Vegetarian-Suitable – Made using Microbial Rennet

A washed rind, sheep milk cheese made in the USA? Made in Missouri; the heart of Cow-land… how did this happen??? Luckily for all of us cheese nerds, a group of women own and operate a farm in the Missouri River Valley northwest of Kansas City… like I said… Cow-land…The sheep they raise are pasture-fed using strict rotation pasture feeding first developed in New Zealand. The Ladies of Green Dirt Farm, Sarah and Jacqueline, also believe in humane treatment of the animals they raise, allowing them plenty of room to roam and play with their friends and eating foods that are right for their bodies. The farm has received the “Animal Welfare Approved” Seal.

Now for the Bossa… a nova cheese for moi… This sheep milk cheese is washed as it ages giving it that distinctive funky, meaty aroma that The Man adores… The orange rind is edible, as are most washed rind cheeses, and inside is a mushroomy, nutty somewhat firm paste that melts in the mouth. With age it becomes softer and maybe a little gooey. It peaks in the 60-80 day range, so know your supplier.

When your guests start swooning, you can blame it on the bossa…

I give Green Dirt Bossa 3 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving Suggestions: On a cheese plate, it satisfies that “Something Stinky” position. Serve it with a warm baguette and a dab of apricot preserves. You can add it to a grilled cheese and you’ve got yourself a winner with a couple slices of prosciutto.

Wine Pairing: A sweet, dry wine.

Beer Pairing: ESB

Awards: 2009 American Cheese Society Winner

Source: Pasteurized Sheep Milk

San Andreas

Made with Raw Sheep Milk & Vegetarian Suitable Cheese

Fellow cheese lovers, The Lady’s new cheese gig is just about the best thing that ever happened to this Feline Foodie. Second only to the day The Brain deployed me to Burbank to assume the command recently vacated when the Mighty Mike Tyson was called home to the Mothership. My cheese fridge runneth over. The Lady told me there were thousands of cheeses made around the world and every time she goes away… she returns with gifts… cheese, of course. I pray The Brain allows me time enough to taste every cheese known to man including Yak Milk cheese… The Man and I are lonely when she travels but upon her return we are blessed… it doesn’t get any better than this…

Hidden in her luggage, along with the Bayley Hazen Blue, was a wedge from the California farm where our good friend Lenny works: Bellwether Farms. They make Carmody, another perennial favorite around the manse. You can read my review here.

This time she brought home San Andreas, made using raw sheep milk. This farmstead cheese is as smooth as Frank Sinatra’s croon and as full-bodied as Marilyn Monroe… my small homage to the time when singers were singers and women still had curves… but I digress…

With each sheep milk cheese we taste, The Lady and I become more enamored and San Andreas doesn’t disappoint. It’s creamy and mild with just a hint of sour on the finish. It might be likened to a pecorino from the Tuscany region of Italy.

The Lady served this with Divina Halkidiki Olives sprinkled with Sicilian herbs and to know one’s surprise… The Man swooned…

I give Bellwether Farms San Andreas 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got.)

Serving Suggestions: As part of a cheese plate, all you need to add are a few olives and rustic bread.

Wine Pairing: I would suggest a new blended red.

Beer Pairing: A blonde ale might make an interesting pairing.

Awards: 2007 ACS – Second in Class

Editorial Note: You can expect more 4 Paw ratings that I normally award. The Lady’s new job is exposing her to the crème de la crème of cheese… stay tuned… it’ll only get better…

La Tur

June 18, 2011

Recently, when asked what her favorite cheese is, The Lady replied, “Usually the last one I tasted.”  And this is the last one I tasted and it’s now a new favorite around the manse.

La Tur is a small, dense, creamy wheel of bloomy rind heaven made from a combination of cow, sheep and goat milks. The snowy rind resembles a brain… not to be confused with The Brain… and just inside is a cream line of gooey, decadent tang surrounding an earthy, lactic paste. The lingering after-taste is satisfying and remains long after the entire wheel has been devoured.

