Ruminants Make Good Cheese

Where does cheese come from? The answer is milk.

Some people think cheese only comes from cow’s milk. The reality is that there is a heck of  a lot of cheese made from other ruminants. In fact, the best cheese comes from ruminants.

You ask – What the heck is a ruminant?

A ruminant has a four compartment stomach which is capable of efficiently digesting grass and fiber. Ruminants can subsist by grazing. Cows, sheep and goats are ruminants.

When a ruminant has finished eating, the food is brought back up and rechewed. This is called chewing the cud or rumination. Ruminants make a lot of gas in their stomachs and belch about once every minute. If the belching stops the stomach swells with gas.

A non-ruminant mammal has a single chamber stomach and are called monogastrics. Examples of non-ruminants are humans, dogs, cats and pigs. Non-ruminants do NOT make good cheese.

There are about 150 species of ruminant. The population of domestic ruminants is greater than 3.5 billion, with cattle, sheep, and goats accounting for about 95% of the total population. I guess that’s why 95% of cheese is cow, sheep or goat.

Canada has 13,945,000 cattle. No I didn’t count them. That statistic comes from wikipedia. Canada has the 9th highest cattle population in the world. Canada is also ranked in the top ten countries of consumers of cow’s milk and cow’s milk products per capita (2006).

Sheep – Google Images

Stats Canada estimated that there were 825,300 sheep and lambs on farms in Canada as of January 1, 2008. While less than 2% of the world’s milk output comes from sheep, its composition makes it more nutritious than cow’s milk, and easier to digest.

Goat – Google Images

In 2001, Statistics Canada reported the Canadian goat population at 182,151. That was a 45% increase since 1996 in goat population. Goats produce approximately 2% of the world’s total annual milk supply.

Water buffalo, Reindeer, yaks, and even camels are other ruminants that provide milk for cheese in some regions of the world.

So there you have it. It is probably more than you wanted to know about ruminants but it does help explain why pig cheese is so unpopular.

Cheese and Sleep

My teenage daughter came to me with a strange cheese question. She asked if eating cheese could keep you up at night.

Can't Sleep

I told her that I’ve never come across any Red Bull cheese, so in my opinion … no.

She quickly rebutted … It turns out it was a loaded question. She had come across some cheese related information on a beauty website she was browsing. The website was Foods That Affect Sleep Habits – Sleep Inducing Foods – Real Beauty. To quote the site:

Toss and Turn: Aged Cheese

If a nap is in your future, steer clear of Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, and other hard cheeses (basically, all the yummy smelly ones!). The high levels of the amino acid tyramine are known to keep you up.

I had suspected that cheese would make you tired, not keep you awake.

This prompted some online research regarding cheese and sleep. Now I’m more confused than ever. Some people claim cheese keeps them up and some claim it makes them sleepy. There were opinions, and evidence, supporting both views. Some people on Yahoo Answers were even claiming that blue cheese gave them vivid dreams.

I’m not sure what to believe. My research ended up inconclusive.

That leaves me with only one option … eat more cheese and take more naps until I figure this out.

I’ll make the sacrifice and report back on my findings.

How It’s Made – Goat Cheese

I discovered an excellent YouTube video describing how goat cheese is made. The video points out some interesting facts about goat cheese manufacture.

Goats are milked every 12 hours. The milking takes three minutes and produces three quarts of milk. I would have thought that a milking would take longer. Those goats give milk like it’s coming from a spigot!

The magic temperature to heat the milk to kill bacteria is 66 degrees Celcius.

They add 0.6% salt to the cheese to slow aging.

Soft goat cheese has a shelf life of two months. However, they suggest the cheese has a shelf life of just one week after being opened.

Soft goat cheese has twice the protein as cow’s milk cream cheese. The soft goat cheese has 1/2 the fat, 1/2 the cholesterol and 1/3 the calories of cow’s milk cream cheese.

I didn’t realize the goat cheese was a healthier choice. Now I’ve got to eat more goat cheese.

Cheese Makes Popcorn Even Better

Cheesy Popcorn

Cheesy Popcorn

I always made popcorn in the microwave. This summer my children made a visit to their grandparent’s and they experienced stove top popcorn. When they returned from grandma’s house my kids decided that we should make popcorn the “old fashioned way”.

That prompted us visit to our local kitchen supply store … Goulda’s Kitchen. The kids directed me to a fancy popcorn maker … a Whirley Pop.

Whirley Pop Popcorn Maker

Whirley Pop Popcorn Maker

I have to admit … the Whirley Pop popcorn maker does a good job. My kids have fun standing near the stove, turning the crank, and listening to the ping, ping, ping of popcorn kernels popping.

When we visited our local Loblaw’s supermarket to replenish the popcorn I noticed Kernel’s White Chedder Cheese Popcorn Seasoning.

