23 December 2006


"Blue cheese contains natural amphetamines. Why are students not informed about this?"
-Mark E. Smith, Lead singer of a UK 'post-punk' band "The Fall"

This is a ridiculous quote of course, but it is a nonetheless interesting fact. And, why not use it as an awkward and delicious segway in this world classic: Stilton. Stilton is a name-protected, classic, English blue cow's milk cheese made in the countryside areas of Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire (central England, about 120 miles northwest of London). 3 points....
  1. There are only a handful of dairies that have made this cheese, many for over 90 years, and it remains name-protected by the bylaws of the Stilton Cheese Maker's Association. It is a cow's milk blue cheese that is usually well-aged (at least 6 months) and should be slightly crumbly yet smooth in texture. It has been described, by Steven Jenkins, as "smooth, rich, and creamy...with layers and folds of honey..and molasses".The bacteria that produce some of these flavors and, of course the blueing, actually occur naturally in the milk and in the air around the processing dairies.
  2. As is the issue in many countries, English dairy law has by-and-large transformed the process of using raw milk to make traditional English farmhouse cheeses (like Stilton and Chesire). Many Stilton dairies tried to steer clear of the mass milk-collecting and cheese-producing efforts, that started in the 1930s in England with the Milk Marketing Board in attempt to centralize the growing, dairy commerce. But this effort collapsed with ongoing central government pressures. According to Steven Jenkins, you could not buy unpastuerized Stilton cheese in 1996 (and the Stilton Cheese Makers Assoc. Website, updated in 2006, corroborates this point to the present day).
  3. As a general note on blue cheeses: future blue cheese curds are not cooked at high temperatures during production, like they are for many other cheeses, during the stage that involves 'concentrating' the curd by removing the cloudy, liquid whey protein. Heating at high temperatures causes the curds to clump and tighten into a more string-like structure. These non-cooked 'Blues' are merely concentrated and then left to ripen (or 'spoil', in a controlled setting) which allows the visible holes and fissures to promote and fill with bacterial growth. For Stilton, the 'blueing' process starts off naturally and then, often, long needles are often used to aerate the inner curds. 

03 December 2006


Welcome cyberspace friends! Maintaining our recent Spanish theme but switching genus (now ovis) our third cheese under consideration is the widely popular Manchego! Due to La Mancha’s proximity to Madrid, this cheese has received lavish approbation and international distribution. Coupled with time, these factors have allowed the Manchego to eclipse most other Spanish cheeses. Jenkins takes a rather harsh view of Manchego, specifically for this reason. His primary concern is that "Spain is going to lose her gastronomic majesty". We here at Fromage du Mois hope this is erroneous. Nonetheless, we shall forge ahead and discover what all the fuss is about! Read on…

Manchego Fun Facts
  • The unique cross-hatch pattern on the rind was once formed by molds of woven grass. These molds have since been replaced by plastic!
  • The rind can be of differing colors. These colors have no bearing on the properties of the cheese.

  • Manchego comes aged up to two years. Watch out for an overly "sheepy" taste. This means your fromage specimen is not fresh!
  • It's best to stick to white wine or sherry with younger manchego's - save the red wine for older ones.

19 November 2006

Murcia al Vino ("The Drunken Goat")

Ricky Ricotta selects the next experience for Fromage du Mois: an elegant and tasty goat's milk cheese, originally from the southeast Spanish coast. Called Murcia al Vino, and fortuitously available in the US under the pseudonym "The Drunken Goat", it features a wash in red wine as part of the production process. Curiously, the Spanish name sounds more elegant. Jenkins describes the queso de murcia (the basic cheese) as a "very agreeable, moist, smooth goat's milk cheese". The incredible notion of soaking cheese in wine resulted from government pressure in 1986 on local cheesemakers to innovate a unique and delicious cheese to put Murcia on the fromage map, so to speak. This cheese was has only recently become available in the United States. As such, after a conservative start with the venerable Emmenthaler, we celebrate our first venture into the unexplored outback of cheese!

29 October 2006


Today witnessed the inaugural tasting by the fromage du mois triumvirate. The simple, yet classic Emmantaler was selected by our very own Fontina Turner. The curdled milk of this fromage originates from the Emme valley in Switzerland, a highly bucolic region known for dairy farming and the robust Emme river. Although endemic to this valley the name Emmantaler is also used to describe cheeses originating in France and Bavaria. The common variant found in the United States, known as Swiss cheese, is not authentic Emmantaler. The "eyes" of the cheese are created by bacteria off-gassing carbon dioxide during the aging process. The larger the "eyes", the longer the cheese has been aged. Larger "eyes" make the cheese harder to slice, however, which is why the American variant is typically younger. It behooves the amateur cheese lover the recognize the distinction between this holey cheese found in delis and mom's fridge and the true Emmantaler. The Emmental is readily found in American grocery stores as well as specialty wine and cheese shops. Other countries have produced similar cheeses such as Jarlsberg (Norway) and Leerdammer (Netherlands). The Emmentalers sampled ranged in price from $5.99 to $7.99 US dollars / pound.