Saturday, November 28, 2015

Yin and Yang - Ash Cheeses - Humbolt Fog

Goat – Humbolt Fog

Humbolt Fog - What a lovely package of goodness!


Producer: Cypress Grove Chevre, Arcata, California
Web site:  Phone: 707-825-1100
Designer: The originator of Cypress Grove Chevre, Mary Keehn, launched her business in 1983. She had vacationed in France and was introduced to Morbier cheese. On the plane coming back from France, she envisioned a place, a wooded area by the coast with a tree line and fog spilling over the tree line. She mystically received the name of the company and the specifics of how to produce the cheese.  The ash ripple in the middle of the cheese represents the coastal fog of Humbolt County. In 2010, she sold the company to Emmi, a Swiss company made up of a cooperative of small dairy farmers and dairy operators. Mary is still involved in the company and her touch gets my full approval.
Owners: Emmi Corporate, USA

Designer:  Mary KeehnTerroir: California coast line, redwood  and cypress groves. Lots of rain and salty fog-saturated air
Milk:  Goat, pasteurized milk. Toggenburg, Saanen, Alpine, and Lamancha
Milk Fat: 25 %
Moisture: 53%
pH: 4.9
Type:  Pasteurized goats milk
Rind: Natural, dry stark-white bloomy rind over vegetable ash
Paste: Creamy-white ooziness under rind with an egg-shell white dry crumbly paste with a thin black centre line of ash
Aged:  soft ripened, not cave-aged 

Affineur and Aging: proteolysis continues to create ooze up to a quarter inch thick, cheese texture is firm and moist.
Culture:  peniciilium candidum sprayed over ash.
Coagulant: microbial enzyme (non-animal rennet), stands overnight to build up flavours
Shape:  1lb (Mini) and 5 lb wheels  (Grande)

Shelf-life:  8 weeks, uncut
First Place, American Cheese Society, 1998, 2002, 2005; World Championship Cheese Contest, 2010; Gold, London International Cheese Competition, 2004

Tasting Notes: Slight damp odour of mushroom and buttermilk. Paste lends some herbal flavours  and mineral tones with saltiness and a crisp finish of citrus. Rind is chewy with intense mushroom-fungus flavours that finish with some meatiness, leaving the palate begging for more.
Pairings Beer: Porter, Pale Ale or Stout. Wines: Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel or Pinot Noir
Serving Suggestions from the maker: Drizzle with honey to tone down the saltiness and serve with prosciutto, tart apple and marcona almonds. Crumble atop mixed baby greens and roasted beets and serve with a simple vinaigrette.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Yin and Yang - Ash Cheeses - Le Prestige

1.      Goat – Le Prestige (formerly Bouq’ Emissaire)

Producer: Fromages Chaput, Chateaugauy, Que
Web site:  Phone: 450 692-3555
Owners: Patrick Chaput, Master Cheese Maker
Pierre-Yves Chaput
Bouq Emissaire is French for “Scapegoat”.  The name is an intentional misspelling of the French term for "scapegoat". (bouc émissaire). With reference to bouguet (aroma) , and bouquetin (a reference to the Ibex mountain goat. The fromagerie has ceased using the name and it is now sold under “Prestige”. However, some distributers are still using the old name.Type:  raw goats milk, semi-soft, bloomy rind covered in olivewood ash
South shore of the St. Lawrence River, near Montreal. Flat farmland.
Affineur and Aging: Cave aged for 30 days until moisture drops and a tighter texture develops. The wheels are then further aged from 90 days up to 4 months. The cheese is supposed to be dry texture, not oozy.
  Goat, raw milk. Saanen local herds
Milk Fat: 25 %
Moisture: 54%
Rind: Natural, olivewood ash. Ash slows down acid production as the cheese matures. Rind colour changes from smoke-grey to green and blue hues with aging.
Culture: penicillium candidum
Coagulant: microbial enzyme (non-animal rennet)
Shape: 150g round
Awards: Local Quebec artisan cheese makers awards
Suggested Serving:  Smoked salmon salad with capers and Prestige cheese on a crusty baguette. This cheese is served in over 80 Quebec restaurants.
Tasting Notes:  Under the t
hin layer of mottled grey ash, the odor of the white paste is slightly lactic and floral with mineral notes from salting and the terroir. There is a delicate buttermilk- chevre flavour. The cheese dissolves slowly leaving a slightly sweet citrusy cleansed palate. As the cheese ages, the texture will changes as it loses moisture, going from  a  smoother texture to a  chalkier, drier section in the middle. The rind is tender and occasionally changes in colour from white to dark grey-green. The tanginess turns to meatiness. There is a long light linger of smooth chevre.
Pairing: White, off-dry Riesling styles,
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis, wheat beer with some light, high flavours.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cheese Review - Mouton Rouge

