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.

Zerto Rotola Mozzarella Cheese Roll with Hot Salami and Pepperoncini

Zerto Rotola Mozzarella Cheese RollZerto Rotola Mozzarella Package

Zerto Rotola Mozzarella Cheese Roll

I discovered Zerto Rotola at Starsky’s Market in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. At first glance I thought it was a goat cheese because of the small log shape that is typical of goat cheese. But then I saw something red poking out of the ends. I picked up the package to examine it closer. Next I noticed some green stuff also poking out of the ends. My cheese curiosity was placed on high alert and I had to buy it.

Zerto Rotola is a product of the United States and imported into Canada by Finica Food Specialties Ltd of Mississauga. It is made by John Volpi & Company Inc. who have trademarked the name “Rotola“. In Italian, Rotola means “small wheel”. The Volpi Foods company is a family-owned, global food corporation and America’s oldest manufacturer of authentic Italian meat products, according to their website.

Zerto Rotola with Hot Salami Label

I unwrapped the Zerto Rotola Mozzarella Cheese Roll. It had a thin layer of hot Salami wrapped around the outside. I was half expecting it to fall apart or unroll, but that was not the case. It was neatly compressed.

Zerto Rotola Mozzarella Cheese Roll with Hot Salami and Pepperoncini

Zerto Rotola Mozzarella Cheese Roll with Hot Salami and Pepperoncini

I decided to slice the Rotola into pieces cut about 1/4″ thick to reveal an appealing spiral design. I imagine you could also stick a skewer in one end and eat this like a corn dog.

Sliced Zerto Mozzarella Cheese Roll with Hot Salami and Pepperoncini

Sliced Zerto Mozzarella Cheese Roll with Hot Salami and Pepperoncini

The Zerto Mozzarella Cheese Roll looked very attractive presented this way. It would be great as an hors d’oeuvre or appetizer. The beautiful thing is that it takes so little effort to end up with something looking so …. sophisticated. Open the package, slice, and serve. Love it.

What does Zerto Mozzarella Cheese Roll with Hot Salami and Pepperoncini taste like? The package says it is “The Genuine Taste of Italy”. I’m not sure about the “Genuine” part because I’ve never been to Italy. But it certainly does have an Italian flair. The spice of the hot Salami is smoothed by the mellow mozzarella. But wait … what about the Pepperoncini? That was the big surprise for me! I have mixed hot salami with mild cheese before, usually on a toothpick. It pairs well. But I have never paired either with Pepperoncini. The triple combination is wonderful.

What started as an impulsive curiosity has ended up being a great cheese product discovery for me. I really liked this one.

Disclosure: I am not affiliated with this product in any way. I just buy it and try it.

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.

Empire Cheese Handcrafted Four Year Cheddar Supreme

Empire Hand Crafted Cheddar 4 Year Supreme

Empire Hand Crafted Cheddar 4 Year Supreme

I discovered Empire 4 Year Cheddar at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario. The Empire Cheese Company is a Canadian cheese maker that began in the late 1870s. They’ve been making cheese ever since, for 135 years. I guess when you specialize in making something for that long you get very good at it … they have.

The Empire Cheese & Butter Co-op is the only cheese manufacturing plant operating in Northumberland County.

Northumberland County, Ontario, Canada

They use a traditional “open vat” method to prepare the cheese. They add no additives,  flavours or preservatives. It is all natural. They use 100% Canadian Milk.

Empire Hand Crafted Cheddar 4 Year Supreme

Empire Hand Crafted Cheddar 4 Year Supreme

What does Empire 4 Year Cheddar Supreme taste like? I was pleasantly surprised by the texture of the cheese. The Empire cheddar was creamier and more moist than I expected of a 4 year cheddar. Those are good qualities in my opinion. No crumbly, dried out cheese here. It was sharp, but not too sharp. It was very well balanced and had a terrific stable finish. All in all … I thought this cheese was excellent!

There are so many cheddar cheeses produced these days that I often find it hard to describe and distinguish differences. My family and I eat cheddar fairly regularly. We try different brands and we like nearly all of them. I really haven’t had a bad cheddar. Conversely, I have only had a few that I remember as being a standout. The Empire Cheese Handcrafted Four Year cheddar is a standout premium product.

Empire Cheese is sold through their factory store and various outlets in the surrounding areas. You can find an up to date list of where to buy by clicking their website.

Disclosure: I have no affiliation with the Empire Cheese Company. I purchased the cheese that I reviewed.

Cheesy Blasters Recipe

If you’ve never tried a cheesy blaster then you are missing out. It’s so simple and delicious!
So here it is cheese fans … the cheesy blasters recipe. Enjoy!

First you take a hotdog,

stuff it with some jack cheese,

fold it in a pizza!

You’ve got cheesy blasters!

Cheesy Super Nice High End Hotels

Do the words “Cheesy”, “High End” and “Hotel” go to together? The answer is yes … they do now.

I came across this article from Forbes Online that piqued my interest.

Cheese Caves Are The Newest Hot Hotel Amenity

Toca's Hotel Cheese Cave at the Ritz Carlton - photo courtesy of Ritz Carlton Toronto

Toca’s Hotel Cheese Cave at the Ritz Carlton – photo courtesy of Ritz Carlton Toronto

In summary of the article – The latest trend of the high end hotel chains is to provide cheese rooms for guests to enjoy.

Since I am a bit of a cheese lover myself, I have to say, this is awesome! I’m hoping that this trend gains momentum until every hotel has cheesy room service.

Cheese Book – Cheesemonger, A Life on the Wedge

Cheesemonger Book Cover by Gordon Edgar

Cheesemonger – A Life on the Wedge by Gordon Edgar, is the latest addition to my cheese library. Much of my cheese “home schooling” curriculum involves following cheese and food blogs. I found Gordon’s Cheese Blog, discovered that he wrote a book, and then found his book at amazon.ca.

I just finished reading his book this week and thought I would post a cheese book review.

Cheesemonger, A Life on the Wedge by Gordon Edgar was published March 2010. It is current. This is a chart of reader reviews of the book from Amazon.com.

Clearly, most people have enjoyed this book. Click the chart to read other reviews.

The cheese books that I have read so far have been cheese reference guides. There is nothing wrong with that. But those books are tedious to read cover to cover.  Cheesemonger – A Life on the Wedge is quite different. It is not a cheese guide, it is a story. It is the auto-biography of Gordon Edgar who is a San Fransisco based political activist, punk rocker turned cheesemonger. The book is filled with words, not pictures.

The book engaged me. The story is well anchored in reference to Gordon’s job as a cheesemonger. He describes his job through snapshots of his experiences with added insight into his perspective on it all. Occasionally the story slides away from cheese and moves toward his social and political views but those digressions are brief and they to help understand Gordon, the person, better. The book succeeds at capturing Gordon’s wit and good humour. I often found myself smiling at his quips, opinions and observations.

This book provides insight into the cheesemonger profession. Through his story I learned more about cheese, cheese retailing, cheese making and farmers.

I believe this book will appeal to most people working in the cheese industry. It is also a good read for cheese fans and curious bystanders to the cheese industry, like me.

I enjoyed this book.

Do you have any cheese book recommendations for me?