16 April 2007

Caerphilly

We are hungry for fromageOur latest cheese selection comes from our ex-pat correspondent and British Isle cheese expert: Fontina Turner. This cheese hales from Wales, near the mouth of the Severn river. Caerphilly is a raw cow's milk fromage that matures extremely quickly (just three weeks or less). During the 19th century it was hugely popular with Welsh miners. It has a high salt content and is rumored to absorb inhaled toxins from the mines. A common miner lunch was Caerphilly wrapped up in cabbage leaves. Beige on the inside, gray on the outside, it also features a natural rind. You should always purchase Caerphilly directly from a wheel, not pre-sliced, so as to prevent excessive dryness. It will also dry up quickly on you, so never keep it on hand for more than a week.

Caerphilly is great example of the global struggle against processed cheeses. Although considered a pedestrian cheese, after a brief stint of mass production and bastardization of the name, it is now possible to get authentic Caerphilly from many smaller producers in Wales. This fromage should be available at finer cheese shops.

A Jenkin's cheese-storage footnote: "Cheese is best stored in the refrigerator as close to the bottom of the appliance as possible - the vegetable compartment is ideal." You should wrap up the cheese to allow it to breath and continue to age. Also it is OK to store many cheeses together. They will not contaminate each other...

9 comments:

  1. I was lucky enough to discover this delicious cheese at a small market in Kent, South East England. My particular sample was produced by hand by a man named Roy who is truly passionate about cheese (he makes several other traditional British varieties as well).
    I thought Caerphilly was absolutely delicious. I could have eaten it all day long. It has a soft, slightly crumbly texture on the inside, which mellows and firms up to a creamy yellow inner rind, which eventually ends up in a delicious mouldy grey crust on the very outside of the cheese.

    The flavour was as expected- creamy, a bit salty, and not over-powering, yet full of integrity. Tasting it was almost like being on a farm. I must concur with Jenkins though- this cheese is actually better served somewhat cooler than room temperature.

    Rating: 8 slices

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  2. outstanding choice, fontina. i wandered into 24th street cheese company in san francisco, staffed with crunchy-hipster-cheese-lovers. i was reminded that fromage is a global phenomena cutting across all strata of the middle and upper class. as luck would have it, this cheese, along with many of its fine compatriots were available. i immediately ordered up a quarter pound, a bottle of sancerre, and some outstanding crackers.
    later in the afternoon we got right to the tasting: wow. this cheese was really interesting because for me, it was almost like eating two cheeses. the crumbly inside was somewhat bitter while mellow outside was almost like brie. i actually tried all sorts of techniques, but eventually started cutting a piece and then folding it over so as to taste both at the same time. super interesting flavor. i felt pretty exotic while eating this imported cheese.
    also, i was intrigued by the distinctive rind on the caerphilly. my cheese tasting comrade was taken aback as i inhaled the grey, somewhat fowl looking rind. as of yet i have suffered no ill effect, but it foments the question: should we be eating the rinds (obviously not wax)???
    anyone else try / like this cheese?
    goudacris rating: 7 slices
    anyone else try this cheese?

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  3. Sounds like an excellent choice, a creamy, salty, cow's milk cheese, slightly crumbly, bringing you back to your farm origins.

    I have been unable yet to find it here in the D.C.- neither at 2 different Whole Foods, Balducci's, or 2 specialty cheese shops! I was told at Cheesetique in Alexandria that it could be ordered for me, but I would need to get a larger quantity of it. Several of the cheesemongers had heard of it, of course, but do not carry it regularly. Bummer - I will try, w/ the Sultan of Swiss (M.Boster) to get this as soon as possible.

    I am very jealous of Fontina's interaction with Roy and the knowledge she is gaining by very good English instructors/slicers. The greatest part of Gouda's description is the juxtaposition of the 'global phenomenon' of cheese consumption and the very demographics that define 'global': various strata of middle and upper class. The wit is staggering:)

    As for rinds: I was scolded by the Big 'Brie' Himself, the Sultan of Saga, (http://www.sherbliss.com/images/DSCF0285.JPG) when I ignored the rind on a recent Cypress Grove Goat's milk that we tasted -- the answer was basically that rinds are to be eaten, in general, and this seemed reasonable and hard to argue. It's reasonable to ask why I haven't in the past - there is no good reason. Jenkins describes the rind as natural, not cloth-wrapped in the production process, and so this supports the edible argument further.