Kernels White Cheddar Popcorn Seasoning

Kernels White Cheddar Popcorn Seasoning

The next batch of popcorn we made got a healthy dose of White Cheddar Seasoning.

What does Kernels White Cheddar Popcorn Seasoning taste like? It’s cheesy and salty. Unfortunately, it is a far cry from real cheese. The cheese is processed into a very fine dry powder. It works best if there is a little moisture on the popcorn to enable the cheese dust to stick. I found that you need a fairly liberal amount of White Cheddar seasoning before it begins to flavour the popcorn. The nice thing is that you can add as little or as much as your taste prefers.

Our cheesy home made popcorn tastes similar to Smart Food Popcorn.

Smart Food White Cheddar Popcorn

Smart Food White Cheddar Popcorn

I consider the home made version better because the White Cheddar topping can be added to warm popcorn. Warm popcorn beats cold popcorn every time.

I’ll have to do some more experimenting and see if I can find a way to combine real cheese with popcorn in some delicious way. I would love to create some Beemster XO or Blue Haze popcorn.

Cheddar Popcorn

Our Cheddar topped popcorn experiment was a success. Cheese does make popcorn taste better.

Tom Green and a Genius Cheese Idea

According to an article I saw recently on the website Tom Green has a genius idea. The article explains:

Tom Green is planning to use cheese to lure celebrities to stay and chat on his comfy couch in the first ever online show covering the Gemini Awards.

“I have decided I want lots of cheese,” says Green, in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., where he was performing five nights of standup.

“Jason Priestley is going to want to stay and talk when he sees all these delicious cheeses.”

Now this is clever. I bet it will work. Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before?

In the off chance you don’t know Tom Green, he is a Canadian comedian and actor. I was a little perturbed at him when he married Drew Barrymore because he moved in on her so fast I never really got a chance. But I’m over that now. So I wish Tom the best with his career.

I wonder what kind of cheese Tom Green will serve to his guests? If he has a really boring guest then the cheese can rescue the show. Maybe he will switch up the cheeses with each interview and try to match the cheeses to the guests. This could go in so many different directions.

In summary … I think it’s a very clever idea. Maybe Genius. We’ll see.

Cheese as Art? – You Betcha

Whenever I see some cheese I think – I wonder what it tastes like? Evidently I’m a shallow thinker because when Troy Landwehr sees a pieces of cheese he thinks – What amazing sculpture can this cheese become?

Hey, I don’t make this stuff up.

Check out this YouTube video of Troy, a champion cheese carver, turning a 1,200 pound block of cheddar cheese into the Statue of Liberty. The entire process is captured with time-lapse photography.

If you don’t think cheese carving is popular then you might be surprised to learn that this YouTube video has 866,000 views (as of this post) and is approaching 1 Million views. That’s almost as many views as my blog (OK, I made that part up).

I have a feeling that this cheese carving thing might be about ready to go viral.

I don’t know if Canada has a cheese carving competition. If not, I’ll have to start a movement to get one going because we would not want Canada to be unrepresented in the World Cheese Carving Competition … if there is such a thing.

Is Blogging about Cheese Worth the Effort?

The short answer is – yes, so far.

I am really enjoying this blogging thing. Since I started my cheese adventure I’ve been motivated to try many cheeses for the first time. Two of those are now personal favorites; Ovinsardo and Niagara Gold.

Ovinsardo Cheese

Niagara Gold Cheese

It takes a little work to research each cheese that I am writing about. But the information that I am discovering has its rewards. I like that there is a story behind each cheese. It adds a dimension of pleasure in the same way that my University Art History class gave me an understanding and appreciation of art. It made viewing art … well … more pleasurable.

The same goes for the cheeses that I have tried. Most of them taste good, but somehow they taste better when I understand where they came from, who makes them and what makes each cheese special.

I also find it interesting to review the statistics from my blog and see what search terms people are keying that bring them to the blog. The top three search terms that people have used to find my blog so far are Poutine, Cheese and Kinder Egg.

The top 5 most popular topics so far are:

#1 – Chevre Noir – Canadian Goat Cheddar

# 2 – Mac’s and Cheese – Cheese Boards

#3 – Devil’s Rock Creamy Blue Cheese

#4 – Oka is Okay by Me

#5 – Sao Jorges Cheese from a Small Island in the Atlantic Ocean

The most popular click through on my blog so far is the link to fellow cheese blogger Madame Fromage.

My purpose for starting the blog was to keep an online journal and share it with anybody that might be looking for similar information. The reward for sharing is that I am getting the benefit of useful comments and emails from many people. Most appreciated are the ones recommending more cheeses to try or pairings.

One reader familiar with the Sao Jorges cheese suggested pairing it with banana. Evidently they do that in Portugal. It never came up in my research. Who knew?

