Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Halloumi: The Grilling Cheese From Cyprus

Halloumi is a cheese from the island of Cyprus and is often called the grilling cheese. In 2006 Halloumi was allowed to be promoted in the United States, Europe and Canada through an agreement with the Cyprus Ministry of Commerce and Tourism. This agreement has opened the doors of export to these three markets and has made this interesting and unique cheese easier to find.

Hallumi is made from sheep milk in the old traditional way in both small villages and modern factories. The milk is pasteurized and then allowed cool before the rennet is added. When the curd has formed it is pressed into molds and cooked in the expelled whey water. The cheese is then dry salted, folded, seasoned with fresh mint and brined for 24 hours. The resulting cheeses are then vacuum packed and aged while being kept refrigerated below 7C /44.6F

Halloumi has an odd mouth feel that is almost rubbery and it squeaks when chewed. This may seem strange or  unbelievable, but it is true. The cheese has an off white paste that has a semi firm texture, and a slightly salty milky flavor with a touch of mint. Another unique aspect of this cheese is that it does not melt when it is heated so it is great for grilling or skewered with meat and vegetables. This cheese is wonderful when it is grilled to a golden yellow on both sides and served with eggs or sauteed vegetables. It is also great grilled  on top of crusty bread covered with bruschetta. The locals on Cyprus enjoy it served at room temperature with chilled watermelon during the summer. Even though it is semi firm Halloumi can be shredded and used in omelets and over salads.

Halloumi has become quite popular and can be found in most supermarkets and specialty food shops.Try to find the Shepherds of Cyprus brand if possible.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Limburger Germany's Stinky Cheese

Limburger was first produced  by Trappist monks in the Limburg region of Belgium during the early 19th century. The cheese quickly became popular and was copied by the Germans who began to produce it in the Allgau region. It's fame has grown worldwide and is now considered a German original.

Limburger is a washed rind, pasteurized cow's milk cheese that has a strong pungent aroma. The rind is thin, sticky and edible with a pale orange to light brown color and distinctive corrugated ridges.The interior paste has a pale straw or white color. As this cheese ages it will soften and become almost runny. The flavor is mild, grassy and mushroomy with a slight tang on the finish. Overall this is a one dimensional and somewhat disappointing cheese but this is not meant to say that it should be dismissed. However if you are looking for a stinky cheese with more depth of flavor try Alsatian Munster, Epoisse or Taleggio

When shopping for Limbuger look for foil-wrapped 8oz packages that are not soft or bulging or you may be in for a very unpleasant purchase. Please remember that Limburger will have a strong aroma but then again that is part of it's allure.

Limburger can be served with raw vegetables, fruit and crackers. It also goes well with salty fish like sardines and anchovies.

Parings: Malty Beers

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Piave Vecchio Cheese A Gift From Italy's Vento Region

Piave Vecchio is named after the Piave river that runs through the Vento region of northern Italy. Here the cows graze in the river valley and their milk is delivered to the local dairies to be made into cheese. Piave is not a DOP certified cheese but its production is very localized and is produced according to set standards and old traditions.

Piave Vecchio is a cooked and pressed cheese made from pasteurized cows milk and vegetable rennet. It has a hard natural beige colored rind and a light buttery yellow interior paste. As the cheese ages the interior color will get darker toward the rind and its flavor will become more pronounced. In Italy Piave is sold at three different ages, Fresco (fresh) aged one to two months, Mezzano (medium) aged three to four months and Stagionato (aged) six to twelve months. Most of the Piave imported into the United Staes is the Stagianto version. This aged version will be some what hard but not flinty like aged Grana Padano or Reggiano Parmesan so it is great for grating.. Its flavor is intense and full bodied with noticeable tropical flavors especially citrus but there are also butterscotch and caramel undertones.

When shopping for Piave Vecchio do not purchase any the appear to be dried out or cracked or with a discolored interior paste NOTE: as stated above a darker color near the rind is a natural part of the aging process. Always ask for a sample to taste to be sure that it does not taste bitter or feel slimy. 

This is a truly wonderful cheese that can be eaten as a table cheese with sweet fruits like grapes, melon or figs and a crusty bread or grated over salads or pasta. Piave is not noted to be a great melting cheese but it does work well shredded over baked potatoes of vegetables.

Store Piave Vecchio in your refrigerators vegetable bin wrapped with a paper towel and then covered with aluminum foil or in a zip locked plastic bag. The idea here is let the cheese breathe. Any mold that  may form can simply be scrapped off.

Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir, Grenache, Dolcetto

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