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Like Buttah! The Making of Triple Cream Cheeses…

Back in my retail-cheesemongering days, customers would often request triple-cream cheeses, followed by the declaration, “I only like TRIPLE crème brie.” Which was remarkably similar to the chocophiles who would insist that they, “only eat chocolate over X% cacao!”

For a cheese to be considered “triple-cream” it needs to have a minimum of 75% fat in dry matter.  Double cream cheeses range from 60-74% fat in dry matter.  To obtain this higher fat-content, already rich whole milk is bolstered with cream, creating a decadent texture that is nearly like eating butter.  Before you blanche at the fat content, keep in mind that just as with the percentage of cacao in chocolate – the percentage of fat in dry matter is not telling the whole story in a cheese’s nutritional makeup.

Double and triple cream cheeses tend to be younger (which is also why we can’t bring unpasteurized versions into the United States- but that’s another story.)  As younger cheeses, they have a water content that can reach upward of 50%.  While the fat in dry matter of a triple cream cheese is 75% percent fat in dry matter, the total fat content hovers around only 39%; whereas butter has a total fat content over 80%.  Compare that to Parmigiano Reggiano, which has a much lower water content after being aged for 16 months or longer, but a total fat content of around 30%.  Bite-for-bite, the same size piece of Brillat Savarin on your cracker has only slightly more fat than the same sized piece of an aged Parmigianno Reggiano, Gruyere, or Cheddar.

Double and triple cream cheeses are typically sold frais (fresh) or soft-mold rinded.  Fresh versions are unrinded and can have a dense texture similar to fresh chevre (ex:Regal de Bourgogne aux Raisins or Regal de Bourgogne aux Moutarde.) Or they can be fresh and spreadable like Mascarpone.  The soft mold ripened versions are seen in classic triple-cream cheeses like Brillat Savarin, Explorateur, Delice de Bourgogne, Prince de la Fontaine, and in American newcomers like Nettle Meadow Kunik.  All versions are excellent served as a dessert course with perfectly ripe berries or tropical fruit, and are best washed down with sparkling wines.

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The Cheese Stands Alone (or Does it?): Cheese Accoutrements at Great Ciao

As soon as the temperature drops, we see a renewed interest in all things cheese.  Here are a few of our favorite cheese accompaniments for adorning your cheese plates.

Marcona Almonds are a perennial favorite cheese pairing, for when you just a touch of salty crunch to contrast with a cheese’s richness.  The Marcona Almonds we import from Olis are roasted (rather than fried,) salted, and immediately vacuum packed to preserve their flavor and snap.  Added benefit: no oily greasy mess.

 

Dolci Pensieri Fig Molasses is made by cooking down fresh Calabrian White Dottato figs in a huge copper kettle until they’ve decreased their volume by almost half.  The fruit is separated from the sticky fig syrup and used to make the fig leaf wrapped fig balls that appear at Great Ciao around the holidays.  Fig molasses has a full-bodied smoky sweetness, and tastes just as good atop fresh lactic cheeses as it does with grilled meatss.

 

Paola Calciolari at Le Tamerici has been making Mostarda (in spite of her pharmaceutical degree) since 1991, and hers are undoubtedly the best we’ve ever tasted.  Mostardas are the most classic (and popularized) cheese accompaniment from the Lombardy region of Italy – fitting considering that the region is also famous for its Taleggio, and Gorgonzola cheeses.  Paola candies thin slices of fruit, which are then preserved in mustard seed oil spiked syrup.  We currently stock her apricot, pear, and fig mostardas.

 

Turkey Hill Apiary is run by father and daughter team Brad and Corinna, who harvest wildflower honey near their Lakeville, Minnesota home.  Their honey is then aged in either bourbon or rye whiskey barrels to give it the Midas touch.  The boozy aroma of whiskey is right up front, but yields to softer notes of smoke, vanilla, apple and white grape.  These honeys are the perfect companion to salty blue cheeses like Stilton (but are equally tasty when drizzled atop vanilla ice cream.)

 

Mojave Raisins on the Vine have been one of the not-so-hidden gems of the Great Ciao Warehouse for a few years now.  Farmers in the arid Coachella Valley leave bunches of red flame raisins out to dry on the vine before shipping them to Great Ciao World Headquarters where we sell them by the case or by the pound.

