The Cheese Evangelist

J Peter Aursnes on Raw Milk Cheese and Stuff

It’s a Shame

My wife has been in San Francisco, CA, all week. Returning tomorrow and not allowed to bring back as much as an iota of cheese. It’s a shame. If you travel within EU/EEC you can bring back anything you like of the sort, as long as it does not exceed 10 kilos. That’s a lot of cheese. That’s why so many Norwegians go to Sweden for their grocery shopping. It’s much cheaper there. Having said that; the Swedes go to Denmark, the Danes to Germany and the Germans to Poland for the same reasons. And the Poles? They come to Norway to work. No shopping.

it's a shame

Excellent American cheese, even though it’s pasteurized

Tasting of American cheese

I have known about this trip for a while and had actually planned to arrange a tasting of American cheese and wine when she returns. It was actually my wife, who should bring in the about seven lb of cheese required, that called the authorities to check if it’s legal to do it. Well, it is. Provided that I am registered as an importer, and there is an agreement between the US and the EU about exporting cheese from the US to Europe (no less), and a written statement from each dairy that they actually have an export license allowing them to sell cheese into the EU. All that in place: feel free to bring in cheese.
Customs and VAT apply, og course.
I dropped the whole thing.

ALSO VISIT: OstePerler.no

It's a shame

Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. Pasteurized as well.

I’ll go to the mountain in stead

I will go to the US to taste American cheese. But it is a pity, with so much excellent American cheese around, that it is so difficult to have it brought over. That said, from time to time American cheese appears in delis here in Oslo. Have had Cabot clothbound Cheddar, Jasper Hill’s Bayley Hazen Blue and Harrison, so it’s not that it does not happen. But I cannot rely on perhaps one or two American cheeses appear in Oslo. It has to be more regular that that.

No cheese tasting

So unless someone gets all the licenses required and takes up regular import of American cheese there will be no tasting in Oslo. Arranged by me at least. It’s a shame.

A one fits all American wine with cheese?

Try a Pacific rim Riesling. Generally has a slight sweetness at the end.

Copy cats

I wonder, just a little bit, though, but I still wonder how many lawyers would sit on my back if I started to make a Mac, developed some new programming and called it Office, peanut butter called Jif, and so on, along with many of the copy cats there is in the world. It’s a huge problem in the luxury goods industry. And you can never be sure a really expensive wine is not a counterfeit.

Well, I know it is a bit different, but only a bit. What I think of is, especially the Americans and copying of cheese names. But not the only the Americans, but they seem to have the less understanding why they should not freely do so.

Brie and Camembert

Brie and Camembert

Respect traditions, not just laws

Brie is of course copied all over the world, and so is Camembert. Also here at my outpost, even though we’re not that far from France, and by all means, we do have the real stuff available, you can find locally produced semi brie style cheese branded Brie. There is a lot of others as well, Gruyère, Emmentaler, Gouda of course and to a little lesser extent Emmentaler. And then we have Cheddar, that is perhaps the most misused cheese name. It might just be excused though. And that has to do with emigration from the UK to the US before any laws and regulations and extensive international trade came into power. Have not seen or heard of Jarlsberg being copied yet, which does not guarantee is has not, but it is slightly different, because Jarlsberg is brand, not a cheese from a designated area or town, bearing the area’s or town’s name. It is so much easier to copy when a cheese is called for instance Gouda, because you cans say Gouda is a town, I just named my cheese after that town which I love so much, I even want to go there some time, I hope. But this all has to do with respect of traditions, not only the laws. The copy right laws are probably much stronger than the designated area of origin regulations. And just to put this into a comic perspective, the free trade treaty negotiations between The EU and The US has come to a halt because the EU wants, rightfully in my opinion to forbid American cheese makers to brand certain types of cheese Feta. Feta can only be made in Greece, which seems hard to grasp for some people.

Style is a wonderful word

The thing is that when you copy, there is always a danger that a consumer is misled into believing they’re buying the real stuff. I suppose that is the idea as well. Why else would you do it. Otherwise the term style can be used. I am a great fan of that. And it is very legitimate. I understand most cheese makers want to describe the type of cheese they are making so that the consumers can tag it onto something known. But you don’t have to steal the name; the word style is available.

Be proud of your product

Give your product its own identity. By copying the name you will signal to the whole world that your cheese is not unique, it’s a copy. Well, if I know that what I am about to buy is a copy, I won’t buy it, I’ll go for the original.

Brie Le Fougerus

Perhaps not one of the most famous of the Bries, which one is that, by the way? But still a Brie. A real Brie, bloomy rind and all, not all of Brie style cheeses are Brie, though. Brie Le Fougerus is a real Brie. Made from raw cow’s milk. Artisanal. It all started out with a family that made cheese for their own home consumption. Abut a hundred years ago they started selling it. Which they still do.

