Tre Stelle Mascarpone Cheese

Today I opened our refrigerator to discover Mascarpone. My wife had planned to make some Mascarpone Filled Brownie Sandwiches for the holidays. In preparation, she purchased Tre Stelle Mascarpone cheese at Loblaws supermarket.

Tre Stelle Mascarpone Cheese

Tre Stelle Mascarpone Cheese

So what exactly is Mascarpone cheese? It is a fresh style cow’s milk cheese that originated in Italy. Well, technically it’s not cheese because it doesn’t use rennet or starter. It’s really clotted cream that has been acidulated to release its moisture. But let’s keep that detail between us. It is probably best known as the main ingredient of the popular Italian dessert Tiramisu.

According to Tre Stelle’s website, “Mascarpone is prepared in a similar fashion to Ricotta, but using cream instead of whole milk or whey. It is a soft white cheese with a smooth texture that is easily spread. It’s versatile enough to be blended with other flavours and is fast becoming a favourite in desserts and sauces, or served with fresh fruit.”

I think that’s a fine description … except for one small detail. It assumes you know how Ricotta cheese is made. So allow me to add a little more clarity here. To make Ricotta cheese – Heat whole milk to 180C, add acid (vinegar or lemon will do), wait for it to coagulate. Strain off the liquid then Viola! … you have Ricotta. Do the same process starting with cream and you get … Mascarpone.

Tre Stelle is a fifty year old Canadian cheese company that is very good at making Mascarpone. In 2011 Tre Stelle Mascarpone won “Champion” of the fresh cheese category at the Dairy Farmers of Canada Grand Prix Cheese Competition.

So what is inside that white plastic container? Removing the plastic freshness seal reveals a creamy white paste.

Tre Stelle Mascarpone Cheese

Tre Stelle Mascarpone Cheese

I stirred the cheese and stood a spoon in it to illustrate the density. It is thick but still easily spreadable.

Tre Stelle Mascarpone Cheese

Tre Stelle Mascarpone Cheese

What does Mascarpone taste like? It is rich, smooth, velvety and did I mention rich? It is sexed up Cream Cheese. It is a little sweeter, but not sugary. You can eat Mascarpone plain but I would recommend it as a spread on crackers, toast or a bagel. It is good with a fruit jam or fresh fruit. And, of course, it is a premium ingredient in frostings and desserts.

I should mention that this cheese is often mispronounced and misspelled Marscapone (Mars capone) instead of Mascarpone (Mas car po ne).

Even the folks at the Food Network mess it up sometimes.

Marscapone Fail - It's Mascarpone!

Marscapone Fail – It’s Mascarpone!

Tre Stelle Mascarpone is good stuff. I’m sure it was a factor in my wife’s Mascarpone Filled Brownie Sandwiches turning out so delicious!

Ossau-Iraty – Sheep’s Milk Cheese from France

Ossau-Iraty – France

I discovered Ossau-Iraty at C’est Cheese Please in Cambridge (Ontario, Canada). Ossau-Iraty is imported from France.

Ossau Iraty Cheese Sheep's Milk Cheese from France

Ossau Iraty Cheese Sheep’s Milk Cheese from France

This is a Sheep’s milk cheese that has held the French AOC designation (appellation d’origine controlee) since 1980. It is one of only three sheep’s milk cheese with the AOC status in France.

I found an informative French website at www.ossau-iraty.fr that describes the production of Ossau-Iraty. There are multiple producers of Ossau-Iraty. The cheese that I bought and tried from C’est Cheese Please was produced by Onetik, located in Macaye, France.

Ossau-Irity is produced in the Pyrénées-Atlantique department of the Aquitaine region of Southwest France.

Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France
Pyrenees-Atlantiques, France

It takes 5-6 liters of milk to make one kilo of Ossau-Iraty. Rennet is added to the sheep’s milk to form curds. The curd is cut and separated from the whey by heating. The curds are then pressed, drained and placed in a mold creating it’s final form. The cheese is salted and aged in Pyrenees mountain caves for over ninety days.

What does Ossau Iraty taste like? I found this cheese to be sweet, buttery and nutty with hints of toasted hazelnut.  It has a wonderful rich and smooth finish. As my cheese palette develops, I am appreciating sheep’s milk cheese more and more.

This cheese melts well. It can lift a grilled cheese sandwich or a cheese burger to the next level.  The French often accompany Ossau Iraty with black cherry jam. For a wine pairing, the C’est Cheese Please website recommends Sauvignon Blanc, Madrians, Pinot Noir, Chianti or Merlot wines.

Ossau-Irity is a very good Sheep’s milk cheese. For me, this is a benchmark cheese to measure other sheep’s milk cheese against. I recommend it.

Canada Cheese served on Canadian Trees

Experiencing and enjoying cheese involves more than taste and texture. There are the additional elements of time, place, accompanying foods, presentation and people. When all of these elements meld together perfectly the result is … cheese nirvana.

Today I am focused on the element of presentation after learning of Bill Major, a Canadian cheese board artist. Bill resides on the edge of Lake Simcoe in Ontario, Canada. He has a love for wood and woodcraft in a way similar to cheese makers. He takes a raw material (wood instead of milk) and creates something special. He has chosen to create cheese boards to satisfy his artistic passion.

