Everything from cheese plates to canapes can have more zing with flavored cheese. Here, Jalapeno Co-Jack from Loleta Cheese Factory and Emmenthaler are combined with red-leaf lettuce, a pitted olive and a grape tomato on a toasted bread round (first toast, then use a cookie cutter). Photo by Eugene Bochkarev | IST.





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STEPHANIE ZONIS focuses on good foods and the people who produce them.



April 2008

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Cheese-Butter-Yogurt

Flavored Artisan Cheese: Beyond Smoke & Herbs

Part IV: Artisan Cheeses Flavored With Herbs & Spices & Decorated With Flowers



This is Part IV of a six-part article. You can click to the different sections via the yellow box, below.

Back To Nature: Herb, Spice & Floral Cheeses

Cheeses flavored with herbs, spices or blends of the two are at least as widely available as peppery cheeses (many blends incorporate pepper or chiles). The range of combinations you’ll find is enough to make your mouth water in anticipation. For instance, fans of feta know that this classic cheese can sometimes be found marinated in olive oil with a variety of herbs. In this category, cheeses from fresh chevre to jack can be found made with, or rolled in, caraway, cumin, dill, garlic and herbes de Provence (a mix of often-used herbs in France, which can include bay leaf, chervil, fennel, marjoram, mint, rosemary, summer savory, tarragon and thyme).

If you’d like something more adventurous, how about Cumberland, from Locust Grove Farm? This cheese contains a blend of garlic, ginger, green peppercorns, onion and sweet red chiles If you’re looking for a taste of the islands, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese makes a jack-style cheese called “No Woman.” Named for the Bob Marley song “No Woman, No Cry,” the cheese is flavored with a Jamaican jerk spice blend,* as well as a smidgen of brown sugar (see the photo below). LoveTree Farmstead Cheese has some unique, seasonal, sheep’s milk cheeses, including Big Holmes, with a covering of rosemary, mint, and cedar, and Little Holmes, dusted with peppermint flakes, aged for four weeks, then wrapped in vodka-macerated wild nettle.

Beecher's No Woman Cheese
A cheese you can sing about: Beecher’s “No Woman” cheese is flavored with jerk spices,
after Bob Marley’s song, “No Woman, No Cry.”

*Jerk spice is a mixture of spices. The mainstays are allspice, Scotch bonnet chiles and thyme; depending on the manufacturer or household, the blend can include bay leaf, black pepper, brown sugar, clove, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, onion or green onion, with lime juice, orange juice, soy sauce and even rum used to flavor the jerked meat. The term “jerk” comes from charqui (CHAR-kee), the Quechua (Inca) word that gives us “jerky.” Jerk spice was first created by the Arawak, the indigenous people of Jamaica.

Well-known cheesemaker Cypress Grove Chevre† manufactures a number of fine cheeses, among them Purple Haze, a fresh chèvre with a coating of lavender buds and wild fennel pollen (photo below).

†For those checking our punctuation, note that THE NIBBLE observes the french punctuation, which has an accent mark over the e in chèvre. However, Cypress Grove Chevre does not use the accent in the spelling of its name.

Too much for you? Would you like something less complex or not so exotic? Coming right up!

If you like lavender but want to try just a touch of it in your cheese, Shy Brothers Farm makes tiny, adorable “thimbles” of cows’ milk cheese, with a subtle but definite lavender presence. Called Hannahbells, the “thimbles” are also sold in Classic, Chipotle, Rosemary, and Shallot varieties (I happen to like the Shallot thimbles best).

Love basil? Hidden Springs Creamery makes a divine fresh sheep’s milk cheese with fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Availability is limited, but you might be able to find it at several stores in the Midwest; you can also acquire some by e-mailing the cheesemaker, Brenda. In addition, Brenda makes a Fresh Lavender and Honey version, as well as a mild and creamy Plain, wonderful for breakfast.

Cypress Grove Chevre - Purple Haze
From Bob Marley to Jimi Hendrix: Above,
Cypress Grove Chevre’s Purple Haze, one of the best sellers. Photo by B. A. Van Sise.

Valley Shepherd Creamery puts stinging nettles (boiled so they don’t sting you!) inside a sheep-and-cows’ milk cheese to produce Nettlesome. I just tried Nettlesome for the first time, and, while there’s certainly a “green” flavor to it, that doesn’t overpower the cheese. It’s not nettlesome, it’s delicious! (Incidentally, Valley Shepherd is a fun place to visit with the family, and they have a well-stocked, small retail shop on the premises. If you’re really lucky, there will be some sheep’s milk gelato available.)

While this is an article about flavored cheeses and not cheese spreads, in the name of broader horizons I’d like to mention Liptauer, a cheese spread I haven’t heard about since I was a kid. Of Hungarian origin, this is a fresh cheese combined with paprika, capers, toasted caraway seeds, a bit of anchovy, and enough fresh garlic to repel even the most persistent vampire. It’s a bit powerful for spice wimps like me, but if you enjoy strong, forward flavors, you’ll probably love it. It’s available at Zingerman’s Creamery.


Proceed to Part V: Sweet Cheeses

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