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A Cheese by Any Other Name: Basque Sheep Milk Cheeses

The Basque region that straddles the border between France and Spain is renowned for its alpine sheep cheeses.  The lush green mountains of the Western Pyrenees that have preserved Basque culture have also preserved the cheese-making tradition of the region. Basque cheeses are arguably the most ancient, with evidence of cheese-making dating back 4,000 years.

Though you can find cow and goat milk cheeses in Basque Country, sheep milk cheeses make up the overwhelming majority.  Manech and Basco-Béarnaise are the local breeds of sheep that have evolved to thrive in the Pyrenees’ terrain.  Basque cheeses are referred to simply in Euskara (the language spoken of the Basque people) as Ardi Gasna, which translates to “our cheese,” or “local cheese.”  To add one more layer of confusion, the French refer to this style of cheeses as “brebis” literally, “sheep.”

Last fall we visited our Idiazabel producers at La Leze.  Idiazabel is the “Ardi Gasna” of Spanish Basque Country.  The Ardi Gasna of French Basque Country is Ossau-Iraty-Brebis Pyrenees – one of only two sheep-milk cheeses granted AOC status (the other being Roquefort.)  Though the cheeses have many names, the styles of production are simple, traditional, and nearly identical on either side of the border.

Transhumance is a defining way of life for Basque shepherds.  Between May and September, shepherds follow their herds on horseback up the mountain.  While the sheep graze on fresh alpine grasses, the shepherds live in small stone huts called “cayolars.”  The shepherds milk the sheep and make cheese while living in the mountain cayolars.  International demand for Ossau Iraty has flooded the market with industrial versions of this cheese, typically made with milk from a cooperative of farmers as opposed to being farmstead, and made during the winter months when the sheep are eating hay.

We are happy to bring in a farmstead Ossau Iraty d’Estive, which is only made between May and September while the sheep are happily grazing in the mountains.  Only a few hundred wheels of Ossau Iraty are given the “Estive” designation every year.  The flavor is much more intense and meaty than most Ossau-Iratys, with a heady nose of tamari and chestnuts, and butter yellow paste.  The richness of the paste is moderated with a bit of acidity, which develops into a long floral finish.

Pitxun arrived at Great Ciao last week, and is another example of a great Basque sheep milk cheese.  The small wheel (only 3 inches in diameter and 2 inches tall) is similar in form to P’tit Basque.  Unlike p’tit basque, Pitxun is a farmstead cheese made raw milk.  The paste is semi-firm and creamy white, nutty sweet and clean milky flavors encapsulate everything we enjoy about cheeses from Basque country.

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Producer Highlight: La Leze

A Visit to our Idiazabal Producer in Basque Country

Last month, I had the good fortune of being able to travel to Spain on Great Ciao business.  Over the course of one week (and nine flights) I traveled through Galicia and Basque country to visit seafood canneries, salt-cod producers, and cheesemakers.  The next few newsletters will introduce you to a few of our favorite producers from this part of the world.

I tasted La Leze’s Idiazabal on my first day of work at Great Ciao.  Until that point, the Idiazabal I knew was bland, over-smoked and industrial.   Most of what comes to the U.S. is made from commodity sheep milk, as opposed to being farmstead.  But the one I tasted that day was dense and rich, with a grassy sweetness and an aroma of lanolin and toasted walnuts.  Fast-forward two years later – nearly to the day, I was standing at the front door of Jose Mari and Elisabeth’s farmhouse, shaded by the mountains that separate Basque country from the Navarra region.  It’s a one hour drive southwest of Bilboa to La Leze.  The name of the farm, translates to “the cave,” which refers to a huge crevice in the mountain, directly over their farm.  The cave is visible from a mile away.  

 In the case of Jose Mari and Elisabeth, cheese-making skipped a generation.  His grandfather was a mountain shepherd who made Idiazabal, but his father left shepherding to pursue factory work in the city.  Elisabeth’s father owned a bakery in a nearby village.  Unhappy with city life, they decided to go back to their family roots of making cheese, and today their farm stands a few hundred feet from the house where his mother was born.

