When one thinks of cheese, the first images most likely come to one’s mind would be a tin or cubes of commercially available branded cheeses one picks up from a neighborhood grocery store – varieties would mean cheese, spread or slices.
Many of us are beginning to develop a fondness for rare wines, great cigars and fine chocolates but too few of us have made the same leap with regard to gourmet cheese. Once you discover the world of cheese beyond individually-wrapped slices and gooey pizza toppings, you will become as passionate as the most devoted connoisseur.
Gourmet cheeses are edible miracles that stimulate the senses in ways that no other food can match. In France, there is a saying that “cheese is milk’s leap toward immortality.” This quote of course does not refer to cheeses like the mild, gummy yellow cheddar that so many of us select as our default choice. Rather, it speaks to the supple, aromatic, savory cheeses made by skilled artisans in remote regions of the world.
Cheeses loosely fall into three categories. Industrial cheeses are produced for food processors who need bulk amounts of cheese to use as an ingredient in cheese-flavored foods. Commercial, mass-produced cheeses consist of waxy, pedestrian cheeses such as yellow Cheddar.
Finally, gourmet cheeses are of a premium-quality and are prepared to elevated standards by fine craftsmen and craftswomen. They are made only from selected milk stock and thus each variety can only be produced in its particular geographic region.
True Roquefort only comes from Southern France, just as true Fontina can only be made of milk from Italy’s Val d’Aosta region. The distinct grasses and herbs indigenous to these regions are eaten by the milk-producing cows, goats and sheep and impart certain qualities to the cheeses that cannot be reproduced elsewhere.
Which is your favorite cheese?