Vacherine Mont D’Or – Like Brie with Balls

Vacherine Mont D'Or

When I came across this cheese at the The Cheese Boutique I was informed that the “season was over”. Season? What season? I only thought there were four seasons.

But having tried Vacherine Mont D’Or I now recognize five seasons. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall and Vacherine Mont D’Or cheese season.

This cheese is a gooder (if that is a real word). For me, it was another step up the ladder of cheese nirvana.

Vacherine Mont D’Or is only produced between August 15 and March 15, and sold between September 10 and May 10. In other words, it is a limited edition cheese and this was the last batch available from The Cheese Boutique until next year.

Vacherine Mont D’Or is a cow’s milk cheese. In 1981 it earned a classification as an AOC (Attestation of Origin) cheese. This cheese is produced in Switzerland and France in the Jura mountain region. While researching this cheese I discovered a lot of  confusion about whether this cheese is of Swiss Origin or French Origin. It ends up that it is both, due to shifting political borders in the area where the cheese is made. I found a great online article which explores that subject in depth at Practically Edible.

Vacherine Mont D’Or should be served at room temperature whereby it becomes very soft. It can be eaten like a fondue. It literately oozes out of the rind. I hope you can see that in the picture.

But let’s cut to the chase. What does Vacherine Mont D’Or taste like?

Oh boy, I fell in love with this one. It has a smell that does NO justice to the taste. In fact, the smell was unpleasant to me. It’s a stinker and it smells RIPE. I’m not talking about a fruity sweet and good ripe. Nope this one smells like it’s rotten, take it to the curb, ripe.

Trust me, don’t let the smell stop you. The flavor is amazing.  It is rich and smooth with a unique flavor very distant from the smell. This stuff was addicting. I ate some and it confused my palette. It smells bad, it tastes good, how can this be? Then I had to have some more, to figure it out. Then I had more, and more, and more. I didn’t want to stop.

The only thing I really figured out was that this is one fantastic cheese. This is a cheese that I would serve to guests to WOW them. They will balk at the smell and then I’ll get to watch their legs go weak as they try it. I think Vacherine Mont D’Or is a cheese that you will not forget.

Here is a point of comparison. If you’ve tried Brie then Vacherine Mont D’Or looks like Brie. It is gooey-er than Brie. It is stinkier than Brie. It is Brie’s big brother … on steriods. Vacherine Mont D’Or is Brie with balls.

Try this one next season if you get the chance.

Here is the official Vacherine Mont D’Or website.

Frere Jacques – The Cheese, Not the Song

Frere Jacques Cheese

According to wikipedia: Frère Jacques is one of the most widely-known songs on earth, and it can be found many places in modern world culture.

It also happens to be the name of a Canadian cheese.

Frere Jacques is produced in Quebec by the Benedictine Monks at the Abbaye De St-Benoît-Du-Lac. I have already written about the Abbey when I reviewed Mont St. Benoit cheese. Check out that blog post for more information about the Abbey.

I found this cheese at the Goat Inc. Cheese Shop in Port Credit, Ontario.

The Frere Jacques cheese is a firm cheese that is made from cow’s milk. It has an orange coated rind. The cheese looks a little like Jarlsberg with it’s large air holes which are also called “eyes”. It has 32% Milk Fat and a 42% Moisture Content.

What does Frere Jacques cheese taste like?

It has a faint hazelnut flavor with a chewy, almost squeaky, texture. It is quite mild and it is a cheese that my children like. It melts nicely and would be a good choose for making a grilled cheese sandwich.

This cheese ends up ranking in the middle of the pack for me. But it does give me yet another reason to plan a visit the Abbaye De St-Benoît-Du-Lac in Quebec.

Chevre Noir – Canadian Goat Cheddar

Chevre Noir is a Canadian made goat cheddar produced by Fromagerie Tournevent in Chesterville, Quebec. It was developed in 1988 by a Louise Lefebvre. It was introduced to the market in 1989. Fromagerie Tournevent has subsequently been purchased by Damafro.

Chevre Noir - Goat Cheddar

This wasn’t the best cheese picture I’ve ever taken. In fact, I’ll admit that my picture doesn’t do the cheese justice. So here is a picture from Google Images that shows just how sexy this cheese is.

Chevre Noir - Image from Google Images

Chevre Noir is a lovely creamy white encased in an elegant black wax. It is a pretty good looking combination.

This cheese is firm, almost crumbly. It has a sharp taste with a bit of tang. I would consider it full flavored and definitely a cheddar. In fact, it tasted pretty much as I had expected with an extra bit of zip. Chevre Noir is aged for a minimum of one year. Upon researching the cheese, the consensus seems to be that it improves further with age. The Cheese Boutique ages it on site for three years.

Is goat cheese an acquired taste? I will admit that as I try more goat cheeses they are starting to grow on me. Don’t get excited … I’m not sending the cows home just yet.

This cheese still ranks behind some of my favorites like Beemster XO, Roaring Forties Blue Cheese and my recently discovered Niagara Gold. However, I am developing a new respect for goat cheese thanks to the Chevre Noir.

I think Chevre Noir is an interesting cheese for the cheese board. Most people like cheddar and Chevre Noir is cheddar with a twist … a good twist.

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.

