In 2006, a more than fledgling foodie at the time [and the year I started blogging], my wife and I spent a month traveling through western and eastern Europe, seeking regional food specialties. On that trip, having felt I knew cheese well, I went to France for the half-dozenth time, and had a major cheese awakening. Overall, their cheeses, even their brie de meaux – were raunchy. Barnyard, stinky, rich kind of raunchy. The French must come here, eat our ‘brie’ or ‘camembert’ from the box store and wonder what the heck we did to it. It’d be like the wonder bread of its cheese type. It’s true. What you know of as french cheese here is not representative of the norm there. When it comes to cheese, the French do ‘intense, earthy’ and we do ‘plastic, toilet paper’.
On that same trip, while in London, I stopped by Neal’s Yard Dairy to check it out [amazing], and asked [oops] for their raunchiest cheese. I figured I was all brave and stuff. Yeah, right. I was offered a cubic centimeter of an innocuous looking soft ripened cheese, a little goopy, and thought ‘really, is that the best ya got?’. I made the mistake of touching my video camera after touching that cheese, and we were many countries into our trip before my camera quit stinking. Lesson learned.
Because I gave them some of my time helping their business, Holly hooked me up with some wheels of goat’s cheese to cellar. This is the wheel of Tomme I acquired in early Oct 2010. It has seen 90+% humidity and temps between 2-7C since then. I’m guessing the moisture content was quite high on this one when made, as it’s still got a very moist texture – almost havarti-esque. But let me tell you. It’s a shit-kicking on the senses. Pardon the language. But it’s true. It’s a concentrated pile of aroma and flavor – mostly nut driven, with a pile of complexity slammed up your sinuses and down your palate. You still taste this bad boy lingering in your head a half hour later. It is a cheese the French would stamp with their approval. Admittedly, it’s a touch OTT for me. My pansy Canadian palate is still not accustomed to this pile of experience intensity. But I know many would feel otherwise.
So I now have about 1.5 kg of sense-pummeling-palate-mosh-pit cheese. Time to hook some raunchy-cheese-loving friends up, as there’s no way I can pile through this much crazy cheese. What’s amazing to me is that a cheese that can taste like a mild cheddar young, can go to vastly different places with some age. Such fun research.
“Mosh pit cheese” – love the metaphor! Also, the best wines I’ve had were a shit-kicking to my senses, so I imagine the same is true with cheese. Though, I don’t know if I could handle your Tomme. Wussy Canadian palate indeed.
W O W
I’m salivating! Those are some seriously beautiful photos of some seriously beautiful mold. Or is it bloom? What I love most about passive food preservation (dry cures, aging wine and cheese, lactofermentation etc) is that we become a part of a fluid process, rather than trying to hold something static. Participation allows for a richer, evolving experience of the food we grow and put up. Sort of like the intimacy of friendships which have aged well, such that you remember the people you love at different stages of their lives. And you don’t mind when they’re stinky.
Ahhh cheese… makes me all dreamy.
As someone with a very wussy Canadian palate, (I’ve just graduated to medium cheddar and may soon be able to handle aged) I don’t think I could handle your Tomme.
Speaking of ripe aromas, though, my first batch of Bokashi is all over my house on trays drying and the sour sweet aroma is very pungent. I’m trying to figure out a way to dry it faster so I can get it bagged up and lower the smell quotient in my house.
I don’t know if Allan told you but my first attempt at making indigenous microbials I ended up with black mold so I bit the bullet and purchased EM and a gallon of blackstrap molasses from a canadian supplier. A very small amount goes a long way. I bought the wheat bran from the local feed mill in a 55 lb bag and have been baking bran muffins and giving tmuffins and bran to anyone who will take them as well as making my first batch of bokashi.
I’ve got a source lined up for buckets that I am going to adapt for bokashi composting so by next week hope to have all my family on board doing the same.
Mel – glad I’m not alone on the wuss palate.
Carissa – I agree. The orange color is something Holly inoculates the milk to create. B linens, I think.
Judy – you could not handle this, even if you loved extra-extra-extra aged cheddar that was accidentally dropped in a cow pie then smeared with a load of peanut butter. God, did I just write that?!? Cool to hear your bokashi adventures.
Love the comparison of Canadian cheeses to white wonder bread. You must have had your fists in the air screaming YES!
Will be home soon. Palette needs a challenge. Save me some please :)
Hey Kevin, I hopped on to your blog on Hanne from Supper in Stereos’ recommendation, and wow, am I ever impressed! I have recently moved from England to Edmonton, and am trying to get in touch with foodies and food writers, so I can get back into the food bloggers community (I was very involved with the food blogging community in England) I am a SAHM at the moment, and like you have a three year old girl.
I loved your comment about Neal’s Yard Dairy… doubly so, because the exact same thing happened to me. I was taking part in Masterchef UK, and as part of the show we were taken to Borough Market (isn’t that place just amazing?) and Neal’s Yard. I decided I was going to be brave and asked if I could try some of their Stinking Bishop. Lets just say it took me a few days to get rid of the stink from all of me and my bags :-) The people at the BBC thought it was hilarious, until I touched thier beloved props and cameras :-)
Your post reminded me of when my husband and I went on our 8-year-belated honeymoon/anniversary to Europe and had the exquisite pleasure of eating at L’Arpege in Paris. At least, it was exquisite until we encountered the goat cheese on the cheese platter! “Wussy Canadian palates”, indeed! To me, it was the very essence of a wet goat that had been rolling around in a very filthy barnyard although, as my husband put it, we could also taste “the grass the goat had eaten the morning it was milked”. That was 9 years ago but I don’t think my palate has become any more sophisticated :)
YYC – you bet!
Michelle – Hah! Glad it’s not just me. Welcome to our local food scene – do stay in touch!
Kirsten – So glad to hear all these wonderful stories about nasty cheese!!! Sadly, I’m with you. I dig strong cheeses, but not raunchy cheeses.
This is really interesting – I had no idea that cheese in France was like that. I guess most of the cheese I’ve eaten there i bought at the grocery store – clearly not the crazy intense kind. But we ate one cheese in Vienna last summer that knocked my socks off, and not in a good way … can’t remember what it was called but I think I get what you’re saying.
Oh I love cheese with ‘body’!! It makes me angry that Canadian cheese has no flavor – I mean, if you’re gonna eat fruit & hard tack for dinner, you want cheese with balls or hard smoked salmon! Stinky cheese & smoked salmon are blessings. Eat them every chance you get!!!
Isabelle – I hear ya. I was seeking ‘artisan’ cheese there, and that’s probably what landed me in the barnyard, so to speak. Glad you can relate via your Vienna stinker experience.
Sharon in S – Ooh. Smoked salmon. It’s been far too long since I’ve made that…
Hey, I totally figured I was being “all brave and stuff” trying that cheese of yours today! Uh. phew. The erm, taste experience still lingers…however if I had read this post FIRST I may not have been so brave!