Extra sharp cheddar. Creamy goat cheese. Aged swiss. Stinky blue. Like wine, cheese encompasses as world of flavor. And I love them all. Even the oddities.
One of my favorite treats is heading to the farmers market on a Saturday morning and grabbing some cheese from Cato Corner Farm. With Tina gone for work on a recent weekend, I decided to indulge myself in something she wont partake in; the stinky cheese.
Cato specializes in artisinal runs of very strong cheeses. Their Womanchego is a powerfully nutty cheese that I often select, similar to a Manchego. Their Black Ledge Blue is a rich, crumbly cheese, marbled with veins of their special blue mold, that goes well with a range of meals. For this time around though, I decided to venture out a bit, and try the Raperlee. It’s a cow’s milk cheese where the rind is washed with apple brandy during the aging process, suffusing the cheese with it’s flavor, boosting the growth of some interesting bacteria (imparting that unique aroma), and aging the cheese to a smooth and creamy consistency.
The trick with such a powerful cheese is what to pair it with. With such a strong flavored cheese, most food and drink would disappear when sharing the same table. Some times it’s best just to fall back on the old standards. Since the flavor would overwhelm almost anything else, crackers proved to be an effective delivery system, and allowed me to really enjoy the merits of the cheese all on its own. The other half of my afternoon snack was the beer selection, where I chose Old Rasputin Imperial Stout from North Coast Brewing Co. The heavy, chocolaty flavor held up against the hearty fruit notes of the cheese, turning a savory snack into something almost like a dessert. The cheese itself was the real treat though, as the rind had picked up the flavors of the wash. The apple flavor imparted by the brandy was a natural complement to the grass-fed cheese flavor, reminding me of one of my favorite snacks from childhood; apple slices with cheddar cheese. With the alcohol flavors of the Raperlee tasted like a grown-up version of the port wine cheese from the grocery store, but was obviously the result of careful crafting as opposed to careful chemical manipulation.
Sometimes it’s best not to over think things, and simply sit down to enjoy some straight forward, if powerful flavors. Though sometimes, its not something others really want to share with you.