December 4, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Say cheese for the holidays

From mild to bold, gooey to hard, the ever-growing number of varieties available locally boggles the mind. Here’s a primer.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

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At The Cheese Iron in Scarborough, truffled cheeses, far left, and cave-aged taleggio from the Lombardy region of Italy are served with oven-roasted tomatoes.

Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Colston Bassett English Stilton at The Cheese Iron.The Colston Bassett dairy has had only four cheesemakers in its 100 years of existence.

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Some cheeses have a great back story – an interesting little tale of how they are made, where they are made, and so on. These little stories can be very popular with your guests, as I found out one year after Maniaci sold me some Vacherin Mont D’or.

Vince told me the story of how the cheese, produced in the Swiss and French alps, is made from the first milking in the fall after the cows have come down from the alpine region. (And the winter milk of the same cows that produce Gruyère in the summer.) In Switzerland, by law, Vacherin Mont D’or has to be produced at elevations of 2,297 feet or higher.

The cheese is wrapped in spruce and lives in its own little wooden box. It’s only available for a few months. Even its name is romantic: It means “cow of the golden mountain.”

This is a decadent, ooey-gooey cheese that you wrap in foil and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Scoop up its rich, luscious goodness with a cracker, or ladle the cheese onto some potatoes. And while you’re eating it, tell the story of how it’s made. I served Vacherin Mont D’or at a Thanksgiving gathering a few years ago, told the little story, and people still talk about it.

Reblochon is a soft, washed rind cow’s milk cheese from France that smells a little like chestnut honey.

Its story dates to the Middle Ages, when farmers were taxed according to the amount of milk their cows produced.

“As the tax man would come to tax their yields, the farmer would always leave a little bit of extra milk in the udder,” Maniaci said. “So after the tax man left, they would do that second milking. They would shake the udder twice, and the second milking would be theirs that they didn’t have to pay taxes on. So they’re cheating the tax man.”

That second milking was also richer and made a better cheese. In the 16th century, farmers offered the cheese to monks in return for having their homesteads blessed.

Chesire Appleby from Neal’s Yard Dairy is the oldest English cheese on record.

“They say it goes back to the Domesday Book of 1,086,” Tallman said.

It may even have been made by the Romans 1,000 years earlier.

Chesire Appleby looks like an orange cheddar and is “the last traditionally made, clothbound, unpasteurized cheddar.” In other words, it’s made the same way English farmers made their cheddar 100 years ago.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad


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Additional Photos

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Truffled cheeses at The Cheese Iron in Scarborough

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Ricciarelli with mascarpone cheese and cranberry chutney at The Cheese Iron


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