Stilton is one of the most well-known blue cheeses in the world — up there with Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Cabrales. As possibly the most traditional English cheese, Stilton is often called the “King of English cheeses” and sometimes (and more controversially!) the “King of Blues.”
Archive for the ‘Education’ Category
We carry a number of AOC cheeses here at Formaggio Kitchen: Époisses, Langres, Comté and Fourme d’Ambert, to name a few. As a result (and not surprisingly), one of the questions that we often field on the cheese counter is what the term AOC actually tells us about a given cheese.
AOC stands for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (translating to: Controlled Name of Origin) and is a designation of process and provenance that is used in France. There are equivalents of the AOC program in other countries – in Italy it is called DOC (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata) or DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta)*, in Spain it is called DO (Denominacion de Origen) and, in the EU as a whole, the designation is PDO** (Protected Designation of Origin). (more…)
A common question we get on the cheese counter is about how to put together a cheese plate, be it for a cocktail party or as a dinner course. There aren’t any rules per se – after all, it really comes down to what you will enjoy eating! That said, when customers ask, we generally offer the following recommendations:
- It’s usually nice to include at least one cheese from each of the three major milk categories: cow, sheep and goat.
- Similarly, we like to include a variety of textures. For example, one might choose something smooth and spreadable (think Camembert, Brie or a chèvre), something semi-soft (for example, Vendéen Bichonne or Ardrahan) and something on the firmer side (Comté, Calcagno or a Boerenkaas).
When putting together cheese plates for our classes, we pair a condiment with each cheese flight.
Not only is it fun for folks to try new things together but the ‘whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ phenomenon certainly comes into play when pairing cheeses with condiments. Classic go-tos for cheeses are honey, jam and membrillo (quince paste). We also have a range of mostardas from Italy that provide a wonderfully spicy/fruity compliment to some of our stronger cheeses. The rule of thumb (as with wine pairings) is generally to match strength to strength. (more…)
Our spice buyer, Julia, has been working really hard on our spice selection here at the shop. She recently spearheaded an effort to improve packaging – the new tins not only better protect the spices from sunlight but they also hold up better. Previously, some of the Turkish peppers would actually cause the plastic containers to crack open and this no longer happens. An added plus – the new containers look really chic too!
Julia has also been making an effort to bring in some new and special spices. This week saw the addition of three new peppercorns to our shelves. (more…)
Sulfur is a natural by-product of the wine making process and, as a result, there will always be around three to six parts per million (ppm) of naturally occurring sulfur in a wine. Today, wine makers often elect to add sulfur for a variety of reasons throughout the wine making process whether it be in the vineyard, in the wine room or in the cellar.
Why do wine makers add more sulfur? In the vineyard, sulfur can be used to combat pests and diseases. After harvest, it can be used to ensure a predictable fermentation or prolong the time before vinification by killing any yeasts or microbial life on the skins of the grapes. In the wine cellar, sulfur is commonly used to clean barrels and fermentation vats in preparation for harvest. It can be used in the cellar at the time of bottling (especially for export wines) to maintain a wine’s color and protect it from re-fermentation which produces a spritzy sensation on the palate.
How much sulfur are we talking about? In the European Union, the maximum sulfite level for certified biodynamic red wine is 60 ppm while the certified organic designation for red wine is limited to 90 ppm. White wines in both categories allow slightly higher levels. For conventional wines, the EU allows 160 ppm for red, 210 ppm for whites and rosés and 400 ppm for sweet wines. In the U.S., the limit is 350 ppm.
So, why does the level of sulfur matter? The common perception is that sulfites in wine (especially red wine) contribute to headaches. In fact, sulfites have been shown to affect a limited population of people (less than 1% of the population) with allergies to sulfites or asthmatic conditions. In addition, red wine tends to have the lowest level of sulfites amongst the wine styles. So, while many people do get headaches after drinking wine it appears unlikely that sulfites are the reason – or at least it’s unlikely they are the only reason. Even if sulfites are innocent in this regard, we find other good reasons to seek out wines that are lower in sulfites. (more…)
This is one of the most common questions that I get when I work on the cheese counter. My answer: yes, usually I do. Pretty much all cheese rinds are easily digestible. The primary exceptions are cloth-bound and wax rinds. After that, it’s pretty much personal preference.
