Monday, March 17, 2008

Three Strong Cheeses - Morbier, Aged Cheddar, Abondance


Thanks for reading my Wine and Food Pairing Tips!

I am pleased to announce a new meeting for the Capital Region Gourmet Meetup. We will be learning how to brew and enjoy loose teas from around the world. For more information and to RSVP for this informative tour of a local tea shop, please visit the Gourmet Meetup website at : http://cooking.meetup.com/534/


On a recent trip to the Warehouse Farmers Market in Albany, I tried an aged Cheddar from Four Brothers Goat Dairy & Hammond Dairy in Millerton, NY. I enjoyed the sharp flavor, especially when the cheesemaker let me compare and contrast with a similar, creamier cheese without all the years of aging.

So I thought I was a real cheese connoisseur until....

I tried a hunk of Morbier, a cheese with a great story behind it, on a recent trip to Long Island. Morbier, a is a French semi-soft cows' milk cheese named after the village of Morbier in Franche-Comté. The cheese is divided in two by a black layer of ashes separating the milk derived from the morning milking and the evening milking of the cows.

I really wanted to like this cheese. I love the story behind it.

Unfortunately, the aroma was too intense for me.

I thought it might be because the cheese itself was going bad, but I encountered a similar type of aroma in a piece of Abondance cheese I purchased at the Coop last week.

An ammonia scent is a solid indicator that a cheese has gone bad. These cheeses were not overly ammonia-scented.

Abondance is a raw-milk cheese made in the Haute-Savoie department of France, and named after the Abondance commune and it's eponymous breed of cattle.

The aroma I couldn't get past could have been described kindly as 'used hay.' It smelled to me more like feral cat. Not dirty, just like a hormone or gland excretion.

The Abondance from the coop was rated a 10 out of 10 by cheese expert Steve Jenkins, so I know this is a pleasurable scent to the discriminating cheese connoisseur, but I couldn't take it.

I am a little disappointed. I LOVE Steve Jenkin's Cheese Primer and hoped that we would have similar cheese palates.

I enjoy wines tinged with Brettanomyces aromas, so I thought I could learn to enjoy funky cheeses as well.

A quick Google search offers several websites advising Gamay-based wines (think Beaujolais) as recommended pairings for Morbier cheese. Perhaps the fruitiness of the wine would allow me to gloss over the aroma of the cheese and concentrate on it's texture.

For now I will stick to aged Cheddars and continue exploring the Cheese counter at the Honest Weight.

Do you enjoy smelly cheeses? Which is your favorite?


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4 comments:

Loulou said...

I love smelly cheeses but have found that a smelly cheese doesn't necessarily mean a strong cheese.
Livarot, for instance, will chase you out of the kitchen! But it has only a mildly strong flavor.

My favorite cheeses have to be:
Langres
Banon à la Feuille
Beaufort
Bleu de Brebis
Laguiole

Amanda Misner said...

Morbier certainly qualifies as smelly, but I was surprised to see your description of Abondance as smelly! It is one of my favorite cheeses, which I've only had while in France, but I recall it as being creamy and rather sweet with mild hay flavors. Cheese is a living thing, so its flavor is going to reflect its life as well as birthplace, so perhaps that's the difference. The average brie in the USA is mild, but unpasteurized Brie de Meaux that's allowed to 'ripen' is quite smelly, which some people like. Not me, though.

Rajiv said...

Well... I like ossau-iraty, pecorino ginepro, petite basque, beemster, gruyere, and brie (just the rind, actually). I don't think any of them are especially stinky.

One stinky cheese I tasted recently was Muenster d'Alsace. Smelled exactly like the tryptone extract we use in lab (I work with E. Coli). So it didn't bother me... but it didn't really strike me as delicious.

I wonder if eating stinky cheeses provides a similar subconscious rush that eating bitter and tannic foods does - I've heard it described as "the rollercoaster effect." We get a sense of danger from experiencing something that normally would be dangerous - high velocities/heights in the case of the rollercoaster. As for bitterness and tannins - both are common flavors of natural poisons.

-Rajiv
questionsoftaste.blogspot.com

Rajiv said...

Well... I like ossau-iraty, pecorino ginepro, petite basque, beemster, gruyere, and brie (just the rind, actually). I don't think any of them are especially stinky.

One stinky cheese I tasted recently was Muenster d'Alsace. Smelled exactly like the tryptone extract we use in lab (I work with E. Coli). So it didn't bother me... but it didn't really strike me as delicious.

I wonder if eating stinky cheeses provides a similar subconscious rush that eating bitter and tannic foods does - I've heard it described as "the rollercoaster effect." We get a sense of danger from experiencing something that normally would be dangerous - high velocities/heights in the case of the rollercoaster. As for bitterness and tannins - both are common flavors of natural poisons.

-Rajiv
questionsoftaste.blogspot.com

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