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What’s on my cheese? Crunchy stuff

It’s all too often that people are scared of their cheese, whether it be from funky-colored or strangely-covered rinds, suspicious-looking mold, or an unexpected texture. I’m here to quell those fears! After a few talks with my friend Carrie in the Livingston store, she came up with this blog idea to discuss these various potential mysteries keeping you away from that deliciously cheesy snack. And so the mini-blog series is born: What’s on my cheese?

Have you ever tried a cheese and noticed a little crunch in it? Ever seen some potentially suspect white spots on your freshly cut block of cheddar? Fear not! Those spots are not mold, and that crunch is definitely supposed to be there. It’s a sign of some form of crystallization in the cheese, it is normal, and some people even come into the store seeking it out! There are two types of crystallization that typically occurs in artisan cheeses: tyrosine and calcium lactate. Let’s start with the first type.

Tyrosine formation usually occurs through the aging process of a cheese. When the proteins are breaking down, one particular amino acid that breaks free to create tasty little bits of crunch throughout the body of the cheese; this is tyrosine. It’s commonly found in many hard Italian cheeses, such as Parmigiano Reggiano or Aged Asiago, as well as in many Aged Goudas.

tyrosine vintage gouda

Little bits of tyrosine can be spotted throughout this yummy piece of our Vintage 5 Year Aged Gouda

Ever pick up a piece of Cheddar cheese and see some patches of white along the side? This is an example of the other type of crunchies you might find: calcium lactate. It’s formed from the milk’s sugar, lactose, and is often found covering the outside of a cheese instead of dotting it within. It’s not hard to mistake this extra tasty kick for a white mold, so be sure to double-check before you scorn your cheese!

tyrosine barbers cheddar

Check out the calcium lactate on this chunk of Barber’s Cheddar!

If you’re ever unsure about what you’re seeing on your cheese, don’t hesitate to stop in and consult your local Vineyard Market employee. We are cheese people after all!

Bring Boska home for the holidays!

All too many times I’ve brought some tasty cheeses home from work only to scour my kitchen drawers for the perfect knife to indulge with. Unfortunately, I end up with a big ol’ butter knife more often than not. So you can imagine my delight when we got in a gorgeous selection of high quality cheese knives at the Bottle King Vineyard Markets!

Boska slate Lg

Large serving slate by Boska

 

Boska indiv. knives

(from left to right) Cheesy knife, Brie knife, Cheese Slicer

Made by Boska and just in time for the holidays, I’m stoked to introduce three individually sold cheese utenils: a “Cheesy” knife, Brie knife, and cheese slicer; a four-piece mini cheese knife set: includes a Parmesan knife, spreading knife, cheese knife, and “cheesy” knife; and serving slates in two sizes: small and large. All utensils are made completely of stainless steel, giving them a beautiful and sleek look that’s perfect for indulging alone or showing off for company.

Boska cheese set 2

Mini cheese knife set

Boska is a huge name in the cheese world, and they’ve been around for over 100 years, producing their first cheesewares in 1896! Proud of their Cheesewares and confident in their quality, the company even includes a 10 year warranty on all of them.

With the holidays just about here, these wares make a great gift. Come on in and grab some Boska products for the cheese lover in your life!

Boska cheese set

All images found on Boska.com

The Perfect Cheese Platter for that Bridal Shower

Lately, it just feels like everyone I know is getting married–and all around the same time, too! If you’re in charge of throwing your best friend or family member a bridal shower, we’ve got your perfect centerpiece for the snack table: a cheese platter, of course! Helped out by the cute little rhyme we’re all so familiar with (something old, something new…), this collection of cheeses provides a little something for everyone’s taste buds. We’ve edited that rhyme a bit and it goes like this: something old, something new, something stinky, something blue.
Check out the cheeses we picked out from our selection here at the Vineyard Market:

image1Something old: Beemster XO- Extra Aged
An oldy but goody, this little number has been featured as our Cheese of the Month in the past. A Gouda aged for 26 months, this cheese has a great robust flavor with butterscotch notes. A hard cheese, great for chunking off pieces of; a little bite is all you need.

Something new: Capricho de Cabra Chevre
This one is one of my favorite goat’s milk cheeses. It’s creamy with a clean, not-too-tangy flavor and very mild citrus undertones. Try pairing it with some Dalmatia Orange Fig Spread to really “wow” the guests.

Something stinky: St. Albray
Whenever we cut a new wheel of this guy, the employees are wondering “What in the world is that smell?” A washed rind cheese with a bite much softer than its bark, St. Albray has a slightly pungent and earthy but buttery flavor. Let it sit out for a while as it gets to room temperature and it gets scrumptiously nice and gooey.

Something blue: Danish Blue
Looking as if it’s going to have an overwhelming punch of flavor, it’s numerous blue-green veins are misleading. With a nice subtle piquancy, Danish Blue is a great cheese for crumbling or cubing while cold or even smearing on a cracker as it warms up.

Arrange these four beauties on a plate alongside some Waterwheel Crackers and your favorite spread, nuts, or cured meats; the rest of the party is sure to love it.

Cheddar is Better! – What makes it a cheddar?

