What a wonderful time of the year for blue cheese

blue cheese

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year..” the Christmas prelude, aka advent, filled with anticipation – and stress, and planning and a lot of other things like buying Christmas presents and blue cheese of course. Blue cheese and also Edamer for some of us. What’s your favourite? I suppose you were singing those first few words above? Where I sit we’ve had a spell of very cold weather, then some snow which is now about 10 inch deep. Very christmasy. Well, this week-end we’ll have the traditional mild weather, so all the snow will go away. Typical pre Christmas.

Blue Cheese for Christmas?

So why is the blue cheese and in particular Blue Stilton so popular for Christmas? I think, generally, is has something to with the time of year, it’s winter in the northern hemisphere, we need something robust with fat and salt and lots of taste to protect us from the cold weather, the winter storms and the deep snow. Well perhaps not as dramatic as that, but still now is a rather cool and dark time of the year. Of course it adds to the pleasure or comfort if you like that this type of cheese pairs very well with sweet wines. Sugar – calories gives some sort of protection and comfort as well. When it comes to Blue Stilton there is another reasons as well, at least that’s how the story goes. The second growth – grass that is – is particularly lush and juice. Good fooder for the cows making extra good milk. Taken the time of the year for the second growth, the time for making and maturing Blue Stilton, ready for the market in time for Christmas. Due to the quality of the grass and consequently the milk this Blue Stilton was extra good. How the particular pairing with Port came about, I do not know. However Port is a strong, sweet and warming wine also particularly good throughout the wintertime. The cheese is fat and salty, the wine is sweet and has a high alcohol content which work well with the fat and salt in the cheese. A Christmas tradition was perhaps born?

There is white Stilton and there is Blue Stilton. A total of 7 dairies are allowed to make Stilton, only 6 of them can make Blue Stilton. Any Stilton can only be made of cows’ milk in the counties of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire or Leicestershire. Name comes from the town of Stilton in Cambridgeshire where the cheese first emerged, though in quite another style. Both types has a PDO and must be made with pasteurised milk (unfortunately).

Anything else, really

Of course, whatever you fancy. I would like an Edamer style cheese, very common where I live. A Brie, very good with bread for your Christmas brunches. A few firm cheeses such as Beaufort, proper Cheddar or, if you can get hold of it, Salers Tradition. And what about a meaty Munster. Well you cab have them all or you should choose a few according to your liking. But as I said, the Christmas staple food is blue cheese. You can also select a local one. I will. In addition to Stilton and a piece of Stichelton I will have to local blue cheeses: Fønix from Stavanger ysteri on the south west coast of Norway and Råblå from Grindal ysteri in mid Norway. Two handcrafted cheeses very well made by artisan cheesemakers. Both made of organic raw cows’ milk.

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I have bought myself a beautiful new Raclette grill

raclette
My raclette grill and a French version of the cheese from the Doubs

I must admit I have always thought of raclette as something very much belonging to the seventies. Most things tend to go in circles, at least what’s fashionable or not, and it seems like raclette is on its way back on to the dining tables. It’s a fine thing and it is a very social meal. Especially these days when we have hit november, it’s dark outside, the autumn has sort of ended but it is not really winter yet. November is something in-between, at least at the latitude I live. I was also inspired by a request from one of my followers to make one of my Thursday streaming one about raclette, I asked my cheese distributor if they had some. They did and off I went to purchase one. I love cheese and have not had raclette for more than 20 years i am sure, so I am really excited about this.

Raclette Grill not iron

When I say raclette you might think of these round irons or perhaps they technically are grills as well, that you put on the table in the midle and everyone around the table have their own “scoop” or spoon that they fill with cheese and put underneath to melt. No, this is different as you can se from the picture above. There is a grill element underneath the horizontal arm melting the cheese and then you scrape it off on to a plate filled with whatever you fancy to go with raclette.

As it is I am about to make a video how this works. I am so looking forward to inaugurate my grill. You can check out that later. The fine thing is you can use up to a half wheel, depending on the size of the cheese of course. That will definitely impress your guests. So where does this raclette tradition hail from? Some say Switzerland while others say France. I think most people think of Switzerland when raclette is on the agenda, but it might actually just as well be from France. My cheese in the picture is French. And it is a French word.