At any given time, La Leze is home to 400-500 Latxa sheep, a breed well suited to the rocky mountainous terrain of Basque country.  Shepherding and cheese-making are part of a continuous cycle.  In January, the baby lambs are born.  From mid-December to mid-June, thirty wheels of cheese are made every day.  Because the make-process involves using cultured milk from the day before, there are no days-off until the season is over. In the spring the sheep are let out of the barn to go up to the mountain (which is a national park) behind there house.  Jose Mari and Elisabeth have a small cabin in the mountain where they stay while the sheep are at pasture, protected by the Basque shepherd dogs – who are also born and bred on the farm.  In autumn the sheep come down from the mountain, and the cycle begins again.

 Acclaimed Basque Chef, Juan Mari Arzac once said on American TV that Idiazabal is “always” smoked, owing to the Basque shepherds aging the cheese in their smokey mountain huts.  Following his decree, Idiazabal being exported to theUnited Stateswas smoked within an inch of its life, masking all of the sweet, nutty characteristics of sheep milk.  Three out of every four wheels of Idiazabal made at La Leze are smoked, but here, the wheels are only gently smoked for a few hours over hardwood collected from the woods around their farm.  This attention to detail is a trend that applied to every aspect of the work that they do: they use their own milk, they harvest their own rennet, and they do all of the cheesemaking and affinage.  Their dedication has paid off;  in their farm shop you can barely see the walls through the scores of awards they’ve won for their cheese.  Elisabeth has also had the honor of serving as the president of the Idiazabal council for several years.

With a cheese like Idiazabal where a network of small farms work under a larger cooperative, its rare that you can choose a specific farm.  In our case, the Idiazabal we import is from a cooperative named “Artzai Gazta” which literally translates to “Shepherd’s Cheese.”  We tasted La Leze’s Idiazabal, and were so impressed with the quality of the cheese that  today, it is the only Idiazabal we import.  Meeting our producers is humbling reminder that the work we do supports people who have chosen a path of back-breaking labor because they are passionate about their craft.  To have the opportunity to meet Jose Mari and Elisabeth reaffirmed that we lucked out two years ago when we first tasted their cheese.  

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New at Great Ciao: Dunbarton Blue

From Roelli Cheese Co. in Shullsburg, Wisconsin

Should you ever find yourself at the American Cheese Society Festival, you won’t have a hard time spotting Chris Roelli.  He’s the mustachioed Wisconsinite wearing a hunter orange t-shirt – the only day-glow orange in a sea of smartly-dressed hipsteresque cheesemongers.

Chris and his family are the fourth generation of dairy farmers at Roelli Cheese Co.  Before small family dairies in Wisconsin were put out of business by the larger conglomerates; the Roelli’s dairy was one of the largest producers in the state of Wisconsin.  In 1991, Roelli was forced to close their commodity cheddar factory.  At this point, they could have shuttered the dairy and become a part of the statistic for Wisconsin’s failed family dairy farms.  Instead, Chris had a vision to launch their family business into the new era of Wisconsin cheeses.

It took plenty of convincing on his part to get his father to see the value in making cheeses that would take more time and labor to make – and sell at retail for over twenty dollars a pound.  But after much experimentation, Chris created DunbartonBlue.  Saying that Dunbarton Blue launched Roelli into the American artisan cheese world would be an understatement.  Because of his success with the Dunbarton Blue, Chris has been able to build a state of the art aging cellar capable of holding a years supply of his cheese.  But, before Dunbarton’s success, Chris’s dream was a gamble.

The cheese is entirely of his own invention.  The raw milk is from their herd of Jersey and Hartford cows, the curds are separated  from the whey, and inoculated with Penicillium Roqueforti.  Then, Chris does something  few blue cheesemakers would dare attempt: he cheddars them.  “Cheddaring” is an essential process to making cheddar, it is the act of pressing the wheels to expunge the remaining moisture in the fresh curd, and also to tighten up air pockets.  In a blue cheeses, the air pockets are essential to creating the spiderweb pattern of penicillium roqueforti veins – the mold requires oxygen to turn blue.  The only bluing you’ll seen in Dunbarton are the vertical lines throughout the cheese from where Chris hand-pierced them.

