Monday, October 8, 2007

Cheese of the Month

As a few people have indicated that they would like little of my cheese knowledge shared on this blog I have decided I will start doing a ‘Cheese of the Month’ posting each month.. While I was tempted to start local with one of the fantastic New Zealand cheeses, particularly as a certain cheese producer is about to put me up for a night in their luxury lodge as a thank you for flogging their milk fats, how easily one is bought. But no, this month since it has just been made legal in this country it had to be the ‘King of Cheeses’ from France, ladies and gentleman… Roquefort.

Until recently it has been illegal in New Zealand to import any un-pasteurised cheese that has been aged less than 60 days. That has effectively excluded some of the worlds greatest cheeses from the New Zealand market. In my privileged position I have gained access to Roquefort over the years as it hasn’t been illegal to import it for personal consumption. One of my cheese importers kindly supplied me and some of my co-workers with quarters each Christmas.

When milk is pasteurised it is heated to 72c for 15 to 20 seconds. Pasteurisation reduces the number of viable pathogens in the milk; unfortunately it also strips a lot of the more subtle flavours out of the milk and removes many of the natural enzymes in the milk which help mammals digest dairy products.

Roquefort is a sheeps milk blue cheese which is aged in the caves of Cambalou where it picks up the natural cultures of the cave. Only cheeses which are aged in these caves can use the name Roquefort. Many blue cheeses will have the word roqueforti listed in the ingredients as just like brewers yeasts have been isolated and cultured for use in breweries far from the yeasts origins, the moulds that give Roquefort its amazing sharp tangy blue flavour are used in many blues across the world.

Roquefort is marketed as the ‘King of Cheeses’ but if American Bud is anything to go by, being the king isn’t that great. Another description often heard, that I feel is more apt, is that it’s the whiskey of the cheese world. Roquefort is incredibly complex; while the sheep’s milk provides a tangy nutty sweet character the aggressive blue character fills the palate with intense almost perfumy flavours.

I once gathered a group of friends together pulled a 2003 bottle of Chimay Grande Reserve from the cellar and dished out the Roquefort. The dried fruit notes, hints of port and sweet malty weight of the Chimay matched the enveloping strength of the Roquefort perfectly. At the time the cheese was still illegal and the experience was all the sweeter for it.


Greig McGill said...

Great post. It's a beautiful thing when passionate people write about the things they love. I love a good cheese as much as the next man, though my knowledge is fairly deficient. If this continues, I hope my knowledge will improve.

Our local French shop, La Cave, claims to be getting some Roquefort in soon, so I hope to be able to try the real thing. It might even be worth cracking a 2003 Chimay GR or a couple of 2003 Thomas Hardy ales to have something fit for its noble presence!

Anonymous said...

I'm partial to a spot of cheese too, good on you for expanding the repertoire of your blog. I'd try the same angle with mine but I'm not sure there'd be a market for snippets of computer code and / or pretty coloured graphs!

I am very partial to smoked cheese but my experience is limited to those I can buy from the supermarket, this said there is am authentic French market visiting town this weekend or next. With that in mind would you be able to recommend a tasty smoked French cheese for me to seek out and enjoy with simple English ale, brown bread and beetroot pickle please? There'll also be a "continental" market visiting before Christmas too, with Spanish and German influences, is there anything I should Look out for there?

Incidentally I agree heartily with Greig regarding hearing someone who is passionate about a subject speak. I'm a big fan of Gordon Ramsay, yes he's shouty, sweary and an absolute git to work for but by god the man has a passion for what he does!

Keep up the good work ;o)

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

I have no experiance with smoked french cheeses Im afraid, I have had some good Italian smoked cheeses and some fantastic English smoked cheeses (proper oak smoked cheddar, no essence involved).

Raclette is a fantastic french cheese which is occasionally smoked,not for the faint hearted tho.

Anonymous said...

Are there any good "beginners" French cheeses I should look out for?

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

I would just ask to taste cheeses, if the store you buy them from cuts cheese they should be happy to let you try some till you find something you like.