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I had high hopes for really good cheese in Mallorca

Spanish cheese

Sitting here in my hotel room just outside Palma de Mallorca while the rest of the family is out evening shopping. On the lawn by the pool there is a not all that talented crooner trying to entertain the dinner guests. From my point of view he’s more of a nuisance than being an entertainer. I’ll try my best to ignore the man. So going to Mallorca was decided back in March in a belief that by then the pandemic is all gone. Hardly, but we’re here. Norway is all open, no face masks, no social distancing. So it was sort of a transition coming here where face masks are mandatory whenever inside public areas. Strange how fast we got used to not wearing them.

All that aside. Cheese in Mallorca. I had high hopes finding local artisan cheese from raw milk of any kind. Spanish cheese is something I need to research more so this trip was part of the journey. From that perspective this was a hit and miss. Not that I did not find cheese, but not from Mallorca. Raw milk cheese that is.

Menorca, not Mallorca

I am well aware of the Mahón coming from one of the other Balearic islands, Menorca. Equipped with a PDO and is often made from raw milk, though not necessarily. Locally it’s often called Maó, that’s Catalan by the way. Made of cows’ milk, may contain both ewe’s and goats’ milk, but not on a regular basis. Reddish rind due to it being rubbed with paprika. The thing is, if you, such as me, want local cheese made with raw milk, you have to go for Menorcan cheese. All cheese from Mallorca is made of pasteurised milk, so I have learned these few days. That said, I might be wrong.

Lots of Cheese

I have found a lot of cheese, from all over Spain. From Cabrales to Idiazabal to Manchego and others not so well known. Others found I have recently had back home, like cheeses from Extremadura, so no need to purchase now. The Cabrales I want to taste as it looks younger that the variants I have found back home so far. The Manchego I tasted, it’s from the core area, tasted wonderful so I just had to buy some. Then there is a couple of Mahón varieties that I have not tasted for a long time. Some old acquaintances and some new. Some I might keep for a little, saving them for a course next month.

Where to shop cheese in Palma de Mallorca?

The thing is as I say above it is much the same, if you don’t mind the cheese being pasteurised there is a wider assortment on offer, of course. The most cheese I actually bought from Carrefour at FAN Mallorca Shopping next to the airport. Bus 23 will take you there. Fare is €2, pay to the driver. Mercat de l’Olivar at Plaça de l’Olivar has quite a few cheese stalls, but mind you, the market closes at 2 pm. We were late so they were all winding up for the day. More or less the same cheese all the way round, firm and semi-firm as far as we noticed. Nothing wrong in that, but Spanish cheese is so much more. La Creme Charcuteria, Carrer de Josep Tous i Ferrer, Palma de Mallorca. Rather elusive as we did not know about it, but our daughter cried out: Daddy a cheese shop! And by the way, they have a very good selection of cured ham as well. Pleasant service, got to be mentioned, for us Mallorca did not stand out with an open and friendly service, sorry to say. More like this 😐. Quite the opposite to what I have experienced on mainland Spain.

Any places to eat?

Many, and many good ones, we have not even tried a fraction. Will mention one from the list; OMBU. Tapas, Asian/Mediterranean fusion and lovely local wines. Service? Exceptional. For Paella, try Restaurante La Payesita. Family run, busy, very pleasant service, modestly priced and the most generous Orujo I ever had. In Can Pastilla 8 km ish east of Palma.

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Mont d’Or – all you wish for in a cheese?

Mont d'Or
Mont d’Or – quite simply

In pursuit of pleasure – that seems to be Mont d’Or. In the cheese world anyway. Somehow when one talks about a cult cheese it’s always Mont d’Or. There are various “king of the cheeses” but really only one cult cheese. For the Americans it’s possible Rogue River Blue takes that place. It springs to mind since the last edition has just been released. But as much as I love Mont d’Or, I must admit there are alternatives. More about that later.

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