Saturday, November 16, 2019

#48 - Yellowstone, by Nieuwenhuis Farmstead Cheese

It's been a long time since I posted on this blog, and I've been thinking I should start again. Recently we have found a new farmstead cheese maker that we are so excited to see close to us, it has really forced me to get posting again.

Nieuwenhuis Farmstead Cheese is a small producer making goat milk cheeses in the Hawkes Bay region here in New Zealand. This excites us because there aren't many goat milk cheeses in New Zealand. The few makers that still survive in a place that's still not really used to these products, do make fantastic cheeses. 

Yellowstone is a soft, washed rind, goats milk cheese. The one I tried had a lovely even golden rind. The inside of the cheese (the "paste") was white, glossy and gooey. Not too runny initially although it did get pretty soft once it had warmed up to room temperature. The texture was gloriously smooth and creamy.  
Unlike many washed rind cheeses, the aroma was quite mild - certainly not overpowering. Flavour was quite well balanced, with a slight bitterness which dissapeared quickly, counteracted by a hint of goat and salt, then finishing with a slight sweetness and a lovely savoury (almost meaty/bacon) flavour from the rind. Overall, this cheese reminded me of a slightly goaty version of Taleggio. 

This went really well with a malty American amber ale I recently brewed. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

#47 - Chebris (Tomme Brebis-Chevre)

Back in March when I was in Auckland for the New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards, I made up my own "walking tour of Auckland cheese shops".  It was a bit of a stretch as none of the shops are particularly central, and I had to take shelter a few times from passing torrential downpours.  And perhaps I should have taken a bus back from the last shop as it was a long walk.  But it successfully filled in the day, and it gave me a good appetite for the awards dinner later that evening.

The favourite shop that I visited was La Fromagerie, run by Maison Vauron on McColl Street in Newmarket. Here they have New Zealand's largest selection of imported French cheeses, along with all manner of other French specialties: charcuterie, rillettes, mustards, pates, preserves and fresh baking.  It was pretty hard for me to choose only a few cheeses to take home (I do admit to staring at the selection for a good 15 minutes).  In the end I chose a Picodon (a 60g goat cheese covered in Geotrichum) and a wedge of Chebris.  I will not write about the Picodon because by the time I ate it from my fridge it was probably not the best example of that cheese (one day I'll taste one in France and can give a proper account of it).

Tomme Brebis-Chevre (Chebris)
Made in the French Basque region in the foothills of the Pyrenees, this cheese is actually referred to as Tomme Brebis-Chevre, including the French words for sheep and goat respectively.  So the name Chebris is literally a shortened description of this mixed milk cheese.  It is a firm, pressed cheese.  The rind is quite thin, and is dry with a mixture of colours - orange, grey, white and brown. The aroma is slightly earthy.  The paste is a creamy yellow colour. The cheese was a little oily after a short time resting out of the fridge which was not too appealing but also not surprising for a hard cheese.

The flavour was savoury and sweet, balanced with a slight earthiness and a reasonable amount of saltiness. There was a slight 'soapiness' to the flavour as well, but only so slight as to actually balance well with the rest of the flavours.  The texture was firm and waxy, but still smooth.  Overall the flavour was quite complex, constantly changing between first chewing and swallowing.  This is what I like about mixed milk cheeses - the ability of the cheese maker to bring out the different aspects of the milk types used.

This Chebris would be great shaved over a salad, pasta or a meaty ragout.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Video of Kirkham's Lancashire Cheese

Back in January 2013, I wrote about our visit to Ruth and Graham at Kirkham's Lancashire Cheese, where Sandi and I spent a day making cheese with Graham and being fed by Ruth (read the post here).  I recently discovered this video made by Neal's Yard Dairy that goes through the whole process.  For any cheese enthusiast, it should be interesting to watch, as the Kirkhams are the only people still manufacturing Lancashire cheese in the traditional way (and as I explained in my previous blog post, it really does show through in the cheese).  And thank you to Neal's Yard Dairy for caring about, encouraging and promoting traditional cheese makers.

Friday, August 22, 2014

#46 - Three New Zealand Feta cheeses

Back in January I was doing a bit of travelling around to visit cheese makers in neighboring regions, and picked up some Feta cheeses.  Feta is a well known, popular cheese style  - but it comes in many different varieties:
  • Texture can range from creamy/smooth to crumbly; 
  • Flavour can vary from bland to punchy; 
  • The milk used can be cow, goat or sheep or mixtures of these; 
  • Maturation can vary from a few weeks in a plastic package to many months in a barrel; 
  • Packaging can be anything from wrapped at the cheesemonger to laminated Tetra Pak bricks. 
Lets not get hung up on the correct legal definition here. You can pretty much get anything these days and usually this will depend on what is popular in the local market (or whatever process the local manufacturer was prepared to invest in).

So, rather than try and 'review' some Feta cheeses by trying to fit them to some narrow definition, I have taken these three Kiwi cheeses for what they are, and described them in the hope that one or all of them appeals to readers.

Plain Goat Feta - Lonely Goat, Wanganui.

The colour is very white - typical for goats milk feta. The aroma is slightly lemony and slightly goaty (in a good clean way - not a dirty billy goat smell!).  The first impression of taste is that the cheese is very salty - however this seems to be caused by the brine that has collected around the outside of the cheese in the vacuum pouch packaging.  When the surface of the cheese is rinsed off, the cheese itself is not overly salty. So you can partly adjust the saltiness of the cheese to your taste by choosing to rinse or not. This cheese had a nice traditional Feta texture - slightly dry in the mouth at first but still moist and cohesive. The flavour was clean and with a pleasant hint of goat's milk.
Lonely Goat - Plain Goat Feta

Fiery Goat Feta -  Lonely Goat, Wanganui.

