Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lumpfish Roe

Lumpfish or lumpsuckers are bottom dwelling fish in the cold waters of the Arctic, North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. They have developed sticky pelvic fins that allow them to attach to rocks and other surfaces. Their eggs or roe are eaten as a less expensive caviar and are particularly popular in Scandinavia.
While Judy and I were in Copenhagen, Denmark recently we ate dinner at an outdoor cafe situated along one of the main canals. I saw lumpfish roe as an appetizer and ordered it not having any idea what lumpfish was.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed in the taste. Unlike beluga caviar and salmon roe, it was not salty at all. In fact, it was rather bland and it lacked the nice "pop" that accompanies good caviar and small salmon roe.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cheese: Limburger

Limburger cheese gets its name from its historical area of origin: the Duchy of Limburg which was part of what is now the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. It is made originally from pasteurized goat milk, but is now made of cow's milk. It is a washed-rind cheese, like Munster. While it ages, it is bathed repeatedly with saltwater inoculated with bacterium. The bacterium on the cheese surface begins to reproduce. It is the bacterium that creates the reddish-gold rind. In the first month it is firm and crumbly, like feta cheese. Then it gets soft along the edges and by two months is mostly creamy and smooth. After three months, it is spreadable and it develops its trademark obnoxious smell. The smell also comes from the bacterium used to ferment the cheese, one of the bacterium that cause human body odor. Limburger is traditionally eaten on rye bread, spread thickly, with a chunk of raw onion. Most Limburger is made in Germany, but there is some made in Monroe, Wisconsin. It is one of the 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die. Despite the smell, the taste is quite mild. My first experience with it was in France when we picked up Rachael from her Study Abroad in Paris. We purchased some, I believe, in Verdun, along with baguettes and other cheeses. I quite liked it, and didn't really notice the smell much. Other family members took note of the smell and I think I'm the only one that was eating it. I left it out overnight in our rental car which elicited a number of complaints due to the smell when we went to the car the next morning. Needless to say we tossed the remaining cheese and it remains a memory that is still brought up occasionally. I bought some Limburger more recently in the U.S., probably at Whole Foods. 
I was not as fond of it this time around and didn't eat much before tossing it. 
I'm not sure what the difference was, perhaps it was more pungent. I probably need to give it another chance before passing a final verdict on it.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cheese: Meadowkaas and Parrano Goudas

I previously did a post on different kinds of Gouda. I was at Trader Joe's recently and picked up a couple of cheeses I'd not seen before and discovered, after-the-fact, that they were also Goudas, although not labeled as such. Meadowkaas Spring Cheese, 
marketed by Trader Joe's, 
is made from cow's milk in Rouveen, Holland. It is a Gouda-like cheese with a yellowish tan wax rind and a pale yellow flesh. 
It is only made for three months during the spring while the cows are feasting on meadow grass and it ages for four weeks. 
The milk has a higher cream content, over 50%, and the milk has a very nice mild, creamy, salty taste. I like it more than regular Gouda, but would still rate Double Cream Gouda higher. It reinforces my love for all things Gouda. Parrano, a trademarked brand, 
is another cow's milk Gouda cheese made in Holland, exclusively by Uniekaas. 
However, it is aged for five months and has a richer, fuller taste, a little bit sharp and cheddar-like and tastes aged. 
It is marketed as more of an Italian-like cheese. It is made with the same cultures used to make Parmesan. 
The Parrano, as more of an aged Gouda, is not anywhere near as good as Old Amsterdam, but then again it is only aged a fraction of the time. It is better than the Trader Joe's Cave Aged Gouda. However, I still prefer the Meadowkaas to the Parrano, even though it is only about half the price, as it is softer and sweeter.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cheese: Havarti

Havarti cheese originated in Denmark in an area north of Copenhagen. It is made from cow's milk by introducing rennet to cause it to curdle. The curds are pressed into molds which are drained and then aged. It is rindless, semi-soft, smooth and cream color
to yellow color 
and has irregular holes or "eyes" throughout. It is usually aged about three months and is somewhat sweet. It is often made with additional ingredients such as dill, jalapeno, garlic, caraway seeds and cranberry, which provide a nice addition to the otherwise mild cheese. With age, it gets a slightly acidic flavor. It is a great cheese for sandwiches, in fondue, in salads or on crackers. I would compare it texturally with Gouda, although Gouda is a little harder. It has a very pleasing mild texture and softens quite quickly at room temperature. It is the kind of "comfort" cheese you can eat a lot of. I have had it several times recently. I particularly enjoyed a version with dill. 
The dill taste really stood out and made for a wonderful combination. I also had a version with jalapeno which I did not like as well. 
I ate it in combination with some head cheese and it dominated the head cheese. That particular version was very acidic, which with the jalapeno, made it extremely strong.

