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…

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…

Gluten-Free Cheeses

Raw Milk Cheeses*

The internet brings the world together and makes it possible for people to “meet” who otherwise would never have the chance. Recently, through our blog and Twitter, The Lady and I met, Raquel Moran Tellez, the Export Manager for Ilbesa Cheeses.

Ilbesa is located in Benavente, in the Zamora Province of Northwest Spain, near the border with Portugal. Zamora is part of the Castilla y Leon region which is the largest Spanish producer of sheeps’ milk (30%) and sheeps’ milk cheeses (about 20%). This compares to the better known (in the US) La Mancha which produces about 2% of the country’s sheeps’ milk cheeses. There is evidence that sheeps’ milk cheese was being made in the region as far back as the Copper Age (about 4000 years ago). And while Castellano Cheeses don’t have the DO designation at this point; cheeses meeting the requirements carry the “Castellano Cheese” designation which reflects the superior quality of the region’s cheeses. This designation was established in 2010.

After a few emails and tweets, Raquel sent four of the Ilbesa cheeses to us to sample.

First, let me give you an introduction to Ilbesa. The company was founded in 1945 by Domingo Martin, a young cheesemaker with true entrepreneurial spirit. Today, the company is run by his grandchildren and employs 30 people. The company produces four cheeses; three made from sheeps’ milk and one that is a blended-milk cheese. These four cheeses have won more than thirty awards since 2000, including seven this past November at the 2010 World Cheese Awards.

All of their cheeses are Gluten-free and contain neither additives nor preservatives. The youngest cheese made from pasteurized sheeps’ milk cheese has a “Best Before” shelf life of six months. The other three cheeses have a “Best Before” shelf life of one year from date of production.

*The two sheeps’ milk cheeses which are aged six months and fourteen months are both made from raw milk.

Ilbesa currently distributes their cheeses throughout Spain via delicatessen shops and top-end restaurants. You can also buy their cheeses through a few supermarket chains. Ilbesa is hoping to expand their distribution into the US this year. After reading our reviews, you can contact Raquel through their website or by leaving a comment below and we will forward the interest to her.

Now, to the good stuff…

Please note: Because Raquel was quite generous and sent 500 grams of each cheese, The Lady enlisted three of her fellow cheesemongers, the Chef at her store and a few of the deli staff to also sample the cheeses and give us their tasting notes.

Young DM Sheeps’ Milk Cheese

The first of the four cheeses we sampled was the young DM Sheeps’ Milk Cheese. This cheese is made from pasteurized sheeps’ milk and aged three weeks. This cheese is creamy white in color with a clean rind. I would consider this a semi-soft cheese with a smooth, buttery texture. It contains eyes that are small, about the size of a sesame seed.

The flavor is sweet and nutty with a hint of sour. The saltiness of the cheese is of the right balance with the taste of the fresh sheeps’ milk, fresh butter and even a taste of almonds. The aftertaste is also well-balanced and leaves you wanting for more.

I’d suggest pairing this cheese with a piece of chocolate…

I give the three-week DM 3 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Luyan

This is the blended-milk cheese using both sheep and cow milks. This cheese had the least aroma of the four with only whiffs of the cow and sheep coming through. The texture is creamy and firmer than the young sheeps’ milk reviewed above. This cheese is brighter in color; almost an ivory with nice eyes throughout. The taste however, was quite appealing and this cheese was the favorite of a couple of our “tasters”. The notes we received on the tastes were mild, buttery and one person compared it to a Jack cheese. I tasted pepper and fresh cream. The cheese melted on my palate and left a lingering, satisfying aftertaste.

As with all four of the cheeses, the rind has the signature basket-weave that many Spanish cheeses have. Unlike the young DM, the rind has an olive color.

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

Aged Sheeps’ Milk DM

This cheese received high praise from the group and was the second favorite for most of the group. Made from raw sheeps’ milk, this cheese has a definite “Wow!!” factor.