You can actually smell the chili in this one when you open the package.The texture is very nice, similar to the plain feta above.  The cheese flavour here seems a little bland, followed by a good punch of chili.  To be honest, the chili probably distracts the taste buds from those cheese flavours.  There was a little sweetness to the chili as well, which I liked, and the Chili is only a medium heat so not over the top unless you really don't like chili.

Castlepoint Feta - Kingsmeade Cheese, Masterton.

This is a ewe's milk Feta, named after the beach settlement of Castlepoint out on the Wairarapa coast. This cheese is typically aged for 9-12 months before it is sold - and cheese maker Miles King says it sells like hot cakes at the local farmers market. I can see why - it has loads of flavour.  There is a typical smell of broken down fat (caused by the the milk enzyme lipase) that can be a little off-putting to some people not used to an aged Feta (think of a strong blue cheese).  In this cheese the flavours are balanced well - strong savoury flavours matched with salt, and fatty acids from the ewe's milk. The texture is quite firm and a little elastic - somewhat similar to a younger cheddar. This is a very pleasant cheese to eat, especially if you want to try something with a bit more flavour than bland supermarket versions.  

Kingsmeade Castlepoint Feta

Friday, July 18, 2014

A selection of Mercer cheeses

My father and his wife recently returned from a trip to Auckland, and stopped in at the Mercer Cheese shop just off State Highway 1 just North of Meremere, and purchased lots of different cheeses.  After dinner the other night, we tried a few. The rest we have in the fridge waiting for us - perhaps our Friday night treat with some wine.
A decent spread after dinner.
I have not written about Mercer Cheese before, but Sandi and I have met cheese maker Albert Alferink numerous times over the last 5 years or so.  Albert's cheeses have  won countless medals over the years at the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards, and Albert himself has won the Champion Cheesemaker Award (for the highest scoring cheese at the awards).  Being one of the traditional Dutch cheese makers in New Zealand, his specialty is Gouda - and it is fantastic.  In fact, Sandi and I used a Mercer mature Gouda as the bottom layer of our wedding (cheese) cake.  But more of that later, as I'm sure I will write about the Gouda one day in another post.

Today's cheeses on the menu were:

Walnut Gouda
This was a young, soft Gouda.  There were plenty of walnuts, and they were well distributed throughout the cheese. The flavour was quite sweet, a little diacetyl/buttery and fresh milky as you would expect.  The mouth feel was soft and creamy, and the nuts add an interesting alternative texture.  We thought this was a little under salted for a Gouda, but this may be because it was so young - as it matures and loses moisture it should come right.  But the slightly lower salt/sweet taste went very well with the walnut flavour - the result being that the young cheese as we ate it was absolutely delicious.  However we would like to see what this particular cheese would be like in a 3-6 months after a bit more maturing - even better?!

Goat Gouda
We have tasted the Mercer pecorino (sheep cheese) before, and it is fantastic.  Well the Goat Gouda is pretty good too.  It had the typical paler colour of many goat cheeses.  The cheese seemed to be quite well aged, as shown by the crystals in the body and the texture.  However, it had still retained a creamy, smooth and soft mouth feel typical of many goat cheeses.  Along with the strong savoury flavour, pineapple notes and balance between sweet and salt, the cheese was very difficult to stop eating.

Blue Vein (cow)
This appears to have been a 'special', perhaps one off batch.  The piece we tried was a rectangular piece of cheese with a little blue mould on the outside but only a little on the inside where there were a few spaces of 'mechanical openness'. We found the cheese very bitter around the areas of blue, but pleasant where there wasn't any blue.  The taste of the blue seemed young to me, so I might try and ripen it on in my garage maturing 'cave' and see if it mellows out with a bit of age. Not one of Albert's best experiments, but given some of his previous trials I have tried, there is still much promise.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Beautiful video about affinage/Neal's Yard Dairy

I recently came across this short video that shows briefly what affinage means, but it also brings back fond memories of the people we worked with for a short time at Neal's Yard Dairy.  It was great working with such passionate people and you can see why the cheese they sell is so good.

Affinage from FoodieTV on Vimeo.

#45 - Goat Camembert by Over The Moon Dairy

On our way home from visiting a friend in Hamilton, we called into Over The Moon Dairy in Putaruru to see what cheesy treats they had in store.  The New Zealand Cheese School also operates from the same location, and between Sue, Neil and their cheese makers there is always some interesting cheese in the pipeline that may not be available at other retail locations.  The other benefit in buying direct from where the cheeses are made is that often there may be cheeses that are perhaps a little too ripe to be sent through the normal distribution chain to shops around the country - there may be only a few from a particular batch but it is possible to pick up some exceptional cheeses.

Case in point - when we dropped in there was a Manager's Special on the Goat Camemberts, and they felt nice and ripe, so for $3 we grabbed one without a second thought.  These were 10 weeks old and needed to be eaten straight away.

The rind appearance showed some age and a little colour suitable for a ripened camembert.  There was no 'goaty' aroma at all, which suggested the cheese had been made with good quality milk and with care during manufacture.

The paste was perfectly ripened all the way through - it was soft, creamy and smooth but not runny. It also had a lovely clean white colour typical of goats cheese.  The rind texture had a slight bite, but was still tender and not too thick - the texture balanced well with that of the cheese.

The flavour initially had a clean hit of goat milk, with some complex mushroomy and gentle herby flavours coming in.  The overall flavour was not as complex as a traditional French Camembert (which can often be a little too much for many people anyway), but still had loads of flavour - much more than many of the "Camemberts" on the market in New Zealand.

Between four of us this cheese did not last very long.  The more refined of us ate it on crackers (it didn't need anything else) but I just scoffed most of mine on it's own.  What a delicious cheese - I certainly will be looking for more next time we pass through Putaruru.