A rule of thumb – cheeses tend to get stronger the closer you get to the rind and the rind itself will be the strongest tasting part of the cheese. If you are tasting a cheese for the first time and aren’t sure whether you will like it, start with a nibble from the center-most part of the ‘paste.’ Then, if you like what you are tasting, gradually work your way outwards. If you like all of the paste, give the rind a go!
Having eaten cheese for a while now, I know there are some rinds I definitely don’t like, rinds that most folks don’t eat: Parmigiano Reggiano is one example (grilled parm rinds are an exception!) and Comté is another, even though it has a natural rind. My stomach could digest them – I just don’t like the way they taste or feel in my mouth. That said, there are some cheeses I love that are particularly scrumptious, in my opinion, because they have delicious rinds. Among these, I would include Tomme Crayeuse, Jasper Hill’s Bayley Hazen Blue and Ardrahan.
They are all very different styles of cheese – Tomme Crayeuse is semi-soft cheese and has a very earthy, mushroom-y flavor profile, underscored by its natural rind.
Bayley Hazen is a medium-strength blue cheese that tastes really nutty – the rind is like a distilled version of this fantastic nuttiness. Ardrahan is an Irish, washed-rind cheese. Its rind is brine-washed and this saltiness shows through – sometimes enough to
make me think of the ocean while sometimes it manifests itself in more of a peanut-y flavor. Either way, it is really snackable (oh, and great with beer!).
My advice – give the rind a try! If you don’t like it, you’ll know for next time. On the other hand, you may just discover another reason to love a cheese!
A cup of hot tea has always been something of a rallying cry in my family – over the summer, iced tea prevails, generally garnished with fresh slices of orange. In winter time, however, hot tea reigns supreme, usually accompanied by a piece of shortbread, a ginger cookie or a slice of fruit cake.
This past summer, I deviated from my usual stove-top iced tea routine and invested in a dedicated iced tea maker. Determined to find my optimal brew, I purchased small quantities of different loose teas we have here at Formaggio Kitchen. It was difficult to choose a favorite but, in the end, Everglad from Dammann Frères‘s became my go-to tea – a green tea with notes of grapefruit, imparted by dried bits of grapefruit rind. It is amazingly refreshing when iced and, given the tendency to drink more during the hot months, it was nice that it wasn’t as caffeinated as black tea. (more…)
We recently held our first ever Apple Fest at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge and, ever since, I have had apples on my mind! For me, apples provoke a range of memories and positive associations but, only recently, did I take the time to delve a little further into the history and science of this fruit.
When I was a child, we used to visit my grandparents’ place in Connecticut and, in their orchard, we were able to pick McIntosh apples straight from the trees. Eating an apple outside and, remembering the legend of Johnny Appleseed, I would try to plant the odd apple seed. When I did so, I always envisioned a bountiful apple tree heavy with fruit and looking precisely like the apple I was munching on. Little did I know that my seed, had it ever come to fruition, would have produced something very different. Apple seeds are heterozygotes meaning that, like human children, they often bear only a slight resemblance to their parents. This is why there are so many apple varieties!
The part of me that loves to spend time in the kitchen relishes this time of year – a time that has traditionally brought with it a slew of delicious, apple-derived dishes: apple pie, caramel apples and apple cider to name a few. The prominence of the apple in the American food psyche is nothing new. If anything, it is less prominent now than it was a century ago. In the 19th century, Americans were growing in the region of 14,000 distinct varieties of apples, a period in our history that has been called the “golden age” of pomology. Apples were reviewed with the same enthusiasm with which people now review movies! (more…)