The paste is straw-colored with more defined eyes than the first two cheeses. This cheese has a firmer texture and a low humidity dryness that you would expect from an aged cheese. The taste is nutty, with hints of both pepper and maybe nutmeg. The aroma is intense and the grass and sheeps’ milk are there; definitely a result of lack of pasteurization and quality cheesemaking. The aftertaste also highlights the grass and even a citrus taste.

This award-winning cheese walked away with a Gold Medal at the 2010 World Cheese Awards.

I give the Aged Sheeps’ Milk DM 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Mature Sheeps’ Milk DM

While all four cheeses were well-received by the group and your favorite Feline Foodie (that would be moi), this cheese was the runaway favorite of all of us.

This cheese, like the other four, has the zigzag, basket weave pattern on the rind which is an olive brown with some clean areas that show the ivory paste inside. Again, the eyes are bigger than the other three which would be part of the natural aging-process.

Also made with raw, sheeps’ milk, this cheese is aged fourteen months and as a result the flavors and aromas are the most intense of the four cheeses. The paste is drier and firm with little elasticity. The aroma has fresh dairy and clean, recently rained-upon grass scents with nuttiness and again a whiff of citrus. The flavor is intense, again with the fresh milk, butter and bell pepper, a favorite cheese taste for The Lady and me. The saltiness is perfectly balanced and the aftertaste has hazelnut and apricot mixed in.

This is one terrific cheese!!

I give Mature Sheep’s Milk DM 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving Suggestions: The Lady served these cheeses simply with crackers to preserve the integrity of the first tastings. Then after the notes were done, she added Dalmatia Fig Spread, Ficoco and Strawberry preserves to the board to compliment the cheeses. She also had a few green grapes which went well on the board. (The Lady believes that all cheeses go well with grapes. I concur.)

Wine Pairing: The Lady suggests a Spanish Tempranillo.

Beer Pairing: North Coast Old Stock

Source: Cheeses 1, 3 and 4 are made with sheeps’ milk (3 and 4 are raw sheeps’ milk); The Luyan is a blend of sheep and cows’ milk.

Awards: More than thirty since 2000, including seven at the 2010 World Cheese Awards this past November in Birmingham, England.

Reminder: These cheeses are not currently available in the US; but Ilbesa would like to change that. Please contact Raquel through their website.

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

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.

Curio Bay Pecorino

November 28, 2010

Curio Bay is located near the southern tip of the south island of New Zealand. It is best known for the 180 million year old petrified forest located there and also a colony of yellow-eyed penguins, the rarest of penguin species… I’d like to add that the yellow-eyed penguin is also the tastiest, which might explain the rarity… but The Lady thinks I’m being “rude”…ssshheesh… The colony consists of 1600 breeding pairs. The bay is also home to Hector’s Dolphin and Southern Right Whales can be seen offshore. All-in-all, a great place to be, unless you happen to have an aversion to cyamids which like to colonize on the whales… eeewwwww….

And it’s home to the Blue River Dairy, a sustainable and vertically integrated farm. Blue River owns its farmland; milks its own sheep; transports its milk to its own factory where they make cheese, ice cream and sheep’s milk powder.

Pecorino comes from the Italian word “Pecora” which means “Ewe”, although in the English language the word includes many other hoofed mammals. However, in the world of cheese… and that’s the only one that counts as far as this Feline Foodie is concerned… it means if the cheese has “Pecorino” in the name, you’ve got sheep’s milk cheese.  

Curio Bay Pecorino is made from 100% pure sheep’s milk and aged for at least five months. It has a natural rind and is white color with just a hint of yellow.

This pecorino is crumbly and salty with the tang of the sheep without the lanolin aftertaste that sometimes is found in sheep milk cheese. We enjoyed this on a cheese plate to savor the taste of the pecorino… and savor we did… this is one fine cheese.

I give Curio Bay Pecorino 3 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving Suggestions: On a cheese plate is never a bad way to go. This is also an excellent grating cheese and goes well with pasta and tossed into a salad as well.

Wine Pairing: An Italian Chianti is always a good choice.

Beer Pairing: New Zealand’s Croucher Crewing Company Pale Ale

Source: Friesian Sheep Milk

Awards: 2010 Champion of Sheep Cheese Award

Made from Raw Sheep Milk

Updated: January 2011: After months of problems with the FDA and State Regulators, Sally Jackson voluntarily decided to close her doors and cease her cheesemaking operation. For full details, please click here. 

