Irish Cheddar and a picnic

Another weekend, another visit to the cheese shop.

We went to Stratford to visit my grandma. Since it was such a lovely day, we went for a 2.5 mile run around the lake and then decided to have a picnic. Grandma made a big bowl of pasta salad. We went downtown and bought drinks, sushi from Sushi & Rolls, and cheese.

The owner of The Milky Whey was thoughtful. We came into her store hot and sweaty from the run, so she gave us water. We bought a chunk of Dubliner Irish Cheddar and a box of mixed crackers.

We spread out all the treats on a picnic table by the water. As we ate, well-dressed theatre-goers walked past. A duck family splashed around nearby. Swans dipped their heads in the water and then shook themselves, sending sparkling water droplets flying. A raft floated by playing 1940s music (Grandma loved that). It was a perfect dinner.

The cheese was dry, hard, and crumbly. It seemed old, though I don’t actually know the age. The flavour and texture resembled Beemster Gouda. I didn’t bother taking a picture; imagine a cream-coloured square block. Not very interesting to look at, despite the delicious nutty taste. It went well with the crackers, olives, pasta salad, sushi, and Orangina. Which is saying something.

Dubliner Irish Cheddar: Cow, $3.50/100 g, Ireland.

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July 11, 2010 at 11:13 pm Leave a comment

Sanbusak

Last night was my monthly book club. We read Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi. Since the book is set in Iran, my mother and I decided to make Middle Eastern snacks. We had almond-stuffed dates, baklava, and lots of fresh fruit. I made little cheese pastries called sanbusak or sanbusaj. This probably was not a wise choice, because

  • It was extremely hot
  • It was also sticky-humid
  • I had never made pastry before.

The recipe was from Claudia Roden’s A Book of Middle Eastern Food. There were two parts: the cheese filling and the pastry shell. I started with the cheese.

The recipe called for half a pound of cheese. I just used a 200 g block of local Pine River Monterey Jack. It’s not a cloth-bound treasure, but it tastes good and is readily available. Plus, there are no scary ingredients.

I grated the cheese and mixed it with one egg (from a friend’s farm). Added a bit of pepper and stuck the stuff in the fridge.

Next, the pastry. The ingredients were 1/4 cup (4 fl. oz.) oil, a beaten egg, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup warm water, and 2 cups flour. Optional: sesame seeds.

First you heat the oil (I used olive oil) and the butter over hot water until the butter melts. I did that, and it ended up looking awfully scummy. I didn’t take a picture of the scum; it was too discouraging.

Anyway, after that I added the water and salt and poured it into a large mixing bowl. Then the flour was mixed in gradually. The book says to “stir slowly with your hand…do not work longer than necessary”.

At this point the dough smelled strongly of olive oil. It came together nicely, as you can see below. That’s where I’m about to start rolling it out.

Once the dough was rolled as thinly as possible, I used a 3-inch-diameter drinking glass to cut out circles. Then I put a dab of cheese filling in the middle of each one and tried to fold the edges over to form crescents. The edges would not stick at all. However, after I brushed one edge with some beaten egg it was alright.

The little crescents were then brushed with egg. This made then look much better. This is where you sprinkle the sesame seeds; I didn’t have any.

I began to fear that the filling would be super bland, so I added a whack (=1/2 tsp) of harissa. Then the things went into a 350 degree oven for about 15 – 20 minutes (the recipe said 35-40).

Result:

And they were delicious. Flaky pastry, sharp cheese filling… maybe not the best choice for the hottest day in the summer. Oh well. They were all eaten with alarming speed.

I have a ton of filling left over. Maybe I could use it for a grilled cheese sandwich.

July 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm Leave a comment

Lazy Day

It is way too hot today for me to even think about making any effort to do anything. It’s a good day for reading light books, going to the pool, and browsing the Net.

Thus, I’ve collected some cheesy links for like-minded lazy people. Some are new, some old. Have fun.

The Ontario Dairy Goat Cooperative, which is based in my town.

Cool article at Bon Appetempt about making fromage blanc.

And another at 101 Cookbooks about ricotta.

The wonderful Chocolate & Zucchini discusses Petits Suisses. Reminds me of my time in France. I lived with a family that had six children, and the youngest two loved these creamy cheeses.

Pine River Cheese – another local company.

I feel hungry just looking at those amazing food blogs.

July 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm Leave a comment

Island Cheddar

Last Wednesday we drove to Stratford (the theatre town) to do some shopping and run (2.5 miles) around the lake.  We had lunch in the Sirkle Cafe (wholesome food, not crowded, friendly waiters, looks out on the market square). Naturally we made a stop at The Milky Whey to see what was on offer, and ended up buying three cheeses, one of them an aged cheddar from Prince Edward Island.

