The Hubby has been fortunate in his travels, both domestic and international, to discover and sample delectable cheeses. On occasion, he has been able to bring these newfound cheesy treasures back home to me. As those who have travelled with cheese know, this can come at great odoriferous expense to one’s fellow passengers. Such was the case after The Hubby’s first visit to Blackberry Farms in the heart of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains a few years back. He surprised me with a wheel of Trefoil; a pasteurized sheep milk cheese with a funky, hand washed rind. Failing to mention he would be traveling by air, he packed his suitcase with the loosely wrapped, stinky cheese. His fellow travelers were not feeling so thanking him for the lovely gift even though I did. Remembering his malodorous experience from the past, The Hubby requested everything be wrapped up extra tight for the trip home this time. His luggage and I appreciated his gifts all the more for it.
It must have been a Passover miracle that, although we were Jewish, the Easter Bunny still left us baskets on the end of our beds every Easter Sunday. Not the dime-store, cheap-o ones with the gigantic plastic-tasting jelly beans, sparse sassafras looking all lame in the bottom just barely covering the one or two chocolate eggs, and generic Barbie either. These were giant, showcase baskets with Peeps of every color spilling over the side, diorama sugar eggs that were set aside and never really eaten, and caramel covered chocolate eggs, the pre-Cadbury Creme Egg that oozed caramel when I bit into them. And a REAL Easter Barbie in the middle. I was lucky. I was spoiled. I miss getting those goodies. Tim Gaddis, my pal and also Cheese House Manager of Many Fold Farm, played Peter Cottontail this year and sent a holiday sheep tote of goodies, including a wheel of Garrett’s Ferry and a pyramid of Condor’s Ruin. There was even a #travelingsheepshirt from the first lot made, which may be even than a Barbie!
Having long desired to create the perfect cheese, yet frustrated with the constant varying opinions of human artisanal cheese makers, The House Mouse looked to the next obvious experts for guidance. My own kind.
It is a known fact that mice are cheese conneseurs, so why not hire the best of the best to create America’s next artisanal cheese? The team is already hard at work discussing rennet, bacterium, milk choice, and aging process and while there have been a few minor nipping episodes, I do feel the process has gone rather well. Paws crossed for our first batch to be ready for tasting in 3-6 months…barring over sampling or rat infestation.
Happy Cheesy April Fools Day!
The House Mouse
Perail hails from the Aveyron region of France, where Roquefort is produced in a region that has a long history of sheep herding. There are many theories of how Perail came to be in existence. Stories range from the bloomy brie-like sheep’s milk wheels being created during low milk production, to shepherds holding back small amounts of milk from the larger Roqufort producers and creating the small pure sheep milk cheese in their homes for their families and neighbors. Whatever the stories and history may be, we are fortunate to have this tasty treat available to snack on now.
Perail is a pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese with a thin, bloomy rind and soft, pale paste. When young, the interior is more firm and mild in flavor and the grassy notes are very apparent. Allow it to get a bit more ripe, which is what I did, and the rind collapses a bit, the “sheepy” barnyard flavors intensify, and the grassy, buttery, and sweet flavors come alive. Pair Perail with a light white or sparkling bubbly wine or perhaps a crisp hard cider.
Happy Valentine’s Day from The House Mouse! When I tell someone I write about cheese, the inevitable question arises “What’s your favorite cheese?” and I can never name just one. My love for cheese, with all the varying milks, textures, seasonal options, really depends on my mood. Am I a fair-weather-fromage-lover? Oh, no. My love is so big and so deep, I would have to say that I love them all, in their own way. So, this Valentine’s Day, I say to all the cheeses, all over the world. I love you with all my heart. Stay cheesy, my dearest ones. Until we meet again…
Alright, so maybe not so much a professional, but I’ll take what I can get.
Marcella Wright and I started writing about cheese about a year before I did, in 2008 and once we discovered each other (thanks to the wonders of the internet) we became instant fromage friends. Having so much in common; our mutual love of all things cheese, we were and still are completely mad about our cats, we dig classic cars (I’m more into vintage, she likes the muscle), and we absolutely adore our hubbys. With all this in common along with all the travel we each have done, its crazy that we still have never actually met face to face. What is also crazy, while my humble House Mouse blog continues to attempt to find its footing, Marcella’s has not only grown, she’s turned it into a full-fledged website and become a staple in the cheese society, both figuratively and literally. Marcella is a long-standing member of the American Cheese Society and, as of 2013, a Certified Cheese Professional having passed the three-hour, 150-question exam that tests cheese knowledge in many areas from ingredients to cheesemaking to importing/exporting, maintaining quality, food safety, selling and serving cheese. Just a consumer and enthusiast like me when she started out, Marcella went on to work as a cheesemonger, trainer, and supervisor for Murray’s Cheese and opened over 50 of their Kroger locations around the country. I have learned so much over the years from Marcella through her writing and through email and social media conversations, which is why I am honored and humbled to be on her Cheese Professionals of 2015 list. Check out the post below and make sure to sign up to be notified about other posts highlighting some pretty spectacular (and probably more deserving) Cheese Peeps!