I have not been doing this for very long, so I don’t have much point of reference. So far my blog has enjoyed well over 1,000 visitors with page views increasing steadily. I would never get to interact with so many cheese lovers in person which makes that statistic pretty amazing.

I’m sharing this information assuming that you might find it interesting. I’ll be back to cheese tasting, researching, photographing and writing real soon.

Niagara Gold is Buttery and Bold!

This weekend, I stopped in at Goat Inc. to look for some new cheeses to try. One cheese caught my eye on appearance. It was a beautiful deep gold with it’s glowing color making it a standout.

Niagara Gold Cheese

Niagara Gold is a Canadian made artisanal cheese produced by the Upper Canada Cheese Company located in Jordon Station, Ontario, Canada. They are located in the heart of the Niagara wine region. The Company was started in 2005 to produce Artisanal cheese from a nearby herd of Guernsey cows.

Guernsey Cow - Google Images

The herd of Guernsey’s supplying Upper Canada Cheese Company is one of only a half dozen Guernsey herds in Canada. The cows are unique to Canada and the resulting cheese is unique. Guernsey cows produce an extremely rich milk that makes wonderfully rich cheese.

The Niagara Gold cheese is a semi-soft, washed rind cheese. The cheeses are hand salted, hand turned and hand wrapped. They are cellar aged for five months.

How does Niagara Gold Cheese taste?

It has a smooth buttery flavour which transforms into a mellow earthy, nutty flavour. The Upper Canada Cheese Company website compares the Niagara Gold to Oka. I’m not sure that I agree with that. They are only loosely similar in my opinion because the Niagara Gold has much more pizazz. The gold color makes it stand apart. Niagara Gold is not pungent yet it delivers a fuller flavor. I simply found it more exciting than the Oka.

The Niagara Gold has instantly become one of my favorite Canadian Cheeses.

Woolwich Dairy Triple Creme Goat Brie

My cheese adventure has led me to try Woolwich Dairy’s Triple Creme Goat Brie.

I like Brie. Double creme is good, triple creme is even better. However, until now, I have only tried cow’s milk Brie. I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as goat’s milk Brie.

I found this cheese at a local Loblaws supermarket. I must be a sucker for nice packaging. The little wooden box looked so classy that I figured there must be something very good inside.

Woolwich Dairy is a family owned, and operated, cheese company located in Orangeville, Ontario, Canada. Their website claims that they are Canada’s largest and leading goat cheese producer. They have a 40,000 SF manufacturing facility which, by my standards, is pretty darn big. They bring in milk daily from 200 local goat farmers. The cheese plant has a viewing gallery where visitors can see cheese being made. It sounds like a road trip with my kids is in the near future.

Because I am only familiar with cow’s milk Brie I wasn’t sure what to expect. In the past, I’ve had some goat cheeses that I enjoyed, and a few … well not so much.

When you take the cheese out of the wooden container it is wrapped in white paper, just like cow’s milk Brie. Upon removing the paper it looks and feels like cow’s milk Brie. I let it stand for an hour to come to room temperature. I’ve learned that cheese almost always tastes its best when at room temperature. When I cut into the cheese it looked like the cow’s milk Brie I was used to, only a bit firmer.

Upon tasting it, I could not help myself from comparing it to cow’s milk Brie. There was more similarity than difference. It was milder and different, but not in a bad way.

The tasting was a bit anticlimactic for me. I’m going to have to do some side by side tasting with another goat Brie, or a cow’s milk Brie to really figure this goat Brie thing out. I didn’t love it nor did I dislike it.

I’m stuck with indifference on this Goat’s Milk Brie for the time being.

What exactly is an Artisanal Cheese?

Canadian Artisnal Cheese by Gurth PrettyI don’t own this book nor have I read this book … yet. But I have developed an understanding of what Artisinal cheese is and that makes me want to read this book soon.

Over time, I am trying to peel away the mystery and misconceptions of the cheese world by listening, learning and researching.

It wasn’t too long ago that I had no idea what Artisan, or Artisanal, cheese was. I thought it was a brand … don’t laugh. As the brand idea began to dissolve I surmised that Artisan described a cheese that was aged a very long time, like cognac, to give it that extra special flavor.

So now, as I begin to figure things out, and learn the vocabulary of the cheese world, I feel compelled to share. If you already know this stuff, bare with me. I’m catching up.

Artisan cheese is hand made versus manufactured or mass produced. It is cheese made in limited quantity with passion, skill and love by an accomplished cheesemaker. Like most things, when a person puts his best into his craft the result is superior. The Artisan cheeses, in theory, are more interesting, complex and exciting. The cheesemaker can get creative with his recipe, methods and aging to accomplish a more robust and flavorful result.

Farmstead cheese is an Artisnal cheese that is made using the milk from the cheesemaker’s own herd of animals.

The thing I find most intriguing about Artisan cheese is that behind each cheese is a person, and a story.