It’s no surprise then, that the final result is a cheese that tastes like a cross between a cheddar and blue.  The flavor is big and meaty, with up front flavors of beef broth, butter, walnuts, and grass, and a hint of piquancy from the blue veins.  It is the perfect cheese to enjoy with a pour of bourbon.   This would also be a great introductory cheese for eaters who haven’t gathered the courage to try a blue as funky as Roquefort or Cabrales.  We are so excited to add Roelli Cheese Co. to our list of phenomenal American cheesemakers.

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Ted from Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheeses

In the early 1990’s, Kenny Mattingly of Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, whose family milks about 120 dairy cattle in Barren County, Kentucky, was worried about the future of milk as a commercial commodity – and especially about whether he and his family could continue to make a living on their 200-acre farm. After a farm trip to Europe, he returned with a different notion. He was impressed with the way small family farms in Western Europe were finding ways to add value to their products and market to their local communities. It gave him a new vision for his farm.

Ted –  Kenny’s old-world style cheddar, aged in his blue cheese caves, and periodically rubbed down with lard.  Were they to pierce the wheels they would become full-bodied blue cheeses, but the idea is to keep them fairly mild and let some of the more subtle earthen flavors come through.Tomme de Nena – A rich, creamy, raw cow milk tomme, enhanced  by a weekly bath in Amber Ale from BBC Brewery in Louisville.

Kentucky Rose – Kentucky Rose is a mild blue cheese made with raw cow’s milk.  An unpierced wheel technique keeps it fairly mild and lets the more subtle buttery notes and mouthfeel dominate whatever bleu notes are happening.

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Schmidhauser Cheeses from the Rhône-Alpes

As evidenced by their name – the Schmidhauser family is not of French origin.  In 1961 Jacques Schmidhauser came to the Rhône-Alpes by way of Switzerland and set to mastering the affinage of region’s acclaimed cheeses.   In the beginning, Jacques used the abandoned air raid shelters of the château d’Annecy to create the ideal cellars for aging his cheeses.

In 1993 his son Max pushed the company to expand – and moved Schmidhausers cheese caves from Annency to the company’s current location in the nearby village of Alex.  Schmidhauser’s new facility takes advantage of the region’s ancient stone quarries, with natural humidity and thermal regulation.  Their production in Annency was limited to 150 tons cheese per year – today their production in Alex boasts of nearly 24,000 tons of cheese per year.  If you asked them, they might joke that their Swiss penchant for precision is behind their family businesses success.

24,000 tons of cheese sounds like quite a bit (hint: it’s probably more than you can fit in your refrigerator…) but it’s important to put the Schmidhauser’s annual production in perspective.  There are plenty of French cheese producers who produce many times over Schmidhauser’s annual production – and the cheese they make is bland and industrial.  The Schmidhausers have been successful in balancing their ambitions to expand – while not losing sight of their commitment to traditional, perhaps even archaic standards of cheesemaking.  Their focus has never veered from the cheeses indigenous to the Rhône-Alpes– which doesn’t prove to be challenging as they are in a region that many consider the gastronomic heartland of France.  The most well-known cheeses from the Rhône-Alpes include Reblochon, Tomme de Savoie, St. Marcellin, Beaufort, and Abondance.

Tomme Crayeuse

n 1996, Max stumbled upon what is now the company’s trademark cheese – Tomme Crayeuse.  Its creation was purely accidental – they were looking to improve on a Tomme de Savoie recipe – a cheese they found to be a bit dull.  During one of the first iterations of the experiment, the wheel was cut open to reveal a chalky interior with a more supple paste near the rind.  The cheese was a resounding success; everyone who tasted it praised the cheese for its dual textures.  Max chose the the word “crayeuse”  as it literally translates to “chalky.”

Our Tomme Crayeuse is made from raw milk and brought to Minneapolis by air freight.  The first thing you’ll notice about the cheese is how striking the rind is, it might look intimidating to the untrained eye, but to a cheese-hound, this rind is a thing of beauty.  Natural rinds on cave aged cheeses take to whatever is in the air, so on any one wheel of cheese you might have twenty different strains of molds present.  The result is a velvety soft rind, with a patchwork exterior of yellow, gray, brown and white molds.