Mac’s and Cheese – Cheese Boards

I have recently been enjoying all kinds of new and exciting cheeses. I’m convinced that cheese is enjoyed even more when it is presented well.

Does a fine wine taste better in a styro-foam cup, or in crystal stemware? It’s the same wine, but I’ll take the stemware. You get the idea.

Part of the pleasure of researching and blogging about cheese is that I’m getting “tuned in”. I am noticing things that I never noticed before. I am noticing the different ways cheese is presented for consumption.  Cheese looks very enticing when presented on a wooden cheese board. The calm, natural and rustic nature of wood compliments the cheese.

I came across a blog today with reference to Mac’s Cutting Boards website. They are specifically marketing and selling cheese boards. The boards look pretty nice. A classy, high end, cheese presentation board is now on my wish list.

Mac Cheese Cutting Board

Where’s the cheese? It would have been better if they actually showed a piece of cheese on the Cheese Cutting Board, but I can do the visualization. At least, if I need a grape cutting board, I know that they have that base covered.

I looked around  Mac’s Cutting Boards website to find out where these crafty folks are located … I couldn’t figure it out. There is no address on the Contact Us page. The Shipping and Returns page comes up blank. The About Us page lists no names or addresses.

Over time I have become used to buying things off of the internet. However, before I buy I need to establish some trust about who I am buying from. Mac’s Cheese cutting boards look nice, but until I figure out who these people are, I’m hesitant to lunge for one just yet.

Leave a comment if you know where I can find a nice high-end cheese board and I’ll share that information in a subsequent post.

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.

Blackburn Cheese from Jonquiere Quebec

Blackburn Cheese

I came across a cheese labeled “Blackburn” in the cheese case at a local Loblaws supermarket.

This cheese comes from the Fromagerie Blackburn in Jonquière, Quebec.

Jonquiere, Quebec - Google Maps

Jonquière is a city of 51,000 people located about 3 hours north of Quebec City. It is situated on the Saguenay River in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec.

This is a firm cheese that is 31% Milkfat with 39% Moisture. The milk comes from Holstein cows and it is aged six months to a year. The Blackburn cheese is made with thermalized milk.

This is the first time I have come across the term thermalized. According to curdnerds, thermalization involves heating milk only to 60-65 °C/140-150 °F for 15 to 30 seconds then chilling before re-heating at the start of cheesemaking. This process reduces the number of micro-organisms, but not so much so that the resulting cheese will be without flavor. The United States FDA considers this still to be raw milk, while the European Union considered it pasteurized.

What does Blackburn cheese taste like?

This cheese has more taste than smell. It has a nice texture. It is not overly dry or crumbly. It is more moist and softer than Parmesan Reggiano. I was able to shave off thin slices and slowly dissolve them on my tongue. I though it had a slight, pleasant earthy flavor. My daughter tried it and she thought that it tasted like fresh bread. When I tasted it again, with consideration of her comment, I had to agree there was a slight yeasty, doughy flavor happening as well. I also thought it had some hints of cheddar. At first the Blackburn cheese was drifting to salty, but as it dissolved in my mouth it settled without becoming too much so.

This is an interesting cheese. It would make a good conversation piece on a cheese plate. Because it is subtle, I think that most people would find it pleasant. It would be entertaining to see how different guests would describe it. I expect there would be a lot of “hmmm’s” and a few “I’m not quite sure” but ultimately the simple conclusion “it’s good”.

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.

Oka is Okay by Me

Oka L'Artisan

Oka is a Canadian cheese. It is made in the Province of Quebec, in the village of Oka which lies on the Northern bank of the Ottawa River just southwest of Montreal. Oka is a small village with a population of 3,300.

Oka Quebec - google maps

The Oka cheese that made the town famous has an interesting history. Oka cheese originated in 1893. It was derived from an altered recipe of French Port Salut cheese brought to Quebec from France by Trappist Monks. The cheese was made in a Monestary in the village of Oka. The resulting cheese was named after the village. In 1996 the Les Peres Trappists sold the rights of Oka cheese to Agropur. The cheese is still made in Oka but is also made in the town of Holland in Manitoba, Canada.

Oka L'Artisan

The picture I took of the Oka L’Artisan does not show the small air holes very well that are part of the character of this cheese. Here is a picture from Google images that shows the holes better.

Oka L'Artisan - Google Images

Oka cheese is classified as a firm cheese made from cow’s milk. It is a washed rind cheese with a fat content of 28% and a protein content of 22%. Oka L’Artisan is a variation of the traditional Oka. It has more honeycomb than the classic Oka.

Oka L’Artisan was the Grand Champion cheese of the Royal Winter Fair 2009. It also won a 1st place award in the 2009 American Cheese Society Cheese Competition in the category of Emmentaler Style Made from Cow’s Milk with Eyed Formation

How does it taste?

I found the cheese mild with a smooth and pleasant texture. It has a faint hazelnut and buttery taste. It is slightly nutty and slightly fruity. It is light and refreshing. I think it would be a good first cheese on a cheese board.

I have tried the Oka classic and I prefer the Oka L’Artisan.

Because the Oka is part of the Agropur product line it appears to be well distributed and available at most better grocery stores. The Oka L’Artisan is a pretty safe bet if you are looking for a cheese for your cheese board, or to serve to guests. You will also have a nice story to tell about monks, Monasteries and Quebec.

Oka L’Artisan is OK!