Sheep in the Brambles

zacharie-cloutierZacharie Cloutier is the ancestor of probably more Quebecois Canadians than any other man.  He and his wife Xainte immigrated from the Perche province, France in 1634.  They founded one of the foremost families in Quebec. By 1800, the Cloutier descendants numbered close to 11,000.Today it might be impossible to count them but they include Marie-ChantalIMG_2836 Houde (pictured on right) one of the principals of Fromagerie Nouvelle France. Their sheep’s milk firm pressed cheese is named for this forefather. Fromagerie Nouvelle France is part of a growing number of farm cheese producers.

This washed rind cheese is semi-cooked. Ripened from 4-6 months the paste has a buttery caramel flavour with the rich tones associated with a sheep’s milk cheese. It is best paired with a moderately full bodied red wine with strong dark berry undertones but balanced with mild acidity. Try Cattail Creek Cabernet Merlot. The black raspberry, cassis and Damson plum aromas of this wine will evoke summery days picking IMG_4166blackberries in wind blown brambles. Its refined tannins and spicy vanilla finish will balance well with Zacharie Cloutier’s richness. Serve with some toasted pecans and crusty white bread. As you nibble note the distinct zigzag design on the outside rind of the cheese.IMG_4165

More Cheese Please!

IMG_4004    That perfect taste of cheese.  Not the same for everyone.  That’s why we keep trying new cheeses at The European Pantry. This week we unpacked 7 new cheeses.

Time to count our choices again…I’ve been telling people that we have between 50 and 60 cheese choices. Surprise! We are now at 79!  That only scratches the surface of what is available in the world.  I think I have access to about a 1000 through my current wholesalers alone.

Someone asked me this week how there can be so many different cheeses. In some respects making cheese is fairly simple.  You take milk, cream or both and add a starter.  Once this has curdled then you slowly heat the batch until the whey and curds have totally separated.  Then you drain the whey from the curds. The curds become the cheese. If I have some milk or cream that has started to turn funny, IMG_4082that’s what I do. The results are a very plain sort of ricotta.  I use it to cook with…watch for another post soon showing what I did with this batch.IMG_4080 Obviously, there is much more to cheese making than that because the cheese you buy usually doesn’t look much like this. That’s because there are so many variables in making cheese. Here’s a just a basic list of options:

  • What type of animal the milk comes from
  • What that animal was eating
  • Whether the milk is skimmed, used warm, cooled first or if extra cream is added…or maybe even another type of milk
  • What type of starter is used
  • Hard cheeses require rennet…so what type of rennet is used.
  • The temperature the milk is processed at
  • Whether the curds are washed or cheddared
  • How much moisture is pressed out of the cheese
  • Is anything extra added…like blue mold, herbs, beer, whiskey, nuts, mushrooms, fruit, spices…the choices are endless
  • What process is used as the cheese ripens…this is a whole category of other options including ripening temperature, the development of a bloomy rind, washed rind options, etc
  • How long is the cheese ripened

Perhaps that gives you an idea of the amazing variations and combinations that are possible.  It is also why it is very difficult to copy a particular cheese.  It is virtually impossible to get all the factors the same.

Back to our new cheeses. We will be introducing these cheeses during our Saturday cheese tastings over the next few weeks. Here is a list of what is coming up:

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  • Award winning 5 Brothers firm cheese from Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheeses
  • Santa Lucia Provolone
  • Tartufo – Sheep’s milk Pecorino with Truffle Pate imported from Italy
  • Medium Cheddar – Pine River Cheese & Butter Coop (est. in 1885)
  • 9 year old cheddar – Pine River Cheese & Butter Coop (est. in 1885)
  • Swiss Emmenthal
  • Bellavitano Merlot Reserve Cheddar

But even with these new cheeses I know that someone is going to say, “More Cheese Please!”  In fact, there are several other cheeses that we are waiting for already!  And this morning someone said, “Can you find….?”

Cottage Omelet: Simple meals that satisfy.

IMG_4108 The ingredients for this cottage omelet are usually at hand. Leftover dried bread cubed, milk, eggs, German salami pieces, cheese, butter and dipping olive oil. Make 1-2 eggs & 1-2 TBSP of milk per person. You can vary the type of salami or substitute another type of sausage. Same for the cheese. The proportion of bread to eggs is also flexible.  Some like lots of crunchy bread and others prefer more egg.

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Brush a cast iron frying pan with balsamic vinegar and Italian herb dipping oil.     I use International Collection oils from the UK. Melt      a table spoon of butter. Brown cubes of bread on high heat.  Then reduce heat  to medium low.                                                                                                                                                 Beat your eggs & add a few tablespoons of milk for each egg. IMG_4105IMG_4106             Pour egg mixture over bread cubes. Sprinkle with cubes of cheese and salami. I used a mix of Jarlsberg. Gouda and cheddar. This is a great way to use up odds and ends of cheese.  Cover and let the cheese melt & mixture set. Flip over gently with a spatula and serve.  IMG_4107