The Three Sopranos -  Mouton Rouge

Producer: Best Baa Dairy, Fergus, ON
Web Site:
Owners: Elisabeth and Eric Bzikot

Type: Washed rind, surface ripened, semi-firm cheese
Milk:  Sheep, raw, non GMO. Milk is frozen for year-round availability, allowing the British Milk Sheep (a prolific breed with higher milk solids) to follow their natural rhythms (generally 6 – 8 months of the year).
Milk Fat: 30%
Moisture: 48%
Aged: 60 days
Culture: B.Linens
Coagulant: animal rennet
Shape: 1 to 3 kg cylinders

Awards: Royal Winter Fair (2009 - Silver), American Cheese Society (2012, 2nd Prize)

History: The Mouton Rouge is a nice play of words with reference to the French word for sheep (mouton) and to the rind with a reddish blush (rouge) from the B.Linens culture. It is also a play on words from the Moulin Rouge, the famous night spot in Paris, France with the spinning windmill blades. As well, the shape of this cheese is cylindrical like the tower on a windmill (moulin).

The Bzikots founded the Ewenity Dairy Co-operative and support sustainable production, the Five Freedoms animal practice as supported by farming communities in the UK  and Local Food Plus, a conservationist program for food producers. Elizabeth has trained in Europe. Specialists provided consultation on refining cheese making methods. Elizabeth likes the Mouton in particular and says it is in the same family as an Oka. She uses animal rennet as it is easier to work with and carries flavours better.

Tasting Notes: Natural reddish-orange rind, semi-firm, interior ripened. The slightly waxy rind encases a pale, creamy-yellow paste, dotted with small holes (eyes).  The aroma is fresh and a bit grassy-straw.  The earthy-nutty rind contrasts beautifully with the mildly salty buttery inner paste.  A lingering nutty creaminess remains on the palette.

Pairing: A younger crisp white wine.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cheese Review - Nosey Goat

The Three Sopranos - Nosey Goat

Producer: Upper Canada Cheese Company, Jorden Station, ON
Owners: 6 shareholders
Web site:

Milk:  Goat, thermalized, from co-operatives or La Mancha herd from Keene, ON.
Type: Washed rind, surface ripened, semi-firm
Milk Fat: 32 % 
Moisture: 40%
Aged: 60 days
Culture: B.Linens
Coagulant: animal rennet
Shape: 1.8 kilogram wheel

Awards: Royal  Winter Fair (2013 – 2nd prize)

History:  The Upper Canada Cheese Company introduced goat milk cheese products in 2010 to expand the existing product line built mostly on Guernsey cow milk like the award winning Niagara Gold cheddar. Camelot was used as a test name when the goat cheese was first marketed. In French Canada however, Camelot means “paper delivery boy”. So, the name “Camelot” will be dropped, using only “Nosey Goat” for this excellent cheese. The other goat milk product is an ash-ripened goat cheese, called Nanny Noir.

Tasting Notes: The thin reddish rind holds the key to the balance of flavours. The rind is savory and sings a flavourful duet with the ivory paste. Each morsel melts deliciously in the mouth giving a full-on flavour of buttery nuttiness without either the gaminess or the tang typical of most goat cheese.

Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cheese Review - Magie de Madawaska

The Three Sopranos - Magie de Madawaska

Producer: Fromagerie Le Détour, Notre-Dame-du-Lac, Que.
Web site:
Owners: Ginette Bégin, Mario Quirion

Milk:  Cow, pasteurized, Holstein
Type: Washed rind, surface ripened, soft cheese
Milk Fat: 28%
Moisture: 50%
Aged: 30 Days
Culture: B.Linens
Coagulant: microbial enzyme (non-animal rennet)
Shape: 100g, 500g, and 1.2-kilogram wheel

Awards: American Cheese Society (2011 - 2nd  place), Canadian Championship (2011 finalist)

History: The Fromagerie Le Détour only started producing in 1999 and  is well known for its Canadian iconic cheese, Grey Owl. The Magie de Madawaska was available in 2007 and was well received in New York cheese society. Magie is a mystical combination of the names of the owners, Mario and Ginette. Madawaska is an Indian name for “Country of Lake and River” and is also the name of the first seigneurie of the region.