    Interesting note: Jenkins also calls this a 'nearly extinct' buttery dream of a cheese. I wonder why? That sounds like a good reason to get my hands on some. Note: he also uses 'tangy', 'creamy', and 'savory' as descriptors...

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  4. P.S. good work with dazzling fromo-photography on the frontpost for Caerphilly. The fruit is arranged just as a Welsh miner might expect for his afternoon munch, perhaps on a more appealing tray.

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  5. for my second of what i hope is to be many cheese tastings, i was most honored to break fromage with the illustrious goudacris. while purchasing the cheese, i, too, was struck by the mind-blowing juxtaposition of the bougie cheese shoppe staffed entirely by hipsters. two oft-sparring factions of uppermiddle class joined together by a shared love of cheese. it brings a tear to the eye, really.

    as everyone has already said, this cheese boasts the white/crumbly inside, yellower/creamier outside combo -- akin to the humboldt fog of yestermonth. caerphilly's rind was INTENSE: brown and grey, lumpy and bumpy, and ashen to boot. to let our olfactory senses in on the fun, we decided to smell the cheese. the cheese itself smelled quite pungent and delicious - is it possible to smell tang? the rind, on the other hand, did not smell good. it did not smell good at all. according to gouda, it smelled (and i do quote) like “the butthole”.

    on that note, we ate the cheese, which is a most interesting cheese indeed.

    i ate the inner portion first. it was chalky and powdery and yet still somehow smooth, which i always enjoy immensely. with the memory of hf still lingering on my palate, i expected to be wowed once again by the yellowisher outer portions. i regret to say that this was not the case. there is a fine vegetable ash line between tangy and sour, and i feel that caerphilly treads dangerously close to the sour side of things.

    i agree that eating this cheese is a bit like eating two cheeses, which is obviously cool. but why stop at two? like a magical fromagevariant on the high school chemistry experiment, it seems that crumbly inside + creamy outside yields a THIRD cheese that tastes unlike either of the two “parent” cheeses. this is a fantastic and somewhat rare quality for a cheese to have.

    caerphilly gets high marks for being interesting and unusual, but it did not bring me to the same gustatory heights as did the humboldt fog. i give it 6 slices.

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  6. in addendum, a brief discussion on the rind. i admit that i was mortified when gouda consumed the bumpymoldybuttholeness of it all. like ricky, i have typically avoided eating the rinds, especially those with off-putting aromas. do we need to formulate a unanimous policy on rind-eating or can we divide ourselves into two constituencies?

    also, i take full credit for the fromo-photog. i'm so glad you enjoyed it.

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  7. Yeah, you make an excellent point again about the rinds-- I mean I think ultimately it is about one's taste for the actual rinds, but I am still curious if there is a consensus on certain cheeses. I will definitely start to try rinds, whatever my apprehension:) then, it can be based on personal-empirical evidence!

    I'd really like to try this one again, given that it is a 'rare buttery' oddity.

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  8. Alas--I was able to actually find Caerphilly, finally, in Concord, MA of all places. I was visiting my girlfriend's family over Memorial Day weekend, and wandered intentially into a small boutique cheese shop in the historic Concord Town Center. The owner was awed that I couldn't find it around DC, because he had actually worked in Alexandria for years, at Sutton Place Gourmet, and he knows that they carried it then.

    The key, lasting flavor of this cheese, a flavor still reminiscent on my palate (as I write)because of the close link of memory and taste in the brain, is 'bitter, lactic'. Have you ever tasted a just-turning-bad yogurt and gotten a bit of a sour taste, or, tasted a piece of freshly sliced sourdough bread for which the baker may have used a little bit too much acid for preservation? You know that subtle, but marked bitterness?

    That is what Caerphilly tastes like, with an final resolution of butteriness. It's like a lactic-butter-milieu.

    To piggyback on Gouda, the palatal pattern goes: Bitter-->mellow--->creamy after-taste.

    Would be very, very good with a deep, red wine in my estimation.

    Now, on to the cheddars, belatedly....

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