Bill Major and his Rustic Live Edge Cheese Boards

Bill Major and his Rustic Live Edge Cheese Boards

Bill produces “live edge” cheese boards. These are basically slices of a tree trunk, bark and all. By cutting the tree this way it’s growth rings are exposed. Each ring represents one year of the tree’s life. You can determine the tree’s age, when it was harvested, by counting the number of rings.

Bill developed a special three month drying process to prevent the wood from cracking as it loses moisture. The boards are then sanded in preparation of the finishing process. In the same way that a cheese maker must tend to a cheese as it ages, Bill works the cheese board through a ten step finishing system. It is done by hand and it takes a week. The end result is a beautiful rustic functional cheese board that is moisture resistant and food safe.

I appreciate a good Canadian cheese and I think the appreciation is elevated when that cheese is presented on a nice wood cheese board … especially a cheese board made in Canada, from a Canadian tree, by an artist.

Live Edge Cheese Board by Bill Major

Live Edge Cheese Board by Bill Major

Bill has his cheese boards displayed at several retail locations which are listed on his website or you can email him directly at bill.major@rogers.com to purchase one.

Disclosure: I am not affiliated with this product. I just think they are nice.

Panda Cheese

I have done posts about cow cheese, sheep cheese, goat cheese, moose cheese and even Beaver cheese. But I had never come across Panda cheese, until today.

Panda Cheese

To find Panda Cheese you have to go to Egypt. Huh … what … say that again?

If you are thinking, hey aren’t Panda bears from China, not Egypt? Well, you are correct. It turns out that Egyptian Panda Cheese is not made from Panda bear milk. It is an Egyptian BRAND of cheese. It is made by Arab Dairy.

The Panda Cheese website is written in some Egyptian hieroglyphics that I don’t understand. But you don’t need to understand the Egyptian language to grasp Arab Dairy’s message – If you pass up Panda Cheese then there is going to be one bad ass Panda bear waiting to mess you up.

It’s an interesting marketing campaign. Believe me, if I come across some Panda Cheese I will definitely try it as opposed to suffering the consequence.

Jensen Brick Cheese with Onion and Garlic

Jensen Brick Cheese with Onion and Garlic

Jensen Brick Cheese with Onion and Garlic

I came across Jensen Cheese Company’s Brick Cheese with Onion and Garlic at the Grand Oak Culinary Market in Vineland, Ontario.

This Canadian cheese is made by the Jensen Cheese Company at their Wilton (Odessa), Ontario factory.  They have been making cheese since 1925 with three generations of family heading the company.

Trying a flavour enhanced cheese is always unpredictable for me. The cheese maker has a lot of latitude with how little, or how much, flavour enhancing they want to accomplish. I expected this cheese to be stronger than it it turned out to be. This is a mild “cheddar style” cheese with light seasoning.

Jensen Brick Cheese Onion and Garlic

Jensen Brick Cheese with Onion and Garlic

This cheese is made from 100% Canadian cow’s milk. Jensen Cheese uses microbial enzymes instead of animal rennet therefore this cheese is suitable for consumption by lacto-vegetarians.

The mild onion and garlic flavor is the result of onion powder and garlic powder ingredients. There are no chunks of onion nor garlic in this cheese. There are little flakes of green, which are chives.

The Jensen Brick Cheese with Onion and Garlic has a good density and texture, it is relatively moist and slices easily at room temperature. This cheese will marry well with a cracker. I tried it on some sourdough bread. That pairing did not go so well. The sourdough flavor clashed and competed with this cheese. However, on a plain Carr’s tablewater cracker the cheese remained the main event.

In my opinion, this is a flavored cheese intended for the cheese timid. Being tame makes it is a safe bet to serve guests.

Jensen cheese is well distributed in Ontario and can be found at many retail locations as well as their own company stores in Odessa and Simcoe, Ontario.

Cheddar Aging by the Cheddar Chief at Daniel’s Cheese and Deli

My cheese adventure has led me to Cambridge, Ontario for a meeting with the “Cheddar Chief”.

Daniels Cheese Entrance

George Batarsch is the owner of Daniel’s Cheese and Deli in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. He is also know as the “Cheddar Chief” by his Twitter followers. Displayed on the front door of his store is a sign proclaiming that Daniel’s is “Home of the Cheddar”.

Daniel’s Cheese and Deli is a small specialty store specializing in cheese, deli meats and dips but most notably cheddar cheese … Canadian cheddar cheese. He does carry cheddar imported from Wisconsin (The cheddar capital of USA) as well as Australia. But the cheese case was full of Canadian Cheddar cheeses and organized by age.

Daniel's Cheese Case

The Cheese Case at Daniel’s Cheese

George offered me a cheddar tasting experience of aged cheddars from 3 years to 12 years. I understand that the flavour of cheddar changes with age. But it was the chance to actually experience cheddars, from the same cheese makers at different stages of aging.