It’s small enough to be consumed my two humankinds and one feline foodie in one sitting… even though one of them is a bit on the selfish side and once more tried to get more than his fair share…

I give La Tur 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got). 

Serving Suggestions: All you need is a paw or if you’re of the humankind persuasion, a nice slice of warm baguette will do nicely. Nothing fancy, just some luscious cheese and a vessel to transport it to your mouth.

Wine Suggestion: Champagne or a Sparkling Wine

Beer Suggestion: Maybe a Dortmunder Export

Source: Pasteurized Cow, Goat and Sheep Milks

We love this cheese around the manse and reviewed it recently. You’ll love it, too. And finally it’s available in the U.S. Please contact Grand Prix Trading for more information. We also saw a blurb about this 2010 “Best New Cheese” while reading Culture Magazine yesterday.

With the Royal wedding looming on April 29th, The Lady decided to create a Cheese Plate for the Prince and his Princess-to-be… and for your own Royal Wedding Party on April 29th while watching the festivities live via cable and satellite. The Lady expanded the cheese plate to accommodate the guest list, in the event the Royal Family decides to follow her choices. For a more intimate event in your own living room, you might want to choose only 4 or 5 cheeses.

Most of these cheeses are available through Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. In Portland, Oregon, we suggest you contact the fine folks at The Cheese Bar in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood. In Seattle, we recommend Calf and Kid Artisan Cheese Shop on Capitol Hill or in the Ballard neighborhood Savour Specialty Foods. In Manhattan, visit Murray’s for most of these cheeses. You can also order cheese online from Murray’s.

The first group are cheeses I recommend but have not as yet reviewed.

Anne and Andy Wigmore’s Waterloo – Buttery at the edges with a fresher, lactic center. Oozes near the rind and becomes firmer at the center. Made with raw Guernsey cow’s milk and vegetable rennet. This cheese is made on the Duke of Wellington’s Estate in Riseley by Village Maid Cheese.

Charlie Westhead and Haydn Roberts’ Finn – Made with unpasteurized cow’s milk. Fresh and creamy with a rich double cream texture. Mushroom flavor develops as this cheese ripens. This cheese is named after the cheesemaker’s dog.

Greenacres Farm’s Golden CrossMade using raw goat’s milk and vegetable rennet. Velvety texture; goaty and citric with a sweet finish. This cheese is similar to St. Maure, which The Lady sells at her kiosk.

Laurel Farm’s Stinking Bishop – Pasteurized cow’s milk and vegetable rennet. It has a pungent smell with a gentle and subtle tasting paste. This cheese can ooze or run with age. This cheese was inspired by a cheese made by Cistercian monks in the English Village of Dymock. Although this cheese is indeed stinky, the name comes from variety of pears used to make the Perry solution used to wash the cheese.

Berkswell – Made with raw sheeps milk and traditional animal rennet. This cheese is rich, sweet and nutty with a pineapple finish. The texture can be grainy and depending on age, it can range from soft and moist to quite firm and drier.

The following group of cheeses for your Royal wedding Cheese Plate are all recommended and I have reviewed them. Click on any of them for my thoughts.

Appleby’s Raw Milk Cheshire from Neal’s Yard

Ford Farm’s Coastal Cheddar

Lincolnshire Poacher

Ford Farm’s Dorset Red

Shropshire Blue

Stichelton Blue

The Lady, The Man and I have our own Royal Wedding Party planned for the wee hours of April 29… along with a few hundred million others who will attend the festivities in their jammies in front of the tellie… to use an English term…

May the Prince and the new Princess be as happy as The Lady and The Man…

The island of Pag off the coast of Croatia is home to a special artisan cheese, Paski Sir. Paski Sir is gaining worldwide recognition quickly as it amasses award-after-award. In 2010, it won the prestigious Barber Award and was named the World’s Best New Cheese at the World Cheese Awards. That’s one hefty accolade.

Through this blog, The Lady and I met Simon Kerr, the indefatigable Marketing and Export Director for Gligora Dairy where Paski Sir is produced (Simon is also a Master when it comes to understanding social media). He graciously offered to send a sample our way and we were thrilled. After sampling it, we felt we had been granted membership in an exclusive club… those lucky enough to taste this exquisite sheeps’ milk cheese.