Sally Jackson is one of the pioneer women of cheesemaking in the United States. In the last 70s, she obtained a grant from the Carter Administration to make cheese on their farm in the Okanagon Highlands of Eastern Washington, near Oroville. Sally and her husband Roger, raise sheep, goats and cows to make handcrafted cheeses. In the early days, they drove their cheeses to Seattle and sold them to restaurants, store and hotels, until they sold out. Now they stay home, make cheese, mostly to order, and ship via Fedex and tend their small herds.

At the 2010 American Cheese Society, The Lady attended a seminar about the history of Washington State cheeses. Sally Jackson’s Sheep Cheese, wrapped in chestnut leaves was one of the cheeses featured and on the sample plate.

The chestnut leaves that wrap this raw milk cheese are from a neighbor. The leaves are dried and then re-constituted when needed during the cheesemaking process.  The cheese is aged three months with a creamy outward area surrounding a crumbly inside. The leaves help the cheese retain its moisture.

Because the milk is raw, you can taste the grass pastures where the sheep graze. The cheese is mellow and has a sheep finish but in a wonderful way. As the Seattle “No Pets” Sheraton wouldn’t allow me to attend, I can only report what The Lady told me and she fell in love with this cheese. If she had to choose only one sheep cheese to eat the rest of her life, this would be the one…

The Lady, using my paws, gives Sally Jackson’s Sheep Milk Cheese  4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got to share…)

Serving Suggestions: Enjoy this cheese naked on a cracker and maybe just a touch of jam.

Wine Pairing: Chateau Ste Michelle Sauvignon Blanc

Beer Pairings: Maybe a bock.

Source: Raw Sheep Milk

Pecorino Toscano

February 12, 2009

Copyright Google Images 2009

Copyright Google Images 2009

This sheep’s milk cheese is milder than its more famous cousin, Pecorino Romano. It is a DOP-protected cheese made in Tuscany after a migration of Sardinian shepherds in the 1960s and 70s.

The young version of this cheese has a mild nutty flavor and makes a pleasant addition to a cheese platter; is excellent as a grilled cheese and can be added to recipes as a filling. It does not grate well because of its softness.

The more mature version does grate well and approaches the saltiness of Pecorino Romano. It also does well when crumbled on foods and in salads.

I give Pecorino Toscano 3 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving Suggestions: Slice this cheese and drizzle it with honey and add a slice of fresh pear. It is beyond wonderful.

Wine Pairing: Merlot

Beer Pairing: Brown Ale

Source: Sheep’s Milk

Pecorino Romano

February 12, 2009

Copyright montalbanosporkstore.com 2009

Copyright montalbanosporkstore.com 2009

Raw Milk Cheese

A hard, salty cheese that is generally used for grating, Pecorino Romano was eaten by the legionaries of ancient Rome. The recipe is the same today as it was then. Varro and Pliny, the Elder wrote about this cheese 2000 years ago.

This cheese is produced from sheep (the Italian word for sheep is pecora) raised on the plains of Lazio and Sardinia. Most of this cheese is now produced in Gavoi, on the island.

Pecorino Romano is primarily used on pasta dishes due to its salty taste; although the younger version makes a nice table cheese. As it ages, it becomes more salty and better suited for grating on highly-flavored sauces.

Roman families have a tradition of eating Pecorino Romano with fava beans on May 1stduring excursions in the Campagna.

This PDO-protected cheese, in addition to being salty, is sharp and aromatic. It’s color is chalky white; reminiscent of the stucco houses along the Mediterranean.

The Lady offers this cheese grated and blended with Asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano at the Cheese Kiosk. She also likes to sample it for customers to learn that it makes an excellent table cheese.

I give Pecorino Romano 3 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving Suggestions: As a table cheese, it goes well with rustic breads and grapes and figs. As a grating cheese, use it on full-flavored dishes such as bucatini all’amatriciana.

Wine Pairings: Chianti Riserva

Source: Sheep’s Milk