Yes, we have to eat healthy, and there are going to be plenty of people shouting me down about advocating eating dairy, but frankly, I don’t care – I love cheese and I want to share some interesting cheeses you might like to pick up the next time you’re browsing the deli counter. We have been eating cheese since, well, for more than 2 millennia, and yet, people all over the world are still experimenting and coming up with new, yummy and interesting cheeses for us to try. Check out these babies.
It was reading about this cheese that initially inspired me to write something about interesting cheeses. You may have never heard of this cheese but according to the BBC News Magazine, in Cyprus where it originates, the average resident consumes an average of 17lbs of Halloumi each year. We love it in the UK too (we are 2nd in the consumption table behind Cyprus) and in recent years, it has been elevated from “that squeaky cheese” to being a staple offer for vegetarians dining at non-veggie meals and a big favorite for the summer barbecue. What makes Halloumi special is that it has a very high melting point which means you can grill it or fry it and it remains whole. It is stored in brine so will last for up to one month in your fridge.
Seems like a strange name for a cheese but I guess it has the right to claim it is a work of art, as this interesting cheese was crowned “The World’s Best Cheese 2012” (championships are held every 2 years. Vermeer is from The Netherlands and is a semi-soft, reduced fat, Gouda style cheese. The judges at the competition obviously thought it was something special as it was awarded 98.73 points out of 100. It is described as a full-flavored cheese with a delicate and fruity taste, and less salty than other Gouda style cheeses.
Further proof that interesting cheeses have interesting names is Stinking Bishop. This is a washed-rind cheese that has been produced in England since 1972, but has grown more popular in the cheese revolution food in the last decade, which is seeing fine cheese as a being a gourmet food. It is a fairly expensive cheese because only 20 tonnes are produced each year. It gets its name not because of its distinctive, albeit pungent aroma, but from the fact it is immersed in perry (pear cider) made in Gloucestershire (where the dairy is based) pressed from the local Stinking Bishop pear.
Ireland is fast developing a reputation as being a gourmet food lover’s paradise and that of course, translates into a menu of delicious interesting cheeses. I was always unsure of smoked cheese until I tried some in Austria and now I love it. Smoked Gubbeen is a semi-soft cheese and is a speciality cheese produced from milk given by one herd of cows at the Gubbeen Farm in County Cork. Apparently, it has a rich texture and a delicate smoky aroma. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m hoping to persuade my neice to bring me some when she visits Ireland this month.
You don’t usually associate Spain with cheese – other than the ubiquitous Manchego, but when I saw this, I just had to try it. It is one of the interesting cheeses from Spain in a few ways. Firstly, it is a goat cheese and secondly, it is matured in caves (in the Cati Valley near Valencia), and I just love cheeses that are matured in caves. This delicious rustic gem comes in pyramid shaped blocks covered in a fuzzy grey mold and yields a white-colored, close-textured, nutty, sweet cheese with a slight smell of mushrooms. Castell de Morella’s smooth texture makes it perfect to eat with crisp apples or pears and a lovely sparkling cava. Yum!
Now, I like cheese but I’m not sure about this one. Milbenkäse is produced exclusively in the little German village of Würchwitz. The cheese dates right back to the Middle Ages and comes with its very own extra protein in the form of cheese mites. Quark (soft cheese) which has been flavored with caraway and salt is formed into small balls and allowed to dry. The balls are then put into a wooden box that contains rye flour and cheese mites and left for about 3 months. The cheese ferments as the digestive juices of the mites get to work. First the rind turns yellow, and then after 3 months becomes a reddish brown – this is when it is eaten. Some makers allow it to ripen for whole year by which time the rind is black. Hmmm.
If you like Indian food, you may already be familiar with this cheese. I think it deserves to be included as an interesting cheese because, while it is pretty unremarkable in form, texture and taste, the way it is used in Indian cuisine makes it far from being just another bland cheese. It is sometimes known as Indian cottage cheese and in fact, you could probably make this un-aged, non-melting cheese easily in your own kitchen. (wikihow.com) Paneer is made by curdling gently heated milk using a food acid such as lemon juice or vinegar.
What makes this such an interesting cheese is that for one it is from Syria, for two, its texture and for three, its taste. Also known as Syrian String Cheese, it does indeed look like a dollop of balled up string. The cheese is pulled during the culturing process (like making noodles) to form the springy curds. Nigella seeds are then added to give the distinctive taste. If you have a salty tooth, you will love this cheese.
Seriously, who doesn’t love Italian cheeses? From the world conquering parmesan and mozzarella to the soft and creamy ricotta and mascarpone and my favorite, the blue and sweetly delicious dolcelatte, there’s a lot to love about Italian cheese. If you want something different, try Burrata. This is a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream. It is an outer shell of mozzarella with a creamy center of mozzarella and cream which oozes out when cut. It is best eaten fresh and connoisseurs consider it past its prime after just 48 hours.
I hope some of these interesting cheeses will find their way to your kitchen. Maybe you have been inspired to bypass the cheddar and pick up something new at the store. Do you have any interesting cheeses we should know about?