Smile and Say……”S” is for Sonoma Jack


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Based on a reader’s suggestion, I’m returning to a domestic cheese.

“S” is for SONOMA JACK

Sonoma Jack with habanero - Photo from Vella Cheese Company
Sonoma Jack with habanero – Photo from Vella Cheese Company

 

Today, there are several varieties of Monterey Jack cheese made in California, but the superior versions are produced by certain cheesemakers.

The Vella Cheese Company, a Sonoma-based company making cheese since 1931, produces a Jack cheese that’s rubbed with a mixture of oil, pepper and unsweetened cocoa to give its signature brown rind. The rind protects the cheese but doesn’t have any effect on the flavor. Original Monterey Jack is the most popular variety of Jack cheese, but the same creaminess and texture can be found in Jacks flavored with jalapeños, rosemary, habañero chilies and garlic.

Dry Jack is made like fresh Monterey Jack, then aged for another seven to ten months. The texture is firm, dry and becomes increasingly brittle with age. The flavors of Jack cheese may range from mild and mellow in high moisture Jacks to spicy, delicate and buttery in peppered versions. Dry Jack tends to produce a distinct sweet, mushroom and earthy flavor. Jack cheeses pair excellently with Pinot Noir, Rose, Shiraz, Zinfandel or Riesling.

sonomacountyproperties.com
sonomacountyproperties.com

Smile and Say……”R” is for Raclette


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Today begins the push to the end of the alphabet – thanks for sticking with me through this cheesy series!

“R” is for RACLETTE

www.switzerlandcheese.ca
http://www.switzerlandcheese.ca

Welcome back to Switzerland! I couldn’t stay away for long.

There are two melted cheese dishes popular in Switzerland – or, perhaps I should say, popular for tourists in Switzerland: fondue and raclette.

Fondue (from the French fondre, literally, “to melt,”) is better known, and if you link back to my “G” post, you can read all about it. Well, raclette comes from the French verb racler, literally, “to scrape.”

www.seriouseats.com
http://www.seriouseats.com

Raclette cheese is usually formed into wheels that weigh about 13 lbs. In times past, half the wheel was held, cut side out, to a fire, and when it was melted, the cheese was scraped onto a plate that contained little boiled potatoes, gherkin pickles, and pickled onions. Traditionally, Swiss cow herders used to take the cheese with them when they were moving cows to or from the pastures up in the mountains. In the evenings around a fire, they would place the cheese next to the fire and, when it had reached the perfect softness, scrape it on top of bread.

Times have changed. Now, most people use an electric raclette grill like this one from Eiger. You place a slice of raclette cheese into one of the little coupelles, or small pans, and melt the cheese under the grill.

And always remember, the best beverage to drink with melted cheese is something warm, like tea. Room-temperature white wine is acceptable. Cold drinks? Non non non.

Smile and Say……”Q” is for Queso Blanco


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Day 19 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and…

“Q” is for QUESO BLANCO

Creative Commons/Geoff
Creative Commons/Geoff

 

Similar to yesterday’s cheese, paneer, queso blanco is a soft and unripened cheese. From Mexico, it’s made out of pure cow’s milk or a combination of cow and goat’s milk. The term queso blanco in Spanish means ‘white cheese,’ but similar cheeses have their own names in different regions. Because it is not ripened, queso blanco is also known as queso fresco or fresh cheese.

Due to its short maturation process, the cheese is extremely simple to make at home. The procedure for making the cheese is similar to Indian paneer, which includes boiling whole fresh milk, adding an acidifying agent (like lemon juice or vinegar) to form the curds and then draining the curds in a cheesecloth.

The texture and flavor of queso blanco is mild, firm and crumbly. It softens without melting, a characteristic very important in Latin American cooking. Try crumbling queso blanco on salads, over rice and beans or serve it as a table cheese with fresh fruit, marmalade or chutney.

¡Buen apetito!

 

 

Smile and Say……”P” is for PANEER


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15 down, 11 to go!

“P” is for PANEER

 

Creative Commons/Stanhopea
Creative Commons/Stanhopea

Dating as far back as 6000 BC, paneer is a fresh cheese used in South Asian cuisine similar to queso blanco (oh, look, I gave away tomorrow’s cheese!).  Moist and soft, and crumbly in texture, it is a rich source of milk protein.