Daniels Cheese Cheddar Selection

Daniels Cheese Cheddar Selection

The Cheddar Chief has a passion for aging. He buys his cheese old and then continues to age it further in aging coolers set at optimal temperature. George explained that the conditions in which the cheese age is critical. If the storage area is too cold the cheese does not improve. It’s frozen in time. The cheese might be 8 years old but if it doesn’t mature because it’s too cold then you may be getting an 8 year old cheese that has missed a few years.

I could probably write an entire book describing and explaining the tasting experience that I had during a few hours pillaging George’s cheese case. But I’ve decided to boil it down to this … George has nurtured his cheddar from mild to wild and everything in between.

It was interesting to discover how the cheddar cheese texture shifted at different ages. As a rule, older was drier and more crumbly. I tried to determine my preference for texture alongside taste. Admittedly, I tried so many cheeses that I became a bit overwhelmed. The result? I left with a new appreciation of texture, but no conclusions. Texture is component that I will work to focus on and appreciate more during  future cheese tastings.

Three Year Organic Cheddar

Three Year Organic Cheddar

Did I come away with a favorite Cheddar cheese at Daniel’s? The answer is no. Because I truly liked them all and appreciated each one for it’s subtle difference. It’s like trying to decide which child is your favorite … it’s impossible. My kids are different and I love them each for their uniqueness. Did I love them more when they were younger or as they grow up? Again, impossible to decide because I love them at each stage. And so it is with Daniel’s cheddars.

My suggestion is to spend some time trying the Cheddar at each stage of aging, young through old. I think that is the only way to gain any perspective.

Thank you to George, the Cheddar Chief, and Daniel’s Cheese Store for that opportunity.

Castello Reserve Aged Havarti Cheese Review

Castello Havarti Aged Reserve Cheese

Castello Havarti Aged Reserve Cheese

I found Castello Reserve Aged Havarti cheese at Starsky’s Market in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. I always considered Havarti to be a sandwich cheese so I was intrigued by the fact that it was aged. The word “Reserve” usually means something special so I figured this was something I needed to experience.

The front label had the following description: “This matured and full bodied Havarti is studded with crystals that rouse the senses”. Say no more … who doesn’t want to have their senses aroused? I certainly do.

Castello Havarti Reserve Cheese Back Label

Castello Havarti Reserve Cheese Back Label

The back label says “Originally from Denmark, this fresh tasting cheese has been aged to become full-bodied and flavoursome.”  I am a little confused about the”fresh tasting vs. aged and full-bodied”. Those two terms mean opposite things to me and I was not quite sure what to expect.

At the bottom of the label is a tiny instruction “Open here”. I was thinking to myself that the wrapper would peel right open, like a Laughing Cow cheese pack. But not so. I pulled the tab only to reveal a second secret label. Very interesting.

Castello Havarti Reserve Cheese Secret Label

Castello Havarti Reserve Cheese Secret Label

Printed on the secret label is the following: “Castello Reserve Aged Havarti is a Danish matured hard cheese. This fresh tasting cheese has been aged to become full-bodied and flavoursome. It’s studded with surprisingly salty crystals that tingle the tongue. The sweet rounded flavour gives way to a rousing crispy bite that stimulates the senses. Best nibbled on with fresh slices of apple and a glass of Merlot.”

I have to say, I still had not tried the cheese at this point but I was excited and my expectations were set to very high.

Castello Reserve Aged Havarti is not a Canadian cheese. It is made in Denmark and imported into Canada by Arla Foods Inc, Concord, Ontario. The Castello USA website pronounces this cheese as the “World’s First Aged Havarti”.

Castello Reserve Aged Havarti

Castello Reserve Aged Havarti

So what does Castello Reserve Aged Havarti taste like?

The aroma; very mild and slightly buttery.

The colour; creamy pale yellow.

The texture; although the label says that this Havarti is a hard cheese, I found it to be pretty soft at room temperature.  This is not a spreadable cheese. But is also no where nearly as hard as aged Gouda or Parmesan. It’s pretty easy to squish between your fingers.

The crystals; I really was looking forward to my tongue being aroused by exciting crystals. Disappointingly, I had one heck of a time getting any crunch or tiny salt surprise. The piece of cheese I purchased was basically void of the protein crystals.

The flavor; Even though it is aged, this is a mild cheese. Set aside all the package hype about aging and arousing crystals and you are left with a mild, tasty cheese.

Fresh vs. Aged; I thought it tasted more fresh, than aged. Havarti is normally aged three months. The Reserve is aged nine months.

So how did I like this cheese?  It is a tasty, mild and soft textured cheese. It would be good on a sandwich. I would not use this as a stand alone cheese. In fact, after few bites I decided to enjoy the rest on a Daelia’s Pumpkin Seed and Rye Biscuit. That was a good paring. That biscuit had flavour and I felt that the cheese needed something to enhance it.

Castello Reserve Aged Havarti Cheese

Castello Reserve Aged Havarti Cheese on a Daelia’s Pumpkinseed and Rye Biscuit.

Admittedly, I did not try this with the apple and Merlot as suggested by the folks at Castello.

The conclusion: A mild cheese, satisfying but not exciting, best enjoyed when paired with something flavourful.