If you come to visit any of our full-service Vineyard Markets during the weekend, then you know that it is the place to be; every Friday and Saturday we sample all sorts of products from the department–especially cheese! One of the biggest questions I get asked when a customer tries a cheese is: “What kind of cheese is this?” I think it’s high time that I answer that question for you!

Cheddar creamy vs crumbly

A creamy cheddar, Cabot Legacy White Oak, contrasted by the crumbly Somerdale Vintage Cheddar, “Enjoy Me with Red Wine”.

After sampling our incredible new June Cheese of the Month, from the Mull of Kintyre creamery (read about it HERE), I figured that it would be a good place to start. The variety that we’re featuring at Bottle King is Mull of Kintyre’s Extra Mature Cheddar. So what exactly makes a cheddar a cheddar?

Originally created in the English village of Cheddar, the term has become a much more generic description for similar cheeses made all around the world. Cheddar cheeses tend to be semi-firm in hardness; they become crumbly when aged, yet they are creamy while still young. Also characteristic of this variety is a “sharp” or acidic flavor, varying from a mellow tang to a strong bite. You may think these traits are enough to give a cheese the right to call itself a cheddar, but there’s more to the story–I will make a cheesemonger out of you yet! To understand exactly is the defining characteristic of a cheddar, we need a brief understanding of how cheese is made.

After gathering the milk necessary, cheesemakers adjust its fat content and choose whether or not to heat and pasteurize it. An enzyme is then added to the milk in order to acidify it and break down some of its proteins. Next, a type of rennet (animal, vegetable, or microbial) is added in order to turn the milk into a gel-like consistency; this is then cut into smaller pieces to being separating the curds from the whey (remember Little Miss Muffet?). This mixture is then cooked and stirred until it reaches the cheesemakers’ desired state, and the whey is then drained so that the curds may be used to make the cheese.

Slabs of cheese curds are stacked upon one another.

Slabs of cheese curds are stacked upon one another.

Cheddars require an additional step here in the process, known traditionally as “cheddaring.” This is where the curds are cut into cubes to drain additional whey and are knit together to make slabs. These slabs are then turned and stacked upon one another a number of times. Oftentimes because of this stacking, cheddars are produced in very large blocks–here in the Bottle King Vineyard Markets, we get some single pieces of cheddar weighing in at 45 pounds!

So next time you share a piece of cheddar with a friend, be sure to pass your newfound cheesy knowledge along!

“Mite” As Well Say Au Revoir to Mimolette

Picture from Wikipedia

Photo from Wikipedia

I’m sure by now you’ve noticed a lack of Mimolette here in the US, Turophiles.  Sadly, the FDA has put a block on this French favorite for a reason that has left many cheese lovers confused and outraged.  Earlier this year, the FDA held up (and eventually destroyed) nearly 1.5 tonnes–roughly 3,300 pounds–of Mimolette cheese that was being imported into the US.  The reasoning?  In short, Mimolette contains too many cheese mites per square inch.  Cheese mites are microscopic mites used to produce certain types of cheese,  Mimolette included.  They are introduced to a cheese so it is aged a certain way, creating particular flavors.  Currently the FDA considers 6 cheese mites per square inch of a cheese to be acceptable levels.  During FDA testing, it was found that the majority of Mimolette being imported greatly exceeded that level, hence the hold up.  The concern is that cheese mites may cause allergic reactions–though many claim there is no proof that these mites cause a negative reaction.  While there is currently no official ban in place, many Mimolette importers are weary of sending their beloved cheese to the US, fearing it will be detained and eventually destroyed.

Cheesemongers and Turophiles alike have raised their voices against this block, taking to the streets in peaceful protests to educate the public on the situation.  There are petitions and even a Save the Mimolette Facebook page (which this proud Curd Nerd is a proud member!).  For now though, it looks as though Mimolette will continue to be blocked should their mite levels be too high.

For those who just can’t live without it, there are a few cheeses out there with similar–albeit not exact same–flavors.  This cheese lover has found many Aged Goudas, such as Beemster XO, to have a similar consistency and flavor profile.  At Bottle King’s Vineyard Market we have a Danish Mimolette currently available to us.  The difference between that and French Mimolette?  It’s much younger and has a wax rind–no excessive amount of mites here!

All we can do now is add our voice to the protest and hope that the FDA and French cheese makers can work something out!

Parmigiano-Reggiano Cutting

1Just last week in Ramsey we got this 92-pound wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano produced by Reggio Emilia Farm #597.  Now, I don’t normally have trouble moving multiple wheels of heavy cheese, but I was baffled as to how I was not only going to move this giant hunk-o-Parm, but how I was going to cut it–especially when the “Parmigiano cutting kit” I received contained those four little knives you see lying on top of the wheel!  I called our Vineyard Market Head Honcho panicking and begging for a chainsaw.  He assured me that no chainsaw was needed, though.  So how is it that Parmigiano-Reggiano is cut by hand? Read More…

Cheese 101: All About Rinds

The latest installment of Cheese 101 comes from Karen, our Morris Plains Cheese Lead!

Why is it that nobody ever talks about the rind of their cheese? Most people cut around it and discard it without pondering its true function or the role it plays in the taste of the cheese they are about to enjoy.  Permit us to enlighten you a bit. Read More…

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