Tasting Notes: This classy stinky cheese is washed in brine every two days and ripened for 30 days. If handled well and timely, the consumer receives Magie at its peak around 50 days aged. It is reminiscent of Époisse and Münster. Magie has a white-cream glossy ooziness under the sticky pink-orange and white rind.  The rind smell is fungal, mushroomy. The paste is slightly firmer oozy white chalk with a buttery, nutty and lactic-sour cream palate and a lingering creamy finish. Magie makes and excellent partner on a cheese board.

Pairing: Cider, dark beer, Riesling, dry wine with aromas of spice, toast or exotic fruit.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Three Canadian Cheeses – Cow, Sheep, Goat - The Three Sopranos

Getting Ready for Cheese Reviews

Preparing Cheese Boards
I have posted a series of three reviews on Canadian cheeses made from three different milks - Cow, Sheep and Goat. The selected cheeses have  a good story and good taste!  I originally named this presentation, The Three Tenors, but in hind-site (no pun intended), I changed that to The Three Sopranos in homage to the cow, sheep and goat ladies. As a student fromager sommelier, putting together a presentation is like preparing a cheese board. It includes knowing about your cheese, where it comes from and what makes it unique.  If you are interested in putting a cheese board together, consider naming the board after a theme. This will create some curiosity and will help pull your presentation together.

The Three Sopranos CheeseBoard
Cow  - Magie de Madawaska
Sheep - Mouton Rogue
Goat - Nosey Goat (Camelot)
Please see the links to their individual reviews

Consider serving these cheeses before listening to some powerful music from The Three Sopranos! See below for sample video of the Three Sopranos. Pour Reisling, Sauvignon or other white wine. A black tea selection would include Keemun with its slightly woody notes and honey sweetness. Serve with sliced apricots to sweeten the bite. Lightly toast whole walnuts to enhance the nuttiness of these cheeses. Slice some Red Delicious (pretty colour) or Gala apple (thin crispy skin) sprinkled with lemon juice to cleanse the palate. Add a few green grapes. Provide a selection of crackers as a carrier and compliment for cheese. See my posts on Selecting Biscuits and Crackers for Cheese and Music for Cheese coming soon.

The Three Sopranos, 1999

Cheese Reviews
If there is any mis-information, I apologise in advance. I did my best with the research material available and would appreciate the correction if needed. In some reviews I contacted the producer directly to ensure accuracy. As with many businesses, product changes are inevitable. Taste is individual and flavour can change between product batches. Product handling can also change flavour. I suggest my information has a shelf life of 3 years. If you want the most current information, please contact the diary or producer.

If you are a cheese producer and would like to send a cheese sampler for review, please contact me. I have written over 22 tea reviews at and plan to do independent cheese reviews as time allows. I will also suggest tea pairings with cheese where possible.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Affinage - Soft Ripened Sheep Cheese

As part of the Cave-Aged Cheese class at George Brown College, students were given molded ash-finished sheep cheese to take home and to apply affinage. See my prior blog, Cheese Making at the Dairy.

Affinage - This  word is used in the cheese industry and comes from the  Latin ad finis, meaning “towards the limit”. That would refer to taking the cheese to the limit of aging and maturing. The Affineur is the person who ages cheeses. However, the American Cheese Society uses
Sheep Milk Cheese Affinage

the term "cheese ripening" as the domain within the body of knowledge, not affinage.  Here in Canada, we embrace both multiculturalism and bilingualism nationally. We do not shy away from foodie terms in other languages and from other cultures such as shwarma, sushi, lasgna, or couscous, or the names of cheeses like Gouda, Feta and Manchego.

With only a few weeks to accomplish some result, I was thinking of hand-washed rinds and wheels of gouda turning around in vats of brine. I wasn't at all sure I knew what I was going to do! These hockey pucks were small and intimidating. I read instructions in various cheese making books about external salting and brining. However, there were no step-by-step instructions in these books on what to do with the cheese while it was ripening (ie flipping, temperature and humidity controls… the affinage part!!) So, I was left to my own devices. 

After taking the sheep cheese home in a wet plastic bag,  I grouped the cheeses into four sets for affinage:
1.       Sea Salt Sheep by the Sea Shore Cheese
2.       Black Salt Sheep Cheese
3.       Red Sheep Cheese – one Paprika and one Herbed Paprika, a play on Mouton Rouge
4.       Forest Mushroom Sheep Cheese
Although I knew that salt had been added during the making of the cheese, I thought I had to salt the cheese as a further step in affinage. Ok, so still I'm learning!