I recently ate some Havarti from Trader Joe's that was aged 9 months.
It was straight Havarti without any of the pub-style add-ins. As with most cheese, I liked it much more than the lesser aged versions. It was a little firmer, not as goopy and overwhelming in the mouth, and had a sharper taste. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lobster Roe and Tomalley

I have eaten lobster many times before when I've come to the green substance in the cavity and been grossed out. My impression has been that it was non-eliminated fecal matter and similar substances that I had no desire to put in my mouth. Then recently I saw Andrew Zimmern on Bizarre Foods call the green matter "tomalley" and he indicated it was very good. I have also heard him talk about lobster roe, or lobster eggs, and how good they are. Well, the other day I was at King's Fish House in Rancho Cucamonga and got the New England Clam Bake which included a 1 1/4 pound Maine lobster. 
As I've indicated before, I find that most places over-cook lobster, so I asked the waitress for it to be cooked just beyond the translucent stage. I ended up with an interesting treat. I found a good deal of tomalley 
and with Andrew Zimmern speaking in my head I launched into it with gusto (the tomalley is in the carapace hidden under the thin flap of "skin" - see below). 
It actually is very good. It is runny, sweet and salty. Tomalley, from the Carib word "tumale," means a sauce of lobster liver. It is a liquidy green substance found in the lobster carapace that fulfills the function of both the liver and the pancreas, filtering out toxins. It can contain PCBs which are bad for you in large concentrations, but consumed in small levels, according to Health Canada guidelines, no more than one lobster per day (I wish), should not hurt you. Then I found an extra bonus. As I consumed the tomalley closer to the tail I found it full of a black substance. 
Even farther back toward the tail I found a red substance (see the red substance inside and just underneath the top portion of the lobster tail shell). 
I assumed, and later confirmed, it was lobster roe or lobster eggs. The lobster roe is naturally black and when cooked it turns red and is called coral (toward the bottom of the picture, the roe has turned red on the far ends and is still black in the center). 
Because I had asked the restaurant not to cook my lobster too long, the most outside roe had turned red and the inner roe, the majority of it, was still black. 
The lobster roe is also liquidy, salty and sweet, full of lobstery taste, and paired well with the tomalley, but it was not for the faint of heart. It was quite a conglomeration of green, black and red that would have absolutely turned me green in my pre-Andrew Zimmern days (I saw one site online that said 90% of the customers at a seafood restaurant in coastal Canada did not eat the lobster tomalley). The coral, or red roe, was more rubbery and not as good as the black roe. I ate it all and enjoyed the tomalley and roe as much or more than the actual lobster tail 
and claws, 
which were also good. The last several restaurant lobsters I've eaten have all gone to the cooks with the same instruction to cook them just beyond translucence. It has made all the difference - I find I actually love lobster, where before, with overcooked lobster, I could take it or leave it. I also need to note that Maine lobster is one of the 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cheese: Shropshire Blue

Shropshire Blue cheese, also known as orange Stilton, 
is made of pasteurized cow's milk in the United Kingdom. It has a natural orange-brown rind, blue veining, and distinctive orange color which comes from the addition of annatto, a coloring produced by the pulp surrounding the seed of the achiote (which also gives color to other cheeses such as Cheddar and Gouda). 
It is a soft cheese made the same was as Stilton cheese, except for the addition of annatto, by Stilton cheese makers. The annatto reacts with the curd and softens it a little, making it creamier in texture and a little bit milder and sharper than Blue Stilton. It was originally developed at a dairy in Inverness, Scotland by Andy Williamson, a cheesemaker who'd made Stilton cheese in Nottinghamshire. 
It was originally called Inverness-shire Blue, but later marketed as Shropshire Blue despite the fact it had no link to Shropshire. It is now made by a dairy in Leicestershire and dairies in Cropwell Bishop and Colston Bassett, Nottinghamshire, small towns I was familiar with when I lived in England in the late 1970s. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cheese: Brie

Brie cheese is named after the old French region of Brie which was divided into two sections: one being the modern department of Seine-et-Marne and the other the modern department of Marne. It is on the outskirts of Paris. It has very soft flesh, is creamy tan in color, 
and has a thick rind of edible white mold. 
Rennet is added to raw cow's milk, to help it coagulate, it is heated and forms curd. It is put into molds in several thin layers which are then drained for about 18 hours. It is then taken out of the molds, salted, inoculated with Penicillium candidum or Penicillium camemberti and Brevibacterium linens and aged in a cellar for at least four weeks. It can mature up to a year, and the longer it matures, the stronger it tastes. It is now made in many varieties and all over the world. The French government grants AOC (appellation d'origine controlee) status to two Bries: Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun. The Supreme La Creme de la Creme 
is a double cream Brie, made in France, with added Creme Fraiche to bring the fat content up to 62%. Among our taste testing group of eight people, a comment of "oh wow" went up when we tried this cheese. It was the softest of all the cheeses we tried, with perhaps one exception. It is very, very mild, rich and creamy. It had just a bit of an "off" or bitter taste in the background. Judy compared the texture to frosting or soft butter. 
It spread out over the knife, onto the plate, and was a mess to deal with. It has a pleasing texture and richness, but I really preferred the stronger taste of the Camembert which we sampled about the same time.

