Forty years ago today, I boarded my first airplane and began a year abroad that would forever mark my life. The thirty or so students who went with me might well have the same thought – we all were impacted by a year in Switzerland, with no internet or cell phones.
My first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was (very) loosely based on that year. Like Bernadette Maguire, I was 20, naive (yes), and hopeful. Unlike Bernadette, I did not have an affair with a married man, nor did I get pregnant with his child. 😉 I recall explaining that to friends, who took my storytelling literally.
I’ve returned to my beloved Switzerland often – in 1981 to work as an au pair (there’s a book I should write), again a few years later, multiple times in the 1990s, and most recently in January 2017, where I was inspired to write Villa del Sol.
But the year that began on 28 September 1978 was my year. I don’t have any Cardinal beer to drink, no Giandor chocolate bar, and the Café Chemin de Fer is now, I believe, an Indian restaurant. Things change, even in Fribourg, Switzerland.
“Mesdames et messieurs, it is time to go sleep!” 🇨🇭🇨🇭🇨🇭
Zamorano is a famous Spanish sheep’s milk cheese made in the region of Castile-Leon, Zamora. This hard cheese takes almost 6 months to mature fully. It has a pale-yellow color with crumbly texture and contains 45% fat. The rind is rubbed with olive oil while maturing, giving it its dark color.
Zamorano has a buttery and nutty taste, which is served as a table cheese with white, red as well as Zinfandel wine. It gets its characteristic flavor because of the breed of sheep – the small, scruffy Churra and the Castilian sheep that produce milk.
Due to a distinctive zigzag pattern and cylindrical shape, Zamorano appears similar to Castellano or Manchego.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this alphabetical tour through cheeseland as much as I did!
I return to North Yorkshire, where I found Wensleydale cheese, to find Yorkshire Blue.
Yorkshire Blue is a traditional blue cheese made from 100% Yorkshire cow’s milk. Handcrafted, the cheese is matured over a period of 8 weeks during which the cheese is turned one at a time to ensure uniform blue veining and creaminess. Upon ripening, the cheese is buttery, sweet and mild in flavor. Extended ageing will give the Yorkshire Blue a more pronounced flavor, but it will always remain mild & creamy. This moist and spreadable cheese can be crumbled or melted into soups, sauces and baking dishes.
Sounds like it’s from Greece, right? Right, it is.
Xynotyro, also known as Xynotyri, is made using leftover whey from sheep or goat’s milk. It is a hard and flaky cheese with a melt-in-the-mouth consistency. The pungent aroma sharply contrasts the sweet, burnt caramel, lanolin and sour taste of the whey.
A traditional Xynotyro is prepared by draining and curing whey in reed baskets and allowing it to mature in animal skin bags (yup). The cheese is either consumed fresh or ripened for three months with the use of microflora bacteria. Having only 20 per cent fat content makes Xynotyro one of the most delicious, natural, low-fat cheeses.
Wensleydale is a mild cheese that has been made in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire since 1150 by Cistercian monks. The monks continued to make the cheese until the dissolution of their monasteries in 1540. Traditionally, sheep’s milk was used, but over the time cow’s milk was also used. The art of making the cheese was passed by the monks to farmers’ wives who produced a blue variety of Wensleydale at their farmhouses. Today, Wensleydale is produced mainly from pasteurized cow’s milk with sheep’s milk added to enhance the flavor.
A Real Yorkshire Wensleydale is creamy-white in color and has a crumbly, flaky texture. The flavor is mild and slightly sweet with hints of wild honey. Wensleydale goes well with fruit pies. Wensleydale cheeses complement fruity white wine such as Pinot Grigio.
For my friends who thought I’d cop out and feature this
Let me just say that “V” is NOT for VELVEETA!
No, “V” is most definitely for Vacherin Fribourgeois.
Vacherin Fribourgeois is a Swiss semi-soft cheese made with raw cow’s milk in the towns of Bulle and Fribourg. The milk for the cheese is sourced from the Fribourgeois breed of cows that graze on the Alpine grass and wildflowers all the way through the late spring and summer. As early fall arrives, the cows are brought down to graze on grass and summer hay. That’s all they eat!
This traditional cheese making process ensures that Vacherin Fribourgeois has a pleasant nutty flavor underpinned by notes of fresh hay and milk. The inedible rind is stinky (it is!), but the cheese is not. The cheese itself is smooth and buttery.
Today Vacherin Fribourgeois is produced only by small number of artisanal cheese makers and is very difficult to find. Vacherin Fribourgeois is used in the best fondues, cooking and as a table cheese. It is a great melting cheese. Big and bold wines such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, or reds from the Rhone Valley in France will compliment the cheese well.
Last week of the A to Z Blogging Challenge brings some challenges – but I’m up for it!
“U” is for UBRIACO PROSECCO
Ubriaco Prosecco is a raw cow’s milk cheese made in northern Italy’s Veneto region, home to Prosecco sparkling wines. Termed “drunken cheese,” it is covered by Prosecco grape skins and wine during the maturing process, which give the cheese a sweet, delicate aroma and a complex finish.
Ubriaco is matured for at least two months but usually not more than a year. When mature, it has a soft texture, which ages to become firmer and crumbly, similar to a Parmigiano. Ubriaco is best served in crumbles or shavings with a glass of Prosecco or any aged, red wine.
With a shout-out to my new blogger pal Silvia, today’s featured cheese is Telemea.
Telemea is a traditional Romanian cheese made by the Vlach or Wallachian people of Europe. There are various types of telemea official recognized such as Telemea de Arges, Telemea de Brasov, Telemea de Carei, Telemea de Harghita, Telemea de Huedin, Telemea de Oas, Telemea de Sibiu and Telemea de Vâlcea.
Telemea is a semi-soft, white, sheep’s milk cheese with a creamy texture and tangy aftertaste. In some cases cow’s milk is also used. The cheese was originally produced only in Romania but when the Vlach population started spreading beyond their native country, the recipe became popular in European nations like Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Poland. Sharing similarities to Greek feta, telemea is often used in salads. Telemea is stored in a brine solution, and gets saltier with age.
Made similarly to paneer and queso blanco, telemea is left to mature in brine. It’s usually desalted in fresh water before consumption.
Based on a reader’s suggestion, I’m returning to a domestic cheese.
“S” is for SONOMA JACK
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.
Today begins the push to the end of the alphabet – thanks for sticking with me through this cheesy series!
“R” is for RACLETTE
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.”
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.