Before reviewing let me share more about Pag and the production of Paski Sir.

The Lady was in Croatia in 1978 when it was still Yugoslavia and Tito was alive and kicking. She didn’t get to Pag but the week she spent in Yugoslavia is one of her fondest memories. She loved every minute she spent there; the people were friendly; the countryside is beautiful; the cities old and stately. Her favorite was the Croatian walled city of Dubrovnik. She worked in the airline industry at that time and was invited to sit in the cockpit while landing in Dubrovnik; ahh, the good ole days of aviation… but I digress…

The Island of Pag is off the coast of Croatia in the Adriatic Sea and enjoys a perfect climate for cheesemaking. Its eastern landscape lies beneath the mainland Velebit mountain range which creates the Pag Bora, a strong, cool and dry wind that comes off the mountains. When it reaches the sea, it creates millions of tiny sea droplets that the Bora dries and turns the droplets into salt dust. Then the Bora deposits the salt dust on the vegetation of the island. It is here that the Paska Ovca Sheep grazes on the vegetation, their favorite being the Pag Sage growing on the rocky landscape.  The aromatic sage is quite prominent in both the scent and taste of this cheese. Paski Sir is a perfect example of terroir and cheese.

Paski Sir has been produced on Pag since the 7th Century during Roman occupation  and today there are several dairies producing this cheese (and many other award-winning cheeses as well). Currently the main producers of Paski Sir have formed a Cheese Association with the intention of obtaining Protected Designation of Origin for Paski Sir to impose strict condition for production. It would also ensure that Paski Sir remains a product of Pag.

In 2008, 2009 and 2010, Gligora Sirana Dairy won the coveted 3 star Superior taste Award from the International Taste and Quality Institute for Paski Sir.

The Lady, The Man and I enjoyed a wedge of this cheese one evening and although it started out as the appetizer; it quickly became dinner. The cheese was so satisfying we were unable to just taste one or two bites and the three us finished the entire wedge. I suppose we should be embarrassed but we’re not in the least. 

The piece we had was aged about one year and the color of light caramel. It has a dense paste with some small eyes, similar in appearance to a Manchego. When The Lady sliced the wedge, a floral aroma filled the air and promised more to come. The first taste is light but quickly develops into a strong, piquant finish. A finish that lingers and grows as you enjoy yet another slice. It crumbles and melts and leaves you begging for more. The taste is unique and because this cheese is thermalized rather than  pasteurized, most of the floral of the sage plant is still delightfully present which adds to the enjoyment of this cheese. As a point of reference because this cheese is not yet widely-known in the US, this cheese is moister than Manchego and not as salty as a Pecorino but has similarities to both.

The Lady and I decided after enjoying this cheese, we are firmly moving into the category of lovers of sheep milk cheeses. Like the Sally Jackson cheese The Lady tasted at the 2010 ACS Conference, the taste remains in your mind and you can almost taste it again with only thinking of it.

I give Paski Sir 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got). 

Sadly, Paski Sir is not currently available for sale in the United States but Simon told The Lady it should be available via wholesale through Grand Prix Trading of New York by mid-May, 2011. For further information regarding Paski Sir, please contact Simon via his Paski Sir Blog. Paski Sir also has a Facebook page you can “Like” and they Tweet as @PaskiSir. As I said earlier, Simon knows his way around the internet. His series “From Ewe to You” is informative and follows the entire production of Paski Sir from the Ewe to your table. You can win a wheel of Paski Sir – the details are on the blog.

Serving suggestion: Slice in triangles, leave the rind intact and serve this cheese naked to fully enjoy its flavor and taste. The Lady served the Paski Sir with a trio of Vintner’s Kitchen jams: Marionberry Jam with Port, Confetti Pepper Jelly and Strawberry and Pinot Noir Jam and VK’s Honeyed Wine Mustard with Garlic. She also had a peppered salumi on the plate and freshly baked French Bread.

