Applebys Cheshire, Appreciating the greats, cheese tastings, english cheeses, raw milk cheeses, tasting cheese, Tasting the Greats

Appreciating The Greats: Applebys Cheshire

Cheshire cheese is one with great, if muddied, history. Some say it is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, some say it is not mentioned until 1580 and others say the cheese is nearly a thousand years older than the Domesday book, dating back to early Romans. Whether it be 500, 1000 or 2000 years old, it is a cheese of pride in England, particularly for the Appleby family in Shropshire, England.

While many makes of Cheshire are industrialized (because Cheshire itself does not hold PDO protection), the Appleby name guarantees the buyer that the cheese is still handmade, and clothbound, under the watch of head cheesemaker Gary Gray. The milk comes from the families Friesian Holsteins cows (Holsteins are the black and white variety we’re all familiar with) , which has a lower fat composition in their milk than any other breed.

Their cheese is currently being distributed by Neals Yard Dairy in England.

Tasting Notes:
Milk: Raw Cow
Brand: Applebys–from Neals Yard Dairy

Appearance:
  Rind: Clean, light tan. Faint remnants on the rind from the cloth it was wrapped in.
  Paste: Bright orange–colored with Annatto; Drier looking than many younger cheeses (aged under 1 year)

Smell:
  Rind/Paste: Both smell musty, like a basement. Likely due to the wedge being wrapped in plastic and not in cheese paper

Mouthfeel: Crumbly, dry.

Flavor:
  Rind: I skipped eating this one.
  Paste: Peppery, tangy, acidic–like sour cream.

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Appreciating the Greats: Pont l’Eveque

I knew that The Missus would say something about the smell, she tends to. The cheese sat, quietly in its box, for a week in our vegetable crisper before it began to waft through the refrigerator.  The smell was strong enough to touch your nose, even when you opened the door to the freezer. But, being accustomed to comments being made when I’ve hidden a washed rind in the refrigerator, I preempted her and said, “It’s my cheese,” when she opened the door.

Pont l’Eveque is said to have existed, though known by another name, since the 12th century. It is produced by only 6 makers in the Normandy region of France, which is also home to Camembert, and they share the same wild mushroom aroma and velvety texture. Aside from the smell, the bright orange rind, which is created through the process of washing, brushing and turning which encourages the growth of Brevibacterium linens–known as B. linens in the cheese world. 

Though around for over eight centuries, it did not gain AOC recognition until 1976. Today, that distinction requires the following in production:

  • The milk must come from a controlled area around the village of Pont-l’Évêque, extending to the départments of Calvados, Eure, Manche, Mayenne, Orne and Sein-Maritime. 
  • The curd must be successively divided, kneaded and then drained.
  • During affinage the cheeses must be washed, brushed and turned.
  • The resulting cheese must be one of three sizes:
    • Petit – 8.5-9.5 cm square, and a minimum of 85g of dry matter.
    • Demi – 10.5-11.5 cm by 5.2-5.7 cm, with a minimum of 70g of dry matter.
    • Grand – 19–21 cm square, with a minimum of 650g of dry matter.

 Because she was so vocal about this cheese, I invited The Missus to join me in my tasting.

Tasting Notes
Milk: Pasteurized Cow
Brand: L. Graindorge
Appearance:
     Rind: White, powdery-flour like rind with light orange hue underneath.
     Paste: Stark white, small eyes; young in age.
Smell:

     Rind: Mushrooms*, feet*, raw broccoli*
     Paste: Mushroom, hay
   
Mouthfeel: Creamy, but not runny, slightly firm at core
Flavor:  
     Paste: Slightly sour, peppery*, onion, hard boiled egg white. 
     Rind: Salty, nutty

*Notes from The Missus

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Appreciating the Greats: Comte

Comte is another French cheese, like Roquefort, to hold AOC protection and has done so since 1958. Those two cheeses however, are vastly different in make, composition and flavor profile.

Comte is made from raw cow’s milk and made in the Jura region of France, quite some distance from Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, and nestles itself closely to Switzerland.  So, it makes sense, that they would produce one of the most famous alpine, or ‘mountain’, style cheeses in the world and have done so for over 800 years. Though it is said to be the most popular and consumed cheese in France, it seems that Gruyere gets more love stateside, especially when being mentioned in recipes.