Cutting the wheel open reveals the dual nature of the cheese.  The rind surrounds a half to full inch of soft pliable cheese – more akin to a brie or camembert than a tomme, while the center of the cheese remains dense, fresh, and “chalky.”

Tasting Notes: The aroma is heady with barnyardy notes of hay, fresh grass and terragon.  The smooth paste next to the rind is mushroomy, and rich, with the “chalky” interior being fresh, milky and pleasantly tart.  The finish is long and clean with a buttery aftertaste.

Moelleux du Revard

The newest addition to their line-up of cheeses is Moelleux du Revard, a new recipe based on a rapidly disappearing cheese called Vacherin Bauges.  As with all their cheeses, Moelleux de Revard is made using milk from local herds of Montbéliarde and Abondance cows, whose feed is strictly monitored by Schmidhauser – absolutely no silage allowed.  Moelleux de Revard is a washed rind cheese made with raw milk; each wheel weighs about four pounds.  Most notably, the cheese is wrapped in a spruce bark belt, which provides stability as the cheese matures and softens, but also lends a hit of aromatic pine and woodiness to the paste of the cheese, which contrast nicely with the cheeses surprisingly mellow washed rind funkiness.

Wine Pairings

The Rhône-Alpes are blessed in having the great wine making regions of Beaujolais and Burgundy to the north, and Cotes du Rhone in the south. Soft minerally red wines would pair nicely with these earthy yet subtle cheeses. With springtime finally here (or is it still around the corner?) Schmidhausers’ cheeses would sing next to our local seasonal flavors of ramps and morels.  Give us a call if you are yearning for a taste, we love talking cheese!

Happy Eating!

 

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Of Cloth and Cave: Bleu Mont Dairy Bandaged Cheddar

Drive about an hour west of Madison and you’ll find yourself in the scenic rolling hills of the Wisconsin Mounds.  It is here that second generation cheesemaker Willi Lehner and his partner Qu’itas chose to create Bleu Mont Dairy.  Willi began his operation with a small cheese aging room.  But when the cold winters and hot summers caused too much temperature fluctuation, he decided to try an alternate approach.  In 2008, inspired by the art of European Alpine cheesemaking, and supplemented by the abundance of the Mound’s natural limestone rock, Willi bulldozed into the hill next to his home – and created for himself a beautiful cave for aging his hand-made cheeses.

The cave was designed and contracted by Willi, and built with the help of friends.  Bleu Mont Dairy has two caves, one for the delicate soft ripened cheeses, and the other for his Bandaged Cheddars and tommes.  Willi and Qu’itas are environmental advocates, and every part of how they designed Bleu Mont dairy is a nod to sustainability and conservation.  Outside of the cave, wind turbines and solar panels create enough energy to make their operation completely self-reliant, and produce enough excess energy to feed back into the grid.

Willi has chosen to define himself as a cheese-maker and affineur, rather than as a dairy farmer who makes cheese.  Willi does not own any of his own cows.  Instead, he maintains close relationships with local dairy farmers, who allow him to hand select batches of milk for his cheese.  The milk he uses is from the summer months while the cows are at pasture, eating happily grazing on grass – never silage or fermented feed.  Much of his inspiration is drawn from Swiss cheesemaker and affinuer Willi Schmid, who, from tasting a fresh batch of milk, can decide the best type of cheese to create with it.

Cheddar makes up the majority of cheese produced in Wisconsin.  Most of it comes in uninspiring 40 pound blocks aged in plastic bags.  Willi grew up making these block cheeses with his father.  Though today, the cheese he is most known for is his Bandaged Cheddar, a cheese modeled after the legendary cloth-bound cheddars of England’s Somerset County.  English farmhouse cheddars are different from their sharp American counterparts.  The cloth-binding yields a cheese that can’t age out quite as long – but is full of rich nuanced flavors of the cave and the land, that you just can’t get in a block-cheddar.  At any given time, Willi’s cave holds several hundred wheels of his bandaged cheddar, each being nurtured into their peak of maturity.  The wheels he sends us have been aged to around 17 months.  When you taste them, you’ll wonder why anyone would want a cheese that had been aged for ten years in a plastic bag, when the taste of hand-crafted cheese aged in cloth and cave for a little more than a year can be so profound.Bleu Mont Bandaged Cheddar tastes of caramel,  toasted walnuts, mustard greens and earthy mushrooms.    The texture is dense with no holes, and plenty of the crunchy tyrosine crystals we love in a well-aged cheese.  A wheel weighs close to eleven pounds, and the beautifully mottled cloth that protects the cheese should be peeled off prior to serving.