Wine Pairing: The Lady enjoyed a glass of 14 Hands Merlot with this cheese although she suggests a Riesling would also pair well with Paski Sir.

Beer Pairing: North Coast Old Stock Ale . The Earthy sweetness pairs well with the salty tang of the Paski Sir.

Trivia: Pag lacework, also made on the island and used in the background of the Paski Sir label, was inscribed in the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.

FTC Full Disclosure – The cheesemaker/manufacturer sent me their product, hoping I would review the product/cheese.


Made From Raw Sheeps’ Milk

The third featured bleu cheese in the “Send Marcella to France” contest is the quintessential of French Bleu Cheeses: Roquefort. The first AOC-designated cheese, Roquefort received this protection in 1925, was mentioned in history as early as 79AD when Pliny, the Elder, spoke of its rich flavor… who knew, I’d  follow in the steps of one of the great as I sit here today “mentioning Roquefort”…

Legend claims that Roquefort was discovered when a young man, eating a sheeps’ milk cheese sandwich, saw a lovely lass passing by… he abandoned the sandwich in the cave where he sat to chase the girl. Time passes, the boy returns to find that the cheese has molded and voila… Roquefort Cheese was born. It’s almost always about women or money with humankind of the male persuasion… why am I not surprised???

Today, Roquefort is the only bleu cheese still made using the mold grown on rye bread. The mold, Penicillium roqueforti, is found in the soil of the caves where the cheese is aged. The bread is molded for several weeks, ground up and injected into the cheese. It can be added to the curd or later as an aerosol injected into the aging cheese. One of the AOC rules is that this bleu cheese must be aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. 60% of Roquefort is produced by Societe and that is the brand that The Lady sells at her kiosk. Prior to the AOC-designation, a small amount of cow or goat milk was added to the cheese. Now, the cheese is made exclusively from the milk of Lacaune, Manech and Basco-Bearnaise breeds of sheep.

The Lady brought a modest wedge home that she served in two ways. The first was at room temperature and schmeared on French (naturally) bread and then the following day she served a simple romaine salad with Roquefort dressing and Confit of Chicken, sautéed fresh veggies with pasta. This chicken dish came along after watching Emeril Live on the CookingTV Channel, a favorite around the manse.

Roquefort’s veining is more green than “blue” and makes a dramatic presentation. Simply put, this cheese is just as pretty to look at as it is to consume… well, that may be a bit hyperbolic, but not by much. This cheese brings such pleasure to the palate: it starts mild, moves to sweet, then smoky and ends with a salty finish… it just doesn’t get any better than this…

I give Roquefort 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving Suggestion: Schmeared on French Bread makes a perfect way to start a meal. You can make a perfect salad dressing using Roquefort or you can add it to tarts, pasta sauces and if you really want to impress family or friends, use it for a specialty mac n cheese.

Wine Suggestion: The Lady served a favorite of hers, Chateau de Sancerre.

Beer SuggestionBrasserie Saison Fantome

Source: 100% Raw Sheeps’ Milk

Trivia: Before the discovery of penicillin, it was common for shepherds to apply this cheese to wounds to avoid gangrene.

The Following cheeses and other items reviewed on the blog, all received 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got…)

34° Cracked Pepper Crispbread Crackers

34° Lemon Zest Crispbread Crackers

*34° Natural Crispbread Crackers

*34° Rosemary Crispbread Crackers

*34° Sesame Crispbread Crackers

*34° Whole Grain Crispbread Crackers

Abondance

*Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil

*Asiago

*Beecher’s Flagship Crackers

*Beecher’s Hazelnut Crackers

Beecher’s Extra-Aged Flagship

Beecher’s Flagsheep

Beecher’s Raw Flagship

*Beecher’s Flagship Reserve

*Beecher’s No Woman

Beemster Graskaas

*Beemster Mustard

*Beemster Vlaskaas

Beemster Wasabi

*Beemster XO

*BelGioioso American Grana

BelGioioso Burrata

BelGioioso Italico

*BelGioioso Parmesan

BelGioioso Provolone

BelGioioso Tiramisu Mascarpone

*Bellwether Farms’ Carmody

*Black River Gorgonzola

Cahill’s Original Porter Cheese

*Cambozola Black Label

Campo de Montalban

*Cantalet

Carr Valley Cows’ Milk Cheese Plate

Carr Valley Jenny Eye Reserve

Carr Valley Ten-Year Cheddar

*Comte

Consider Bardwell Farm’s Pawlet

Consider Bardwell Farm’s Rupert

*Cotswold Pub Cheese

Cougar Gold (WSU)

Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam

Crave Brothers Fresh Mozzarella

Crave Brothers Mascarpone

Cypress Grove’s Lambchopper

Cypress Grove Midnight Moon

*Denhay Farmstead Cheddar

Epoisses

Fair Oaks Farm Aged Gouda

Fair Oaks Farm Emmenthaler

Fair Oaks Farm Royal Blue

*Ficoco Fig Spread

Fiscalini Farmstead Premium Aged Cheddar

Ford Farm Rugged Mature Cheddar

*Fromager d’Affinois

Fromager d’Affinois with Garlic and Herbs

Golden Age Cheese Super Sharp Cheddar

Golden Glen Creamery Farmstead Butter

Gothberg Farms’ Chevre

Gothberg Farms’ Aged Gouda

Gothberg Farms’ Raw Milk Gouda

Gothberg Farms’ The Woman of LaMancha

Gothberg Farms’ Young Gouda

*Grana Padano

Greens of Glastonbury Organic Mature Cheddar

*Hawthorne Fred Meyer Meat Counter Has Got It Going On

Ilbesa’s Aged Sheep’s Milk Cheese

Ilbesa’s Mature Sheep’s Milk Cheese

*Ilchester Beer Cheese

*Ilchester Smoked Applewood

Istara Chistou

Istara P’tit Pyrenees

*Istara Ossau Iraty

*Kaltbach Le Gruyere

Kerrygold Aged Cheddar

*Kerrygold Butters

*Kerrygold Dubliner

Kerrygold Ivernia

Kerrygold Red Leicester

Kurtwood Farms’ Dinah

Laack’s Eight Year Extra Sharp Cheddar

Lapellah Restaurant

Le Timanoix

*Long Clawson Dairy Lemon Zest Stilton

Mauri Gorgonzola Piccante D.O.C.

Neal’s Yard Stichelton

*Old Amsterdam

Om Nom Nom Food Cart

*Parmigiano-Reggiano

*Parrano

Parrano Robusto

Pasture Pride Guusto

Pasture Pride Juusto

Piave

Portland’s Cheese Bar

President’s Comte

*Rembrandt

*Ricotta Salata

Robiola Three Latte

*Rogue Creamery Blue Crumbles

Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue

*Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue

*Rogue Creamery Oregonzola

*Rogue Creamery Rogue River Blue

Roth-Kase Bleu Affinee

Roth-Kase BrauKase

Roth-Kase ButterKase

*Roth-Kase GrandCru Gruyere

*Roth-Kase GranQueso

Roth-Kase Natural Smoked Gouda

*Roth-Kase Petite Swiss

*Saint Agur

*Saint Andre

*Salemville SmokeHaus Blue Cheese

Sally Jackson Raw Sheep Milk Cheese

Sartori Bellavitano Gold

Sartori Bellavitano Gold with Pepper

Sartori Foods’ Cheese Plate

Sartori Foods’ SarVecchio

Saxon Homestead Saxony

Sesmark Original Sesame Thins

Sweet Grass Dairy’s Thomasville Tomme

Tillamook 100th Anniversary Three-Year Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar

