A bit of cheese history

If you want to learn how it all came about, you should listen to this podcast. Takes a small hour altogether, and think it is worth it. A bit of cheese history in other words.

So of you follow this podcast link you will have an entertaining hour of listening and become cheese enlightened as well!

Even pulling apart some of the established truths about the early days of cheese making. Where it all started stands firm, though.

Enjoy your listening.

Island Cheese

I’ve been traveling. To the Shetland Islands, Scotland. Not very typical cheese land, but still. I was there for other reasons than cheese, so I did not visit the only cheese factory there is on the island, Shetland Cheese situated in Skeld, a 45-minute-drive from Lerwick.
I did take a cheese platter at the hotel where I lived, though. All pasteurized and OK but not extraordinary. Rather mild.

At the local Tesco I found White Stilton which I had never had before. I will leave that for a later occasion. Th other cheese I found was from The Orkney Cheese Company. A 200g flow pack wrapped piece of cheese. Pretty sceptical this guy, but I’ve heard cheese from the Orkney Islands is pretty good. Well, the main cheese i have heard from but never tasted is Seator’s Orkney.

IMG_4229.JPG
I did not taste the Orkney Mature Scottish Island Cheddar until I arrived home. And I must admit as I have tasted it over a few days it brings out more each time. The only thing I cannot find is a nutty taste that the manufacturer says it shows. I am not able to detect it.

The Story

This cheese has a special story. During the last war the Orkney Island received some 60 000 servicemen that were based on the island. After a while 550 POW arrived as well. Not so much the POW, but the 60 000 servicemen posed a food challenge. The farmers were not prepared for this, but they had to step up production rather rapidly to avoid lack of milk, meat and local produce. That worked out fine.

But eventually peace arrived and all the servicemen went home. So did the POWs. The latter left behind them a beauty of a chapel that can still be visited. The former a huge surplus of everything farmed. Long story short, a cooperative was formed and a dairy built and inaugurated in 1946. The rest i history. You can find cheese from the Orkney’s all over Britain and maybe abroad as well, I do not know.
It is pasteurized I must admit. With only 26 members of this cooperative I think it should be possible the make unpasteurized cheese. It is matured for a while as well, so the risk of contamination is rather low I would reckon. Awarded PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) in 2013, something of which they are, quite understandably, very proud.

..and cooking..

Good for cooking as well as most cheaddars, should add a fine touch to any dish.

Taste

Rather milky I would say. Creamy texture in the mouth. Mild but with a lot of body and rather long for a pasteurized cheese. Distinct saltiness, but nothing like the levels you may find in blue cheeses. Rather balanced I would say.

To drink

They make whisky on the Islands, but I am not familiar with the style. If it has too much smoke it will definitely kill the cheese. So if whisky is your preferred pairing you should look for a very mild one. Ale would pair well, I am a fan of Bitter from my student days in Manchester. Otherwise a good cup of tea.

Did you know?

cropped-Header-tilpasset-cropping.jpgCheese is made from milk, the most common being cow, sheep and goat. But you also have buffalo (Mozzarella) and cheese from yak milk among numerous other varieties. Donkey as well. Further, different manufacturing and aging processes are used to produce the array of cheeses available today. Cheese is made by coagulating or curdling milk, stirring and (in some cases) heating the curd, draining off the whey (the watery part of milk that Norwegians boil into the famous brown cheese or «Geitost»), collecting and pressing the curd, and in some cases, ripening. Cheese can be made from whole, low fat, skimmed or fat-free milk, or combinations of these milks. In the US about one-third of all milk produced each year is used to make cheese.

Not all «cheese» is cheese

Some of the shredded cheese you can buy has added various types of flour, which means it’s not cheese but some other look-a-like product that probably melts well and is intended to give the impression of being cheese.

Salvadore Dali

Did you know that Salvadore Dalí was inspired by melting Camembert when he painted the classicThe Persistence of Memory a.k.a. Melting Clocks

Spring cheese wish list!

Well, not exactly a list, but still more to come.

Must admit that I am not very well versed in Spanish cheese. Manchego of course. And the I  once bought an insanely good cheese at the Malaga airport, Spain that is. I remember the taste, but have no idea of what cheese it was. Except that it was quite small, kind of portion cheese and relatively soft. Maybe it was  a little blue, as well, but that’s just speculation. However, it brings me to another cheese that is on my list, namely

Cabrales

Cabrales and Cider
Cabrales and Cider
Unpasteurized blue cheese from Asturias in northern Spain. It’s around the middle of the Spanish Biscay coast, just west of Bilbao. And a little inland. Are you going there, go visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao as well.  Enough of that.

Cow and cow and / or !

Basically a cow’s milk cheese, but it can also be mixed with goat and/or sheep’s milk. Especially when it is mixed cheese it has a strong taste. Anyway a very, very  good cheese, by all means. I do not have much experience with this cheese, but it is claimed that this is perhaps Europe’s best blue cheese. Hence obviously the interest from my side.

A DO-cheese. Or PDO in EU language. That is the origin protection. For example, should you make Cabrales, the milk needs come only from animals born and raised in Asturias, more specifically the mountains called Picos de Europa. As with so many blue cheeses this is also matured in caves. Limestone caves just up in the Picos de Europa mountains. Two to five months.

Originally, this cheese was wrapped in maple leaves. But that was previously. Now it is required that it is packed in dark green aluminum foil. Are you on a trip, then it may happen that you’ll find a cheese that is still wrapped in maple leaves. However, it is outside the rules, you know. Then you at least know it is an artisanal cheese.

Use

Good as it is so it is also frequently used for cooking. Including hot sauces, or just melted over grilled meat. But eat it plain. Some good country style bread with fresh figs, but also good with some quality salami or other regional dried sausages.

To drink

This cheese goes well with a mature, full bodied Spanish red wine. Local cider as well, or a somewhat sweet sherry. No, not Bristol Cream. Rather a Lustau VOS Oloroso 20 Years. Not cheap, but then it’s a good cheese, too.