We are very proud to sell Willi’s cheese.  Give us a call us for pricing, or to place an order at (612)521-8725.  We love talking about cheese.

Happy Eating!

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Manigodine: The Next Big Thing Since Reblochon

The mountains of the Savoie region are home to Reblochon, the famous French washed rind cheese.  The name “Reblochon” comes from the French verb “reblocher”, which we have no English equivalent for, but roughly translates to: “The act of pinching a cow’s udders.”  In the Middle-Ages, farmers in the mountains of Haute Savoie used to pay their taxes with part of their milk production.  In order to bring their production levels down, the farmers wouldn’t fully milk their cows.  Once the tax officers came to measure the milk produced and left, the farmers went back to milk the cows again.   In between milkings, the milk would culture, making it much richer and giving it more depth of flavor.   Today Reblochon is still made using partially cultured milk, but no longer as a means of tax evasion.

Sadly, French Reblochon has been banned from importation from the U.S. for quite some time, because the AOC stipulates that the cheese be made with raw milk, and aged less than sixty days.  The lack of Reblochon in the United States has been a point of contention for Francophiles and cheese connoisseurs alike, especially at Great Ciao!  Which is why we were so excited when we tasted Manigodine.  Manigod is a tiny village nestled up in the mountains.  Guillaume and Murielle Burgat are producers of Reblochon, he tends to the cows, and she makes the cheese.  Just recently they started producing a new cheese called Manigodine (which translates to: the woman of Manigod).  It uses the same recipe as their Reblochon, but in a larger format.

Manigodine is only being produced for distribution in the United States.  As a larger format raw milk Reblochon, the cheese is still mellow and delicious after the sixty-day mark.  Once Murielle has made the cheeses, the fresh Manigodine are sent to affineur Jean-François Paccard, who tends to the cheeses until they are ready to be air-freighted to us at the Great Ciao World Headquarters here in Minnesota.  This cheese is delicious eaten on its own – but would be a knockout in Tartiflette, a regional gratin of Reblochon, potatoes, onions, dry white wine, and lardons.  Mmmmm yes please!

Here are the specifics:

Manigodine

  • Country of Origin: France
  • Region: Haut Savoie
  • Milk Type: Unpasteurized Cow
  • Style: Washed Rind, Soft
  • Tasting Notes: Milky and delicate, a milder washed rind cheese.  Notes of chanterelle, pine, smoke, and hay.
  • Quantity: 3# Wheel
  • Availability: Limited

Happy Eating!

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The New/Old World of Spanish Cheeses

A Frenchmen in the cheese industry once said, “The cheeses of France are famous, but the cheeses of Spain have flavor.”  What an interesting point to ponder.  New evidence suggests that cheese production in the Iberian peninsula began as early as 200 B.C., which means that it might have actually pre-dated Roman occupation – whose conquests introduced much of today’s cheese making traditions to France and Italy.  Spanish cuisine is as historically rich and regionally diverse as Italy and France, yet most Americans would be hard-pressed to name one traditional Spanish cheese.

In our defense, artisan Spanish cheeses have only been available in the US since the early 90’s.  Much later than our introduction to Italian cheeses with their immigrant roots, or to French cheeses that became trendy in the seventies and eighties.  If you, as an eater feel slighted, you can place the blame on Spain’s infamous dictator – Francisco Franco.  Following the Spanish Civil War, in an effort to industrialize the dairy industry, he outlawed the production of artisan cheeses.  Predictably, cheese-makers gave up, or went underground.  Many traditional Spanish cheeses disappeared all-together.