Tillamook Cheese Plate

Tillamook Cheese Curds

Tillamook Habanero

Tillamook Horseradish

Tillamook Ice Creams

Tillamook Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar

*Tsunami Sushi at Hawthorne’s Fred Meyer

Upland’s Pleasant Ridge Reserve

Vella Dry Jack

Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery Bijou

*Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery Crème Fraiche

Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery Cultured Butter

*Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery Mascarpone

Villajos Artisan Manchego

Widmer Cellars Aged Brick

Willapa Farms Two-Faced Blue

*Indicates Cheese is carried on The Lady’s kiosk or Cheese Island

Whole Foods’ Cheese Plate

February 17, 2011

The Lady and The Man stopped in the local Whole Foods to buy some White Truffle Oil and while there, The Lady couldn’t resist checking out the cheese counter. Whole Foods carries many cheeses that The Lady doesn’t carry at her kiosk. She went through the small morsel basket and came up with six small pieces she used to make up a Valentine’s Day Cheese Plate:

Before I begin, let me express a bit of disappointment that two of the pieces had mold under the label side although the dates were well in the distance. We all realize this can happen, but when cheeses are in the $10-$40 a pound range, you’d prefer to know they are freshly wrapped. Also, a couple of the pieces were on the dry side which also indicated more age than the label dates indicated… The Lady simply trimmed the mold away; but had these been larger sizes, she would have returned them. Do NOT hesitate to return cheese to your cheesemonger when you feel its quality is lacking in any manner…

Now for the cheeses we sampled:

Boschetto al Tartufo Il Forteto Coop: this semi-soft cheese from Italy is a mixed-milk cheese using cow and sheep milk and added to it are black truffles. The cheese is both sweet and savory with just a touch of salt. The truffles add a pleasant earthy and garlicky flavor. Neither the cheese nor the truffles over-powered the other and actually were complimentary. The Man was quite taken with this cheese, although he didn’t swoon… ($38.99 a pound)

Next on the plate was Cypress Grove’s Lambchopper: A sheep’s milk Gouda made in Europe exclusively for Mary Keehn’s Cypress Grove. In keeping with Mary’s sense of humor, her website states that this cheese is “Born to be mild”. This was the favorite of the three of us, particularly The Man who actually did swoon while eating this sample. The Lady had to go through the “Sharing is a Virtue” drill… This cheese was sweet and tangy and although mild, the sweetness lingers. This is a cheese that The Lady calls “Kid-friendly”. And it is Vegetarian suitable. ($27.99 a pound)

Tumalo Farm’s Rimrocker: Named after the rocky cliffs that surround Tumalo Farms, this semi-hard cheese is a mixture of organic cow’s milk from a neighboring farm and Tumalo’s own farmstead goats’ milk. As it ages, the flavor becomes more full-bodied. The piece we sampled was a little drier than we felt it should be and The Lady plans to buy another piece at another WF and taste it again before making a final decision on that issue. The flavor was mild with just the right touch of goat tang. ($21.99 a pound)

Leyden with Cumin from Best Uniekaas: Leyden in a Dutch Gouda seasoned with cumin and caraway seeds. In Holland it is called “komijnekaas” which means cumin cheese but due to its popularity in the region around Leiden, it is exported as Leyden. This was our least favorite; none of us cared for the cumin flavor in the cheese even though we love cumin in Mexican dishes… ($12.99 a pound)

Cordobes Mitica: A Merino Sheep milk cheese imported exclusively from Spain for Whole Foods by Mitica. This cheese is similar in taste and texture to Manchego which is a favorite around the manse. Again, this piece was a little drier than we like but the flavor wasn’t diminished by the dryness and with Vintner’s Kitchen’s Port Cherry Marmalade, the taste sensations were delightful. One thought about the Port Cherry Marmalade; a little less liquid would be better. The taste, however, was perfect; just tart enough and just sweet enough. ($16.99 a pound)

Reggianito Argentina from Provvista: The last sample was Parmesan from Argentina. Reggianito, which means “small Reggiano”, is a hard cheese similar to Parmigiano Reggiano and was first made in this South American country by the Italian immigrants who missed the parms of their homeland. This cheese is produced in smaller wheels rather than the huge wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano. It is aged 5-6 months and generally used in cooking or grated on pasta dishes. However, serving it at room temperature and as the last cheese of the plate was a perfect end to our cheese plate. The Man topped this cheese with a little dollop of Vintner’s Kitchen’s Raspberry Mimosa Gelee and then he swooned… ($9.99 a pound)

It’s actually hard to rate this cheese plate when the quality (due to post-cheesemaker care) of a couple of the cheeses is in question… but I’ll go with 3 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got). However, I have to give the Cypress Grove Lambchopper 4 Paws out of 4 Paws…

Villajos Artisan Manchego

December 27, 2010

Raw Sheep’s Milk Cheese

The Man’s BFF, Gary and wife, Nancy, gave us a wheel of Villajos Manchego Cheese from Spain. As discussed in the earlier post about Yorkshire Wensleydale, Manchego is also a protected status cheese both under Spanish law and the EU rules.

