texture, and it may or may not be named “Mt. Tam.” There you go!

Blue… Before and After

Blue Before and AfterAlmost always strong in aroma and flavor, blue cheeses are salty by nature and can pack a serious punch. One of the many things I love about blue cheese, though, has nothing to do with its flavor.

Cheese is truly alive, each delectable piece chock-full of healthy bacteria and/or mold. This is why cheese should never be stored in tight plastic wrap – it will literally suffocate. Nowhere is this more apparent than within blue cheese, which is filled with the very mold that grows on bread. Living happily within the cheese, it bides its time until it is exposed air. Then… BOOM!

Cutting into a new wheel of blue cheese is one of the surest ways to watch cheese life in motion. On the left is a wheel immediately after being cut in half. Notice the presence of the “veins” of mold, but also notice that they are more yellowy-green than blue. BUT, mere minutes later, after they have taken some nice deep breaths, those same veins have exploded in color, giving blue cheese the name it so rightly deserves.

So, the next time you need a reminder that (good) food is life, grab a hunk-o-blue and dig in!

Filed in: Blogging, Cheeses

What’s in a name? For cheese, a lot!

You can't steal Stilton's thunder - it's protected.

You can’t steal Stilton’s thunder – it’s protected.

The appearance, aroma, flavor, and texture of a cheese reflect its ingredients, place of origin, and preparation techniques. So it should come as no surprise that producers take the cheese’s identity very seriously. Some were lucky (or smart) enough to have been name-protected, which is much like a trademark here in the United States. In these cases, a cheese has to be produced in a specific way – and in a specific place – in order to be named a certain way. This is why you will never find Roquefort made anywhere in the world other than the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, France. Other famous examples of name-protected cheeses are Camembert, Stilton, Manchego, and Gorgonzola.

Some über-famous cheeses, however, did not get the memo about the importance of protecting their names. This is why anyone… anywhere… can make Cheddar or Gouda. In these cases, the name doesn’t indicate anything other than basic flavor characteristics that one can expect from the cheese.

In the world of cheese, a name can mean everything.  So, don’t be fooled by wanna-be “Parmesan” – it’s NOT the same as true “Parmigiano Reggiano.”

Filed in: Cheeses, Education