We lived on PEI for two years, and have a soft spot for the Island, so the choice was an easy one. The 200 grams cost us $6.83. It is a light yellow cheese with a mild, pleasant flavour. Goes nicely with root beer. We all like it a lot.

A little poking around the Internet reveals that it is made by Scott Linkletter at the Cows Creamery.  According to the people at www.walkandseacharlottetown.com ‘he has revived the historic craft of linen-wrapped, aged cheddar that had long disappeared from Canada, and that is extremely rare, even in Cheddar’s English homeland. This attractive, rustic cheese is gentle, with moderate acidity and grassy aromas and earthy flavours.’

In a letter posted at slowfoodns.blogspot.com Mr. Linkletter describes how he uses a recipe he found on Orkney ten years ago.

July 2, 2010 at 3:07 pm Leave a comment

Beemster

On Wednesday, we visited Stratford and went to The Milky Whey. It’s a tidy shop, even though it does smell cheesy. Besides cheese, they sell accompaniments like dried figs and crackers. The store stocks many local cheeses.

We picked up a few new varieties. I wanted to try some Gjetost (Norwegian whey cheese), but we ended up with Gouda, Cheddar, Raclette, and a pot of locally-made sheep milk yogurt.

The Beemster Extra Old Dutch Gouda was my choice.  I liked the deep orange colour and the decorative wrapper. The cheese is sprinkled with small holes.

It’s a very hard and crumbly cheese. Like quite a few old cheeses, its texture is slightly gritty. Alex likes that, but I don’t really.

The flavour is strong and distinctive. I think it tastes fruity, like pineapple. Alex described the flavour as “weird”. My mom said it tasted like a certain candy from her childhood. Spike made a succession of faces.

We all agreed that it was a familiar flavour, somehow.

According to the Beemster website, “Most believe it to be a sin to interrupt the flavors of Beemster cheese by eating it with or on anything else.” However, the site contains pages of recipes. For those who don’t mind committing a minor sin, the Roasted Pepper Roll-Ups look tasty.

Beemster Extra Old 3 Year Aged Dutch Gouda: Cow milk (pasteurized), $5.75/100 g, Holland.

July 2, 2010 at 1:59 pm 4 comments

Raclette Party!

When I was in France, I met a few other Canadians. They all raved about something called raclette. It sounded strange – cold meat? Pickles? Bunsen burner-type apparatus? I never had the chance to try the dish.

Today, however, we bought some Raclette cheese and tried it. Raclette is made especially for melting; its flavours come out best when it’s heated. I tried some at room temperature and it wasn’t bad – just a bit bland. Its texture was strange.

You’re supposed to use a special cheese-melting device, but we don’t have one. We sliced the cheese thinly and put it in the oven in a baking dish.

While it was melting, it smelled strongly of cheese. Not in a good way.

We scraped the cheese over locally-grown new potatoes and served it with pickles. I think cold cuts are also traditionally served, but we’re vegetarians.

To make the meal less of a health fiasco, we also had crunchy locally-grown kale.

The cheese was rich, gooey, and sweet and complemented the potatoes perfectly. It made a satisfying meal. I think Raclette would be best on a cold winter night; good for covering your bones.

I suppose the cheese facts would be useful.

Raclette: Cow, $4.25/100 g, Switzerland.

We used 200 grams of cheese for four people.

June 30, 2010 at 11:09 pm Leave a comment

Local Finds

The Ivanhoe Cheese Company is based in Madoc, Ontario, not too far from here. I picked up a slab of their three-year-old cheddar while I was in the local creamery. I guess it isn’t really Cheddar, because it isn’t English, but it’s good cheese. Sharp, crumbly, and creamy white (I distrust orange cheddar because it looks unnatural). This cheese is good on the open-faced sandwiches that Spike likes to make.

Somehow another wedge of cheese moved into the fridge at the same time. The mystery visitor was pure white, with a white wax rind. When I learned it was a goat milk Gouda, I tried some. And loved it. It was pretty salty but sweet at the same time. I described the flavour as “caramel-like”, which led the non-connoisseurs in the house to heckle. Philistines. Anyway, a great cheese.

Apparently you can find good cheese even in the middle of nowhere.

Goat Gouda: Goat (pasteurized), $6.34/100 g, Holland

Ivanhoe Extra Old Vintage Cheddar: Cow (pasteurized), $2.69/100 g, Canada (Ontario)

June 26, 2010 at 1:12 am Leave a comment

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