Smaller than the biggies

It is much smaller than Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun that probably are both considerably more well known around the world. 650 grams and a diameter of only 16 cm. No need to buy halves. It is definitely from the right area, is unpasteurized as said, but has no AOP or AOC protection. It might come. Or not.

Brie le Fougerus

Brie le Fougerus

Bought in Denmark

My piece was bought in Denmark, they’re closer to Europe. That must be the reason, because I have never seen this fine breed here on the outskirts of Europe. A pity really, because it has some real Brie taste. Not that it is pungent, not at all. Just that it fills your mouth with taste, lasting taste. And if you compare it to the general industrially manufactured and pasteurized so-called bries, you understand what I mean. Not that I want you to spend your money on some soulless crap just for the comparison. But if you are in the explorative mood, go ahead! Decorated with a fern leaf, so it stands out. The fern leaf is just for decoration, mind you, well could be it leaves a foot print, so to speak, but I think it is mostly decoration. Remove it.

To drink

Keep it simple; try one of the great French reds. Bordeaux, Burgundy or northern Rhône. Mature ones. And yes, a great white Burgundy works just wonderful as well, as usual of course.

Serra da Estrela

Commonly regarded as Portugal’s best cheese. And Serra da Estrela is really a treat if you can stand a slight hint of barn yard. The older it gets, the richer it smells. This cheese is on the soft side, but gets firmer with age. Use a spoon for the young ones and knife for the mature. From raw ewe’s milk.

What to eat in Portugal

As the name indicates it’s from the Estrela mountains, inland in the mid to northern part of Portugal. There are a few things you have to do in Portugal; having ewe’s milk cheese in general and Serra da Estrela in particular, is one of them. Eating Bacalhau one way or the other, and there are plenty of ways, is another. Drinking Port as well, which of course you can pair with Serra da Estrela.

Washed rind

I was very curious about the rind, because I found it differed from most other cheese I have had. Reminded me of rubber. Mostly I cut it off, but tested its edibility of course, and surprise, I am still around. I have later found out the rind is washed. Beige color, and some are on the hard side, in which case you should definitely cut away unless you want to pay your dentist a visit, while the soft rinds are perfectly edible. But the paste is so good there’s no need to eat the rind. The rind is also quite different from the washed styles you find in France, which I quite frequently eat.

Queijo Serra da Estrela DOP

Queijo Serra da Estrela DOP

Acidity and herbs

In addition to the taste of barn there is a distinct hint of acidity and herbs from the wild fodder they find up in the mountains.

To drink

This may vary with the age of the cheese. Normally it is aged for a minimum of 35 days and at that age it is rather creamy and calls for a lighter white without too much complexity. As the cheese matures, it requires more body in the wine. I am on the white side as I find them way more suitable than reds. A favorite among the whites is Américo from the Dão. It has enough body to match the Serra da Estrela Velho (aged). A good Port will always work, and since this is regarded the best Portuguese cheese you should choose a sincerely good vintage Port to go with it.

Scalloway Hotel

Scalloway is the former capital of Shetland, a nicely nestled haven on the west coast of the Shetland mainland. My ‘relationship’ to Scalloway is the hotel, Scalloway hotel where I have stayed only once, but this stay made its impact. It is a small, but fine hotel where they put their pride in decorating the rooms with local products and serving great Shetland food. Though not only.

Visit Shetland

As I am planning to go to Shetland later this year I just looked at their web site to-day. And interested in food as I am, I also checked their menu. Always intriguing, especially this time because as I reached the dessert menu there was still another page. CHEESE. They serve cheese, they had their own cheese menu. No less. I was excited, very excited. And what cheeses they are. Not particularly local these, but more or less regional. Shetland is part of Scotland so that is Ok. Just look at this:
The Scalloway Hotel cheese menu.
All served with home made chutney and oatcakes. The oatcake’s a charming local twist anyway.

More than half of the cheeses from raw milk

At least six of the cheeses are from raw milk. I am so excited and cannot wait to get to the Scalloway Hotel. Some of these are famous as well. And I am not saying those varieties that are pasteurized are no good, far from it; all these cheeses are high quality and artisan. I am just focused on the raw milk ones, though. But still, I have to try the Fearn Abbey. A Brie-style ewe’s milk cheese. Smooth and slightly sweetish. Only the fact they say Brie-style in the menu tells a lot.

Some of these are also on the Neal’s Yard list, which is a seal of quality in itself.

To drink

Not so impressed with the wine list though. Not a harsh word about the new world, but for me they are carrying too much weight in the wine list. I know Britain is closely connected to both Australia and New Zealand, but I would like to see more high quality European wine. Unless they have a special wine list for the few, there is no red Burgundy for example.
I’ll manage to find wine to pair the cheese though, there are some decent whites. I also find the whites to be more exciting than the reds.

I can highly recommend Shetland. If you want to learn more about the islands, go to Shetland.org

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