After a few weeks, the results were rewarding and tasty. I felt successful and gained an appreciation for cheese making not only as a craft, but also as an art and as an economic contribution from simple homesteads to industrialized processing.  I feel encouraged to make more!

Here's what I started with:


I removed the cheese from the bag that contained whey and placed the cheese by group on sterilized bamboo sushi mats. To first sterilize the mats, I filled a casserole dish with hot water, dropped in the washed sushi mats and let it bake in the oven at 250F for 1/2 hour. The mats were cooled, then rinsed off to remove the bamboo-y odor.

The Cave

I cleaned out both crispers in the refrigerator with a bit of Javex and water to ensure a clean environment. This was odd because I thought that since the rest of the fridge is full of old moldy cheese and other "things that grow in the back of the shelf", I would need to prepare myself for a failed experiment. I mustered on.
In the dairy, there were drying rooms and mold rooms. The Wild Mold Room had a magnificent scent. thick with molds from various cheeses including blue (penicillium roqueforti). To contain my mold breeding, I used microperforated zip-lock plastic bags. The shushi mats fit just right into the bag. With two pucks on a mat, it would be easy to fold the mat over them for support during turning. However, the mats would need to sit separately and not one on top of the other as they were still draining for the first week. I had to wipe out the bag of extra whey during the first few days.
The fridge temperature was 38 F. That seemed a bit cool for mold growth but I had to rationalize that since my store-bought industrialized-made cheddar cheese would grow mold after a week, I was sure to get something growing from these sheep milk hockey pucks that were innoculated with penicillium candidum. However, the humidity on the fridge was too low. It was around 30%, Not good. I decided to use an open cup of water in each crisper drawer and to use extra plastic sheeting to ensure moisture could be controlled. I would know in about a week if mold would form in my affinangerie. Yes, I did indeed make that word up just now. How about Grotte Fromager ? Non?

Affinage Process

I salted a few of the pucks with Celtic Grey Salt to increase the umami flavours by adding more minerals. I also salted a few with Black Salt. Indian black salt (kala namak) has a  distinct sulphurous odor and has healing qualities different than sea salt. I wanted to see if mold would increase or be inhibited and perhaps make cheese even  more digestible.

This was good in theory. I learned in the 2nd week of the experiment that salting the exterior further was unnecessary as the cheese had already been fully salted with the milk as part of the cheese making process. It was going to have some extra salty cheese.
Here's what the cheese pucks looked like 1 week after being made at the Monforte dairy. See left side photo below. The black marks on the cheese are not grill marks. They are lines of ash that did not drip away with the whey from sitting on the wire racks in the drying room. Looks like I squished on of the pucks and kept one of the pieces to see if it would grow mold. It did!!

FROM THIS:                                                 TO THIS IN 5 WEEKS:

How awesome to find mold growing where it should after only a week!  I felt like a trustee of an ancient ritual. I talked to my cheese and took it out to warm up for about 10 minutes a day, enough to take the chill off. Enough to be friends with The Mold. Looks like Brie doesn't it?

FROM THIS:                                                                              TO THIS IN 5 WEEKS:


Forest Mushroom Affinage

I took a dried Shitake mushroom and grated it over the cheese and added a sprinkle of sea salt. It didn't retain its flavour, so I think it would be better to add it to the milk before ripening.
FROM THIS:                                                 TO THIS IN 5 WEEKS:

Paprika Rubbed Cheese

I mixed 2 Tbsp. paprika with 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt to provide a lift to the otherwise flat paprika. The mixture sat a few minutes for the oil to absorb the colour of the paprika. For a separate herbed mix, I added 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme to the oil batch and muddled it a bit to release the essential oils into the olive oil carrier. I spread the mixture over the top and bottom liberally and less on the sides. 
Paprika Rub - Left side, Thyme Rub
After only a few weeks, the mold started to grow, but mostly on the sides where the paprika rub was less. I felt the oil may have inhibited the growth slightly.

Paprika Rub Mold Growth

Finished Red Sheep Cheese after 5 weeks
Red Sheep Cheese after 8 weeks
I think the Red Sheep Cheese was the most successful. The olive oil seeped into the paste and turned it to a light tan colour. The rind was thin enough but you could still see a layer of the paprika. However, the best taste was the Red Cheese with Thyme. It was more savory than the plain paprika rub that tasted like Camembert. I learned that I should have continued to monitor the cheese, unwrap and turn the remaining cheese periodically. I would not push the 8-week old cheese past this point and will consume it quickly now. So, I guess I am have earned one peg towards being an Affineur because I did indeed take the cheese ripening to the limit.