Because of its AOC protection, Comte carries the following requirements in its production:

  1. Only milk from Montbeliarde Cattle or French simmental (or cross breeds of the two) are permitted, and each must have at least a hectare of grazing.
  2. Fertilization is limited, and cows may only be fed fresh, natural feed, with no silage.
  3. The milk must be transported to the site of production immediately after milking.
  4. Renneting must be carried out within a stipulated time after milking, according to the storage temperature of the cheese.
  5. Only one heating of the milk may occur, and that must be during renneting. It may be heated to no more than 40˚C.
  6. Salt may only be applied directly to the surface of the cheese.
  7. A casein label containing the date of production must be attached to the side of the cheese, and maturing must continue for at least four months.
  8. No grated cheese may be sold under the Comté name.

Tasting Notes
Milk: Raw Cow
Brand: Les 3 Comtoi
Appearance: 
     Rind: Tannish, labled with blue and white ‘Comte’ label and AOC branding
     Paste:Golden in color; paste looks full and rich; no fissures, eyes or imperfections
Smell:

     Rind: Musty, moldy
     Paste: Toast, toffee
   
Mouthfeel: Smooth, pliable with no graininess
Flavor: Brown butter at the center; moving up–closer to the rind–more meatiness. Rind produces huge mushroom finish and lingers, similar to white button or grilled portabella.

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Appreciating the Greats: Tasting Roquefort

Getting to know cheese requires at least four of the five senses: looking, touching, smelling and tasting. If you’re a cheese maker or affineur, then you would also bring in hearing to evaluate a full wheel of cheese by knocking on it.  Simply put, it takes a lot more than throwing a cube of cheese in your mouth to appreciate it. If you want to know it more intimately, then you study and evaluate it. Its color, aroma from paste to rind, texture on your fingers and your tongue. So much of this will help you go beyond having a passive appreciation of cheese.  

In the movie, “How to Cook Your Life,” Edward Espe Brown (author of the famed Tassajara Bread Book) is at the sink cleaning rice. He says something simple, “When you wash the rice, wash the rice; when you cut the carrots, cut the carrots; when you stir the soup, stir the soup.”  Which is to say, be in the moment of the task at hand.  When you taste cheese, close your eyes and focus on every sensation that’s going on. Take multiple bites of the same cheese until you feel you have a good sense of it. Pay attention because your first bite and your fourth bite will not taste the same. Your tongue and nose will pick up different notes as it moves around on your palate and opens up. 

As I take study breaks from preparing for the Certified Cheese Professional exam, I’m reintroducing myself to some of the greats of the cheese world that I have, I will admit, taken for granted and pushed aside for some newer, flashier wheels. I’m taking the time to get to know them again, like old friends, and first up is Roquefort.

History:

Roquefort has a written history dating back to at least 79 AD, though it is said that Ceaser’s centurians encountered it in the 1st century BC. It was also the first French cheese to be ‘protected’ by the French Parliment in the 15th century, then the modern AOC (Appelation d’origine Controlee, which has now been replaced by the European AOP) in 1925. The secret to Roquefort is the caves that dot Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, which are now owned by only seven cheesemaking companies in France.

Under the requirements for AOC, Roquefort must be: 

  1. All milk used must be delivered at least 20 days after lambing has taken place.
  2. The sheep must be on pasture, whenever possible, in an area including most of Aveyron and parts of neighboring départements. At least 3/4 of any grain or fodder fed must come from the area.
  3. The milk must be whole, raw (not heated above 34 °C; 93.2 °F), and unfiltered except to remove macroscopic particles.
  4. The addition of rennet must occur within 48 hours of milking.
  5. The Penicillium Roqueforti used in the production must be produced in France from the natural caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon
  6. The salting process must be performed using dry salt.
  7. The whole process of maturation, cutting, packaging and refrigeration of the cheese must take place in the commune of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.

Tasting Notes: 
Milk: Raw Sheep
Brand: Coulet 
Appearance: 
     Rind: None, wrapped in foil
     Paste: Smooth, slightly creamy paste; off white in color, deeply pocketed with evergreen/blue veining
Smell: 
     Paste: Woodsy, mushroomy, fruity
Mouthfeel: Dense, like Mascarpone. Slightly granular texture with the molding.
Flavor: Upfront spiciness; slight sweetness, warming profile, like cinnamon or chile. Faint notes of liquorice or tarragon.
    

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