In June 2011, on our way to Moscow, we had a layover in the Munich Airport. While there we bought some cheese identified as St. Jacques M. Salbei Franz Weichkaese.
Weichkaese means soft white cheese used for spreading and salbei means sage. 
St. Jacques was an area or a type of Brie cheese made in France. It appears to me that this is some sort of Brie cheese covered in sage. 
It had a little bit of an earthy, barnyard smell, was very mild and had a slightly earthy taste. 
We ate it as part of our breakfast in the airport and quite enjoyed it.

I recently had some wonderful triple cream Brie with wild porcini and chanterelle mushrooms, made in Germany and marketed by Trader Joe's.
I wish I could have had some with Andrew, my mushroom lover, he would have adored it. I had some of it several times where I warmed it up for a few seconds in the microwave and the mushroom taste was teased out and transfused into the cheese. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cheese: Aged Cheddar

The Kerrygold Reserve Cheddar is made of pasteurized cow's milk and aged over two years. 
The packaging was different than I've found before. Instead of being closely encased in plastic, it was more loosely packaged and the cheese itself was wet. I was surprised that the Dubliner cheese, which I got about the same time, was a little harder and a little stronger. I understand that aging helps develop flavor, can make it more sharp, so I was a little surprised that the taste of this cheddar did not pack a little more wallop. It did taste aged, kind of a smudgy, deep taste. 
Having tasted quite a few different cheeses recently, this is not one that would draw me back. From Kerrygold, I would take Dubliner over this, and I would jump at the aged cheddar with Irish whiskey over either of them. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cheese: Bleu d'Auvergne

Bleu d'Auvergne is blue cheese made in Auvergne, a province in south central France. 
It is given the AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controlee) designation by the French government. It was originally developed in the 1850s by Antoine Roussel, a cheesemaker. He was probably trying to copy Roquefort cheese, but used cow milk instead of sheep milk. He found that blue mold on his curd tasted really good and, with testing, found that rye bread mold created the best blue mold veining and that pricking the curd with a needle increased aeration for the veining. Today bleu d'Auvergne is made with raw milk of Salers and Aubrac cows and is prepared with mechanical needles and aged for about four weeks in cool, wet cellars, although I'm finding sources that say it is aged up to two months in cellars, before being wrapped in foil and matured another month or so. 
The length of aging, of course, makes a big difference in how bluey and strong and pungent it gets. 
It has a strong and pungent taste, but generally less than many other blue cheeses because it is not aged as long, has less salt and sometimes uses a different mold, the Penicillium glaucum, as opposed to the Penicillium roqueforti, which is used in Roquefort, Blue Stilton and many other blue cheeses. 
I'm finding one website that describes "with age, the crust becomes sticky and eventually the interior gradually collapses and the taste becomes more intense and spicy." 
One of the wonderful things I am learning about cheese is that the same ingredients, the same cheese, can be quite different depending on the age. Therefore, it can be a never-ending trail of discovery, even within the same type of cheese, as you try it from different manufacturers and with a different aging profile. Bleu d'Auvergne is one of the 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die
1001 states that "the taste is potent and very salty, with hints of sourness alongside subtle grassy, wildflower notes." I got some Bleu d'Auvergne cheese from Trader Joe's and one interesting note is they misspelled it on their label: "Bleu d'Avuvergne Cheese" (with an extra "v"). 
It was wet out of the package, like Blue Stilton and Roquefort, and had a strong blue cheese taste, but not quite as strong as either Blue Stilton or Roquefort, but still very strong. It appears that there is a wider variation in how Bleu d'Auvergne is made than for either Blue Stilton or Roquefort. I'm finding varying aging times and use of different forms of Penicillium (the cheese made with P. glaucum is milder than the cheese made with P. roqueforti), so there is probably less uniformity and less predictability in what you are buying than for those other brands.  Roquefort has no rind and Blue Stilton has a strong, powerful tasting rind. Bleu d'Auvergne has a rind, 
but it is no where as strong or as powerful as the rind in Blue Stilton. 
In terms of preference, so far Roquefort is king of the blues for me, but I would rate the Bleu d'Auvergne I ate as my second preference, ahead of Blue Stilton and Gorgonzola, the other well known blue cheeses.