Tis’ the season for Stilton!

Tis’ the season for Stilton! Stilton is a huge favorite during the holidays in the UK and of course one of my favorites too! A traditional blue cheese best known for it’s strong smell and taste. Dating back all the way to 1725, Stilton’s distinctive blue veins are created by piercing the crust of the cheese allowing air into the core. Doing this allows bacteria and other microbes to act on the curds and transform them into the final product…Blue cheese. The aging process takes approximately twelve weeks but depending on the dairy they can be aged much longer. Protected under law currently only nine dairies are licensed to make Stilton in the UK.

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La Tur, revisited.

I was craving cheese. Yep, it does happen. Although I’m surrounded by cheese for work, It happens more than you would think! Delicious salty goodness, how could I not? I’m sure by now I have rennet in my DNA. So with cheese on mind plus a upcoming tasting event, it made for an easy excuse a stop at my local cheese shop. I picked out a few for tasting notes, aged cheddar, a washed rind, a blue…the usual suspects..but I wanted something a little special for me. After a quick glance around the store, I saw the La Tur and knew it was coming home with me. It’s one of those cheeses you really can’t stop eating, gone the next day. It’s soft, gooey natural wrinkled rind and creamy cake-like paste makes me weak in the knees. Produced in the Piedmont region of Italy by Caseificio Dell Alta Langa. Sourcing milk from local farmers, the creamery specializes in soft, mixed milk and robiola style Italian cheeses. La Tur is made from cow, sheep and goats milk and aged for only 10 days. It’s flavors are light and delicate, creme fraiche yet this wonderful mushroom, grassy, zesty zing. I let mine sit out for about 30 minutes before I dived in. Knife in one hand and a chunk of crusty bread in the other. It was all that I hoped it would be. La Tur is delicious by itself but best enjoyed with a friend and a glass of wine. Would pair wonderfully with fresh figs, dates or marmalade.

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Down and dirty with vegetable ash

I’ve always been fascinated with vegetable ash. Who would have thought charring a vegetable to death, almost to the point were it’s unrecognizable, grinding it into a powder and the out come would be such wonderful complex layers of flavors. My first thought of course is it originated for food preservation and passed down through the centuries has taken on other uses. So after Googling I found lot’s of recipes and cheese pairings but I felt unsatisfied with finding any history about it. So I left it at that and sought after making my own variation on this caveman Mrs. Dash.

So I picked up some vegetables at my local farmers market. I end up choosing the classic combination of carrots, celery and leeks. After a light wash, I left them out to air dry and then cut my veg into uniform size pieces to cook evenly. Cookie sheet lined with foil, I laid everything out and tossed it in my broiler.

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Being my first time and not really sure how fast it would char, I compulsively checked and took photos along the way. Note: This is the same reason why I’m terrible at making rice. No, I’m not taking photos of my rice but I take the lid off, I stir when your not supposed to..constantly questioning is it done yet, is it done yet.. I’m not always that patient.

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After getting a nice char on my vegetables, it still wasn’t dry enough and was holding on to it’s natural moisture. So I turned my oven down to it’s lowest temperature and put them in over night to dry out.

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Completely happy with my dried out vegetable jerky, I decided to grind it by hand with my mortar and pestle.

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And my outcome? It was delicious! It tastes a bit like the yummy char bits on the edge of a steak but you really can taste this great caramelized flavor from the carrots, celery and leeks. That same week I end up making some fresh goat cheese so I used a good amount on them but the rest I horded for days. I lightly sprinkling some on mash potatoes and also was great on eggs. I’ve even seen some cocktail recipes that use a touch of veg ash. Sounds great. Sign me up!

Let’s start from the beginning.

I didn’t grow up eating great food to say the least. I was the typical poor middle class kid who ate fast food almost every night and disliked anything that looked strange without even trying it. My only knowledge of cheese was that in came in individual slices wrapped in plastic. It’s wasn’t until my late teens that I needed a job and found out that most cafes would hire anyone regardless of age or experience. Quickly I was put to work slinging espresso to morning commuters and washing dishes and that’s where my culinary adventure started.

Fast forward through a prep job, a minimum wadge garde manager gig, I was now 20 and finally was making enough as a line cook to pay rent and eat out once and awhile. So I set my sights on the coveted “Patina” and that’s were I had my first introduction to real cheese and a having a cheese cart course. From there I wanted to try every cheese I saw and learn as much as I could. They say you always remember your first.. So that’s where I will start!

Veigadarte!

Spain’s answer to the classic goat’s milk log Bucheron from France. Made by Joaquin Villanueva Casado, whose creamery is located in the town of Ambasmestas north of Madrid, the cheese is made from Murciano-Granadina goats milk then lightly dusted with ash and aged for only one month. During that short aging process a beautiful bloomy white mold covers the dark ash and isn’t revealed until you cut into the cheese itself. Smooth in texture, the flavors are vibrant and bright. Lemon, white pepper, cream with a the earthy undertone from the ash make this cheese complex and fun. I don’t really see this cheese often. Small production, large demand? Not really sure but If you see it, snag it up. Keep it simple- less if more people, don’t over complicate it with crazy jams. Enjoy it as is. Come on, look at this photo below. It’s beautiful!

César Sánchez - Elaboración de los quesos Veigadarte en Ambasmestas (León).