Following his death in 1975, Spanish cheese-makers were able to resume their craft.  But it took years to rebuild the artisan cheese industry.  Many of the cheeses had to be reinvented from scratch.  This explains why it wasn’t until the 90’s that they were making enough cheese to be able to export some to theU.S.  Fortunately for us, today the Spanish cheese industry has made a lot of progress, and we can enjoy the bounty ofSpain’s cheeses.   Much like the cheese making traditions in other parts of Europe, the cheeses ofspainare products of their environment, from the nutty sheep’s milk cheeses made high up in the Pyranees, to the funky Tortas of Extremadura, and the velvety cow’s milk cheeses ofSpain’s lush northern coast.

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If pressed, the employees at Great Ciao can name several Spanish cheeses.  Many of them we import directly from the producers, and bring to the U.S. by air-freight to ensure that they arrive in pristine condition.

Here are a few that make us giddy:

Mahón: Mahón is from the island of Menorca and is one of a few cow’s milk cheeses from Spain.  The most remote of the Balearic Islands, Menorca has been famous for cheese for centuries, and in 1993 the island was designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.  Mahón is typically ripened between four months and two years, we carry a younger four month Mahón, as well as a more mature 8 month version. Mahon is rubbed with Pimenton throughout its aging process which stains the rind a rusty red hue, and lends a delicate spiciness to the paste of the cheese.  At peak, Mahón is tangy, intense and delicious.

12 month Quevedo Manchego: Javier Pelegri LeBlanc, the cheesemaker at Quevdeo, is also an engineer, and he designed and built the model cheese factory which twice daily milks 2000 Manchego sheep.  From this is produced 20,000 kilograms of superb raw milk Manchego cheese every year.  “The Manchego race is very hardy,” says Mr. Leblanc “and able to withstand the hot summers and very cold winters.  Unfortunately, their yield is very small – between one and two liters from two milkings daily.” This is a unique Manchego with a dense rich paste and buttery overtones, it has a pleasant brothiness.

Queso de Torta from Finca Pascuelete: It would be easy to compare this cheese to an epoisses or a washed rind camembert as it has similarities to many cheeses, but it truly stands on its own.  Like most cheese there are three ingredients, but one is distinct.  The milk is from sheep, the salt is sea salt, and the coagulant is thistle rennet from the Cuajo’s blue flower (cardoon).  The flavor and texture that result are stunning, bright, and floral.  Its creamy texture, nearly liquid, due to its daily and continuous rotation, melts deliciously on the palate.

Valdeon: A hearty blue made with a blend of pasteurized cow and goat milk, is produced by a company called La Caseria in the province of Leon, Spain. Often overshadowed by its famous relative, Cabrales, Valdeon proves noteworthy and deserving of attention. Carefully wrapped in giant sycamore leaves, this beautiful cheese is aged for a minimum of two months in caves nestled throughout the mountainous landscape of the region.  Aromas of damp earth, tobacco and vanilla emerge as the wheel is released from its leafy package. Valdeon has very little of the biting spice found in Cabrales. Hints of chocolate, roasted meats and crusty baked bread roll over the palate in every creamy mouthful.

Monte Enebro: Handmade in Avila, Spain, by legendary cheesemaker Rafael Baez and his daughter Paloma. The Baezs make their complex goat’s milk cheese from pasteurized milk and then inoculate the logs with, penicillium roqueforti, the mold that is used to make Roquefort.  However, rather than piercing the cheese, which would allow blue veins to develop throughout, the blue mold develops on the rind of the cheese, adding to Monte Enebro’s complex flavors and distinctive appearance.  Mahón has a piquant bite, with a nice combination of acidity and salt.

Garrotxa: Pronounced Gar-oh-CHA, with the accent on the last syllable.  This is a modern farmhouse Goat’s milk cheese.  Garrotxa was brought back from extinction in the 90’s by taking the traditional recipe for the cheese and applying modern techniques.  The suede-like rind hides a bone white interior.  The texture is firm and almost flaky.  The pure, white milk seems to have absorbed the flavor of fresh pine nuts and the fresh crispness of young grass.  It has a mild and creamy goat flavor, nutty, with herbal hints.

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