The term “gruyère” earned its name from tax collectors who operated between France and Switzerland in the Middle Ages who received cheese as payment. In order to age huge amounts of cheese, some large Gruyère producers have created 2Km tunnels within mountains.
Made in the Ossau Valley near the Irati—the biggest beech forest in Europe— this cheese is aged on beechwood boards. The AOC regulations stipulate that only raw, unpasteurized milk be used. Some wheels are stuffed with Espelette peppers.
Creamy and buttery, with a strong spicy and tangy finish.
Mixture of damp leaves with a spicy musty odour.
Wrapped in Sycamore leaves, the rind is dry, thin, pale brown, with patches of white. UPDATE:
Due to new strict regulations exported Queso Valdeon is now wrapped in foil with an image of leaves instead of being wrapped in real Sycamore leaves.
Firm, yet crumbles into a creamy texture; the inside is filled with numerous large and small cavities lined with a blue mould. The paste ranges from bright white to a pale tan colour.
Firm, bright white past, exposed mould looks bright with a velvety texture.
Soggy leaves, dark brown around the edges, a rancid smell and damp sticky rind.
Best way to enjoy
Works well in a blue cheese sauce, for pasta or forest mushrooms. A wonderful addition to any cheese plate with dried figs, apricots and chilled grapes to cleanse the palate.
An Italian, grana-style cheese, where the milk is skimmed before production to prevent spoiling and allowing the cheese to age for longer periods of time. Named after the river which flows through the region, Piave has DOPstatus under European Union regulations. Authentic Piave is produced in the Dolomites mountain range, in the province of Veneto.
A thin layer of wax coating with a distinct zigzag pattern on the edge which represents espatro grass which used to make traditional Manchego moulds.
Firm with many tiny irregular holes; the texture is dry but with a balanced amount of moisture. A faint yellow colour, that darkens around the edges when aged.
Firm dense texture with a slightly sweet aroma.
Rind slides off when touched, extremely crystalline, bitter and sweaty on the finish.
Best way to enjoy
Fragrant herbs such as rosemary make the perfect fresh accent for this earthy aged Spanish cheese. Versatile, it can be used with mashed root vegetables or a salad vinaigrette, shaved and marinated in olive oil.
Red Leicester can be a Kosher cheese. There are various styles of Red Leicester including a blend with Indian chutney mixed into the cheese.
“Leicestershire” refers to the region in England where this cheese is from, and it’s a hard word for many folks to pronounce. The English themselves shortened the spelling of the cheese to “Leister” and the pronunciation to “Lester”.
During WW2, food colouring agents were banned, so “Red” was dropped from the name and the cheese suddenly sported a glowing white interior.
St. Agur comes from the Auvergne region in central France, it is a soft creamy cheese with a decent amount of blue. The ageing process is about 2 months, then wrapped in foil.
The amount of blue isn’t overwhelming and I find people are pleasantly surprised when they try it. There is a bit of sweetness that comes from the double cream in combination with a slight mustiness of the blue on the finish.
Starting December 8th, I will be posting unusual and tasty cheeses that will be awesome for holiday platters or your own DYI Cheese Advent Calendar!
If you want more inspiration, check out the 29 unusual fine cheeses featured in my e-book, How to Say Cheese. In addition to more platter ideas, there are tips on which rinds are toxic and how to tell if your cheese is fresh or ready for the bin.
Check back often to for ideas on your next flavour discovery and which retailers from around the globe will be joining me. Better yet, sign up for my cheese club newsletter to find out first hand what cheese counters in your area carry these unusual and tasty selections. Some retailers may have holiday discounts on the featured cheeses.
A wee stinker from Burgundy, France. Produced by Delin, a small family run company who concentrate on making several amazing cheeses. Made of cow’s milk, this one for me stands out. Washing the orange and sticky rind evolves the flavour.
The flavour is fruity and a bit yeasty, but it never seems to get too strong. The paste is nice and doughy, the rind is bright orange colour and sticky.
Rich and fruity with a slight salty tang on the finish
Pungent with a bit of a yeasty and musty odour
Soft wet and sticky and remains stuck to your fingers, coppery orange in colour
Soft and doughy with a few small holes in the middle, chalky if younger
Pungent with a sticky rind and the flavour doesn’t linger for too long
Slimy rind and the flavour is intense, almost sour and bitter at the same time
Best way to enjoy
Stinky cheeses are best when left on the counter for a least 1 hour before hand, this gets the flavours going and the texture nice and soft.