The ABCs of Cheese
Looking for a new cheese to try for your next summer party? Cheesemonger and author of Cheese Primer Steve Jenkins explains what to look for among the myriad of cheese options offered by your local market. Plus, tune in today when Steve demonstrates the best method for wrapping your cheese!
For a summertime treat, Steve recommends this cheese that was invented in Italy. "It's mozzarella that is hand-wrapped around shreds of mozzarella and cream. You take it out of the asphodel leaves that it comes in, dump it onto a plate and lop it into some chunks," he explains. Steve suggests adding a little salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and serving it with tomatoes or grilled asparagus or onions. "You can do it right in front of your friends," he tells Rachael, "and they’ll think you’re so cool because it’s so easy."
Though most people pronounce this cheese "goo-da," Steve says the correct way to say it is "khow-da," beginning with a soft k sound. "That’s the name of the town that it's named after," he explains, adding that you should not buy the type with red wax on it. Instead, Steve recommends buying Gouda that’s got a natural colored rind. "A serious cheese maker turns what you know as 'goo-da' into aged Gouda which is an adult candy," he says.
Steve explains the history behind these tasty peppers. "About six or eight years ago," he says, "this farmer in South Africa found them growing in his backyard. He tasted them and went, 'This is fantastic!' He took it to the University of South Africa, they couldn't figure out where it came from, but now they make a huge cash crop out of it and they can’t grow them fast enough!" Rachael adds that it tastes like a cross between a pickled fruit and a pickled pepper.
Is moldy cheese OK to eat?
"Don't worry about it," Steve reassures. "It’s not going to hurt you." In fact, in a bleu cheese, it's the mold that makes the flavors so complex and delicious. However, if the mold on the cheese in your refrigerator is unintentional, it means your cheese is getting stale. "But don’t throw out the cheese," Steve says, "you just trim the mold away, rewrap the cheese and put it away. It's fine, but next time, don't buy such a big piece of cheese."
Can you still use dry, cracked cheese?
You can take cheese that is dry or cracking and melt it to make a fondue, or try Steve's suggestion. "My favorite thing is to shred it up and combine it all together with some whiskey and maybe a blop of sour cream and mix it all together and just treat it like a spread."
Is there such a thing as too ripe?
Use common sense. "If it’s not a pleasant smell, if it's got too much of an ammonia smell or it smells like a dirty barn, it's not good," Steve explains. "Clean barn is a wonderful smell, smells like the tide's out, I find that very attractive." Steve points out that as your taste buds age, you'll begin to appreciate the smelly cheeses you once disliked when you were younger. To decide if a cheese is too ripe, Steve says you can judge a book by it's cover when it comes to cheese. "If you look at the outside of a cheese and if it's in some shade of beige or bone white or all the way down to russet reds or even black, it’s a real cheese because the rind is natural," he explains. "It should be a nice pebbly rind, rough, maybe brushed with a bit of mold. But if it’s red, green, blue, orange, yellow don’t choose those cheeses. Choose cheeses instead that look natural; obviously, that means they were made by people, not by machines."
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