To be designated as Queso Manchego, the cheese must fulfill the following requirements: it must be produced in an area that is restricted to parts of the provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Toledo, which all lie within the La Mancha area of Spain; it must be made from whole milk of the Manchego breed of sheep that are raised on registered farms within the designated area; the cheese must be aged for a minimum of sixty days and a maximum of two years; and the cheese must be produced in approved cylindrical molds that look like a basket weave (the original cheese was pressed into baskets giving it the weave look). It may be produced using either raw milk or pasteurized milk; the raw milk version can add the designation of “Artisan” to the name of the cheese.

Most imported cheeses to the US are made from pasteurized milk because the rat ass bastards (again, The Lady’s opinion of the US Government types and not necessarily mine…) at the FDA are quite finicky about bugs and germs that might grow in raw milk cheese. The US law requires that raw milk cheeses be aged a minimum of sixty days to make sure the bad guys are dead… as reported in previous posts here about Estrella Family Creamery and Sally Jackson Cheeses, the FDA has “ramped up” their oversight of raw milk cheesemaking.

Villajos is made with raw Manchega Sheep milk and imported in 2.2 pound wheels by Tienda. This cheese is hand-churned and aged for about six months. It is firm and has a pleasant sharpness with lots of floral overtones and a nice, bitter aftertaste. This cheese is made in small batches by Beni, the Master Cheesemaker. Because Villajos is a family operation, the cheese isn’t available for large-scale commerce. Even though it has been on the market only about ten years, it has won many awards including Gran Seleccion Medal Winner in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006.

Raw vs. Pasteurized – the Manchego Test

Because the Villajos is made with Raw Sheep’s Milk, The Lady brought home a wedge of the Garcia Baquero Pasteurized Sheep’s Milk Manchego to do a taste comparison.

She allowed both cheeses to reach room temperature to maximize the flavors (most cheeses taste better at room temperature). She served the cheeses with Wellington Tradition Crackers and a selection of jams and spreads, which included a blueberry jam made by my BFF, Becky. Traditionally, Manchego when served as dessert is served with Membrillo, quince paste.

We tasted the raw milk Villajos first and the flavor exploded in our mouths and set our taste buds on edge; that’s a good thing. Then we tasted the pasteurized Garcia Baquero and the difference was staggering. The pasteurized version tasted flat; there’s just no other word to use.

The Lady sells the pasteurized version at her kiosk and she sells a lot of it and most of the customers rant and rave about how tasty it is. The Lady likes the pasteurized version; well, liked it would be a better term, now that’s she’s tasted the raw milk version. I feel a new mania coming on… the search for more raw milk cheeses and more taste comparisons…

I guess it’s true… once you’ve had raw; you never look at pasteurized the same way. The heat does indeed kill much of the flavor and that’s a shame.

I give Villajos Manchego 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving Suggestions: This raw milk cheese deserves to be treated with great respect: serve it on a cheese board to enjoy the flavors. A little quince paste or jam is fine; but just a schmear, otherwise the jam can overpower the cheese. Add a few slices of Jamon Serrano and you’ve got a meal. Marcona Almonds would make it truly complete.

Wine Pairing: Tempranillo always goes well with this cheese.

Beer Pairing: North Coast Old Stock Ale

Source: Raw Manchega Sheep Milk

Awards: Gran Seleccion Medal Winner in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006.

Bit of trivia: According to Spanish lore, Manchego was Don Quixote’s favorite cheese. Why not? Afterall, he was The Man of La Mancha.