Here’s a picture of The Lady and The Late Spaulding Grey. Her inspiration for her former blog. We all miss this furry guy’s wit and wonderful palate. Stay Cheesy!
The Super Bowl is this Sunday, February 1st and it’s the second largest day in America for food consumption behind Thanksgiving. Chips and dips along with various bean, veggie, or cheese spreads are the go-to food choices to eat during the Super Bowl, followed by chicken wings, popcorn and pizza. I get that these are traditional treats, why stay with the old boring stand-by? Serve up some tasty Gruyère and Andouille Gougères and guests won’t just be cheering for their favorite team. What’s a Gougères? Simply put, it’s a small ball of puffed of savory French Choux pastry made with just flour, eggs, salt, water and cheese. The cheese most commonly used for these simple treats is either Gruyère, Comté, or Emmentaler, however various forms of Blue, Roquefort, and Stilton have been used in recipes as well.
Follow the recipe below and score a touchdown at your Super Bowl 49 gathering tomorrow. Stay Cheesy!
Easy Gruyère and Andouille Gougères
Recipe courtesy of: Epicurious
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp kosher salt plus more
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 oz Gruyère, grated
4 oz andouille sausage, chopped
Prep & Cooking Instructions
Preheat oven to 425° with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large saucepan, combine 1 cup water, butter, and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When butter has melted, add flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium; keep stirring until mixture has formed a smooth, thick paste and pulls away from sides of pan, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or to a large heatproof bowl.
If using a stand mixer, add 4 eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low-speed until egg is incorporated and dough is smooth before adding the next egg.
If mixing by hand, add 4 eggs, 1 at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until egg is incorporated and dough is smooth before adding the next egg. The mixture should be very thick, smooth, and shiny. Stir in Gruyère and andouille.
Use a tablespoon measure to drop dough into 1″ rounds about 1 1/2″ apart on prepared baking sheets. You should have about 24 gougères.
In a small bowl, whisk remaining egg with a pinch of salt. Brush the top of each gougère with egg wash.
Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 375°, rotate baking sheets, and continue baking until gougères are puffed and browned, about 15 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I used Kerrygold Unsalted Butter and Emmi Gruyère for added flavor. These were personal choices and not solicited brand suggestions. Do not be in a hurry after adding the flour or the Gougères will have a more dense texture. They’ll still taste great, just won’t have that light, airy feel that a true Gougères should have. Finally, ratio is important, so watch the amount of cheese (I should have listened to you, Michael Ruhlman…I’ll know better next time.)
Although a cheese purist at heart, there is just something about the flavor combinations Sartori Cheese infuses into their already-incredible BellaVitano that makes my taste buds happy. I always have a wedge of Espresso BellaVitano on hand for snacking as it is readily available at most stores in the area, however it isn’t as easy to find some other, Limited Edition varieties. Fortunately, Sartori graciously sent me a sample of their Peppermint BellaVitano which they made in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness. I also happened upon a small wedge of Rum Runner BellaVitano, a rare Whole Foods exclusive and a wedge of Limited Edition Cognac BellaVitano. Taking advantage of my good fortune and the opportunity to break in my new cheese board I received over the holidays from the my brother & sister-in-law, I set up a small afternoon snack.
For me, Espresso BellaVitano is just perfection and I could eat a wedge of it in one sitting. Roasted espresso ground semi-fine and then hand-rubbed into the crystally, sugary, sweet wheels of pasteurized cow’s milk cheese is a luscious mouthful of happiness. The flavor balance of salty, nutty, dessert-like cheese easily pairs with a cup of the finest coffee or espresso (of course), a glass of Cabernet, or a pint of chocolate stout. My sister-in-law and I really enjoy Espresso BellaVitano, however our guys, who are not big coffee drinkers, say they prefer to cut the rind off and just enjoy the cheese sans espresso. I don’t understand them or their twisted palates.