The use of paneer is more common in Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh due to the prominence of milk in their cuisine. It is sometimes wrapped in dough and deep-fried or served with either spinach (saag paneer) or peas (mutter paneer). One of my favorite restaurants locally is India, and they feature paneer kabobs as well as a grilled paneer wrap.

You want to make your own? Easy! All you need is a half-gallon of whole milk, a quarter-cup of lemon juice or vinegar, and a bit of salt to season. Heat the milk until it’s foamy, then take it off the heat. Add the lemon juice and the milk will curdle. Let it stand about 10 minutes until you have curds and whey, Miss Muffet, then strain the curds from the whey with a cheesecloth. Now you have paneer in its most simple form. There are instructional videos available online if you really want to learn the process.

kripyā bhojan kā ānnaṅd lijīyai!

 

Smile and Say……”O” is for OAXACA


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I guess you can figure out my theme for the 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge. That’s right, it’s cheese!  I hope you enjoy these posts!

“O” is for OAXACA

Creative Commons/Roobray
Creative Commons/Roobray

 

Oaxaca (also known as Asadero and Quesillo), is semi-soft, white, string-type cheese made from cow’s milk. It’s similar to Mozzarella, but has a savory, buttery flavor and is great for melting. It’s one of the most popular cheeses for making quesadillas and has been compared (in texture and flavor) to Monterey Jack.

 

Oaxaca, within Mexico  www.wikipedia.com
Oaxaca, within Mexico http://www.wikipedia.com

Oaxaca is named after the state in southern Mexico where it was first made. The string cheese process, originally from Italy, which is used to produce mozzarella, was brought to Mexico by Dominican monks who settled in Oaxaca. Since buffalo milk was unavailable, they started using cow milk instead. The production process is complicated and involves stretching the cheese into long ribbons and rolling it up like a ball of yarn.

Smile and Say……”N” is for Neufchatel


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I guess you can figure out my theme for the 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge. That’s right, it’s cheese!  I hope you enjoy these posts!

“N” is for NEUFCHATEL

Creative Commons/Myrabella
Creative Commons/Myrabella

 

Neufchâtel is a soft cheese made in the region of Normandy, France. It’s one of the oldest cheeses in France, with production believed to date back to the 6th century in the town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray. Similar in appearance to Camembert, the taste is sharper and saltier. Unlike other soft, white-rind cheeses, Neufchâtel’s texture is grainy. It’s typically matured for 8-10 weeks.

www.cc-pays-neufchatelois.fr
http://www.cc-pays-neufchatelois.fr

In the late 1800s, a New York dairyman made the first American cream cheese as a result of his attempt to create a batch of Neufchâtel. This American Neufchâtel is softer than regular cream cheese due to its lower fat and higher moisture content. These days, it’s found in most grocery stores as a reduced-fat option to regular cream cheese.

 

 

Smile and Say……”M” is for MANCHEGO


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I guess you can figure out my theme for the 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge. That’s right, it’s cheese!  I hope you enjoy these posts!

“M” is for MANCHEGO

Creative Commons/Zerchund
Creative Commons/Zerchund

Yes, going for the obscure. Manchego takes its name from the dry plateau of La Mancha, south of Madrid and not far from Toledo, Spain. Originally named by the Arabs “Al Mansha” (meaning land without water), La Mancha is a vast, dry, flat region with few trees, and scorched by temperatures that can reach 122 degrees F, with minimal rainfall.

www.wikipedia.com
http://www.wikipedia.com

Manchego is one of the popular cheeses from Spain. Authentic Manchego is only made from the Manchego sheep’s milk. The farmhouse version is produced from unpasteurized milk while the industrial version is made from pasteurized milk.

The rind is inedible with a distinctive, traditional herringbone basket weave pattern, pressed on it. There are specific differences in Manchego cheeses, depending on their aging period.

Semi Curado – Young Manchego cheese is aged around 3 months are supple and moist. The flavor is fruity, grass, hay with a tangy note.

Curado – Manchego cheese aged for 6 months acquires a caramel and nutty flavor. It has distinct acidity.

Viejo – Manchego cheese aged for a year becomes crumbly in texture while the interior of the cheese acquires a butterscotch color. It has a sweet, lingering taste.

Manchego cheeses are best paired with a sherry.