I hadn’t heard much about Rum Runner and neither had the mongers at the Whole Foods where I found it so I was not sure what to expect. There wasn’t anything on the Sartori website about it either so I went into this tasting blind. Made from the same base cow’s milk cheese as the Espresso, the Rum Runner is soaked in Heath Rum from North Woods Distillery in Coleman, Wisconsin. The rum gives the cheese a slightly sweet, toffee flavor, like a Heath Bar. Get it? I was worried the flavor would be syrupy or too intense, but it was surprisingly mild and well balanced. The natural flavors from the cheese still come through even after the 45 proof rum-soaking while the alcohol leaves just a trace of flavor. Pair this with a snifter of brandy or a hard cider by the fire on a cold winter night if you can find it.
Cognac BellaVitano has been my Sartori White Whale. I looked high and low for a wedge since November and only just found a very small wedge last week. When they say Limited Edition, they aren’t kidding around. Steeped for 7-10 days in Rémy Martin Cognac, the aroma of this cheese is intense and a bit intimidating. The flavors of oak, vanilla, and I detected a hint of orange are the first to grab the tongue followed by a silky smooth burnt caramel at the back of the throat. It’s very much like drinking a glass of really great cognac. I will say that a little of this goes a long way, so I’m fine with my tiny sample. I had a hard time pairing this one as it is almost a cheese and a beverage in one. I’m actually still at a loss and would welcome some suggestions.
Finally, the Peppermint BellaVitano. I was skeptical about this cheese when I first saw it and it actually frightened me a bit. Mint and cheese just did not compute in my brain, yet here it is on my board with its pink rind and the Sartori name…I had to try it. Someone in the Sartori Cheese R&D department must have been blessed with the Willy Wonka gene because Peppermint BellaVitano is amazingly delectable. It shouldn’t work, but the subtle hint of mint mixed with the sweet cream and salt of the milk fat just works in a fine flavor dance. Use it in a cheesecake or melted into a Monte Cristo sandwich as an extra kick. Pair it with a rosé or Beaujolais Gamay wine or even a Saison beer. Anything light and fruity would work.
I’ll still keep trying all of Sartori Cheese Limited Edition variations as they are introduced, including the newest one announced this past week, Citrus Ginger BellaVitano…if I can find it. I do like them all, but my favorite is still the Espresso BellaVitano. Probably a good thing since I can find it most anywhere I shop. Happy hunting and Stay Cheesy!
Over the past five years, I have written about cheese from the point of view of a cheese lover and enthusiast, wanting to spread the love of cheese far and wide. My story, while quirky isn’t new; child grows up loving cheese, only eats cheese, discovers there is more to food than cheese, still decides to write about mostly cheese. I have met some incredible folks over the years who I consider rock stars of the cheese world. People like Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s Deli and one of the most motivating speakers I have ever heard. Maitre Fromager and author Max McCalman; his books are my fromage bibles. James Beard Award-winning author Laura Werlin who sat next to me in a restaurant in North Carolina and it was awesome and I totally embarrassed myself by telling her so. Co-founder of Culture Magazine, Kate Arding, who recently opened her own shop called Talbot & Arding in Hudson, New York. Kate may be one of the most influential people I have ever met and she probably doesn’t even know it. Early on, when I began writing The House Mouse, Kate actually read my blog, commented from time to time and encouraged me to keep writing, even when I doubted myself and wanted to quit. There are so many others I have met, fellow bloggers, cheesemakers, etc. and after all this time, I realize something…I feel like I still don’t know much more than when I started about cheese. I mean, I know some basics, but after five years I feel I should at least have made my first batch of ricotta or be able to explain animal and vegetable rennet better. Nope. My fermentation education when it comes to cheese gets a C plus at best. So, The House Mouse New Years Resolution…a cheesy education. At least a better, more structured one. Now all I need is to know where to start. This is my question to my cheese peeps out there. I would love some guidance, suggestions, anything as to where I might begin. I have some books (see above) and I am already an American Cheese Society member, but there are no monger jobs in the area (a common suggestion) so any other suggestions would be great.
I’m looking forward to an enlightening new year full of fabulous fromage and fun factoids. Feel free to comment anytime and remember to Stay Cheesy!
The House Mouse
With Christmas fast approaching and Chanukah coming to a close it’s time to get serious about those gift-giving decisions. Fortunately, our friendly cheesemakers, cheese shops, and cheese websites can help play Chanukah Charlie and Santa by offering up some awesome swanky baskets, boxes and Cheese-Of-The-Month-Clubs to ship out to our loved ones. The Artisanal Premium Cheese Club is always a great way to go, but there are many more to chose from as well. Check out some of the fabulous fromage gifts below , but don’t delay today is the last day for shipping for a Cheesy Christmas delivery! Continue reading