Friday, June 19, 2015

Trying New Cheese: Entry 7, Garcia Baquero, Iberico

You usually don't think of Spain when it comes to cheese. The truth is, the Spanish use cheese in many of their dishes. They have been making cheese for 100's of years and I decided to try one of their traditional cheeses that is meant for tapas. This is actually one of the most popular and used cheeses in all of Spain. The interesting thing about this cheese is that isn't just made out of cow, goat, or sheep's made from ALL of them put together!

Queso Iberico

Milk: Mix of Cow, Goat, and Sheep
Country of Origin: Spain
Region: Province of Valladolid, Central Spain
Type: Hard
Pasteurized: Yes
Description: Ivory white with a natural rind
Claim to Fame: Cheese made for tapas that uses a mixture of cow, goat, and sheep milk

5.99 for 5.02 oz
Iberico is often described as being just like Manchego, the most famous Spanish cheese here in the United States. I haven't tried that yet so I can't really compare them. Iberico cheese is made by mixing cow, goat, and sheep milk altogether to create a unique special milk. The amount of each isn't exact and it really depends on the season and availability for each milk but no matter what, this cheese will always have all three kinds in it. Usually the cows milk makes up at least 50% of the mixture. The cows milk gives the cheese its flavor, the goats milk gives the cheese its white color and tartness, and the sheep milk adds richness. When you put all 3 together you get the Iberico! This cheese also melts well, which makes it very useful in omelets, sandwiches, soups, or for tapas.

This truly was like no other cheese I had ever tried before because this was a mixture of 3 different types of milk. The package says, "Recommended: Eat 7 days after opening," well I couldn't wait that long and had to have it right away. This particular cheese was aged for 6 months. It was a very oily cheese and had a very strong smell. It specifically says to not eat the rind, so I didn't. It had a very strong taste, I can't say I could tell it was a mixture of different milks but it definitely was different. It reminded me somewhat of Beemster Valaskaas but not as sharp. It was tangy and nutty but also sweet. For a hard cheese it was fairly creamy but I guess was the sheep milk component.

This cheese would be great with any Spanish red wine or Pinot Noir. It could also go with a white wine, try Sauvignon Blanc. You could serve this cheese on a cheese board but due to its oily nature, pairing might be tricky. "Hard Cheeses From Around the World," might be a good cheese board idea!

I enjoyed my first cheese from Spain and I will definitely be trying more of their traditional cheeses. I will give Garcia Baquero Iberico an 8 out of 10, just because it was a bit oily. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say eating it 7 days from now might make it even better as the package instructed. I really suggest this cheese if you're making Tapas or any other Spanish dish, I can see where it would be useful in adding delicious flavor.

Thank you for reading my review and be sure to check out the next entry in this series!

Cheese Fact:  The first makers of Swiss cheese thought the holes were imperfections. They tried to make the cheese without holes but failed. Can you imagine a world without all the references and the famous Swiss cheese if it didn't have its signature holes???

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Trying New Cheese: Entry 6, Trader Joe's Extra Sharp Canadian Cheddar

A Trader Joe's cheese?? Nothing says classy like a kiss-ass in a Hawaiian shirt but to my surprise, the Trader Joe's store has a very large and interesting cheese selection. They are known for their low prices but when it came to cheese I found they were pretty comparable to everyone else. Of course I've had cheddar before but never CANADIAN cheddar. For years I have been wanting to wrap my taste buds around some real Canadian Cheddar, so when I saw an extra sharp block staring back at me from their cheese shelf, I couldn't pass it up. I believe it was Muffy, the mouse puppet from the 80's kid TV show, Today's Special, who said, "Oh nothing could be better, than a hunk of Canadian cheddar." I have always wondered if that was true.

Trader Joe's Extra Sharp Canadian Cheddar

Milk: Cow
Country of Origin: Canada
Type: Hard
Pasteurized: Yes
Description: Off White rectangular block
Claim to Fame: Aged for over 2 years

This cheese comes in a rectangular block that isn't very thick. It was just over half a pound and the price for that wasn't too bad. They price it by weight so you can look around and find one a bit cheaper that looks as big as the rest. It says right on the label that this has been aged for over 2 years! That makes this cheese seriously sharp, which is exactly what I like! Many cheeses say they are sharp but I don't take that term as lightly as some of the huge manufacturers out there, let alone what they consider extra sharp cheese. If it doesn't make your mouth pucker, it ain't extra sharp. It is under the Trader Joe's name, so it is difficult to say who actually makes this and where it actually comes from, other than Canada.

At first bite this cheese truly holds up to its label of being, "extra sharp." It has that wonderful tangy zing that makes a wonderful extra sharp cheese. This was clearly a cheddar and although the Canadians didn't invent cheddar cheese, they love to flaunt their excellence in perfecting it. I have to say, all the great things I've heard about Canadian cheddar were realized as I couldn't put the cheese knife down. As sharp as this cheese was, and was supposed to be, it was still rather creamy and soft. I expected a crumbly, drier cheese, which happens a lot with cheese that is aged that long but not this stuff! There were also no protein crystals, again, which I found to be odd, yet welcomed. For those of you that love extra sharp cheese but find the protein crystals to be annoying, congratulations, you found a perfect cheese!

All in all I found my first experience in Canadian cheddar to be a delightful one. I will say it isn't the BEST extra sharp cheddar cheese I've ever had, (I still think Cabot Vintage Choice Extra Sharp is still the best.) But I will say this is a great cheese for the price and convenience, as there are many Trader Joe's around. I give this cheese an 8 out of 10 just because it has a strange after taste that reminds me of plastic, I am wondering if it isn't due to the Trader Joe's packaging? I recommend this cheese for lovers of extra sharp cheddar, you won't be sorry if you go with this cheese.

It took me 28 years to find out for myself but I guess it is true what puppets sing about and I have to agree... nothing could be better, than a hunk of Canadian cheddar ...but that's just my two cents.

Cheese Fact: We all know cheese comes from cows milk or the occasional goat and even sheep. But did you know that some cheese is made from buffalo's milk and the even more rare, moose milk???

Thank you for reading and don't miss my next installment in this cheese testing series!

Monday, June 1, 2015


For my fifth entry I tried some cheese from merry old England! They have been making cheese since 1498! The English aren't known for their cheese making skills like the French, and yet this is the country that gave us the almighty Cheddar and they claim to have 700 varieties.


Milk: Cow
Country of Origin: England
Region: Gloucester
Type: Semi-Hard
Pasteurized: Yes
Description: Golden Yellow with particles of green chives and onions
Claim to Fame: Made since 1498 from the nearly extinct Gloucester cow.

HISTORY: Gloucester and Double Gloucester has been around since 1498, which is pretty impressive in my book and made me really excited to try it. The, "Double," in the name indicates that it is used from two milkings or has cream added, plus it is twice the height of single Gloucester. Double Gloucester usually has things added to it, typically chives and onions, that is the one I tried. This cheese comes from milk that is exclusively collected from the Gloucester cow, a once nearly extinct animal. This was a summer time favorite 100's of years ago and is still enjoyed today by many people around England.

Double Gloucester by Westminster, comes in a wedge shape cut from a larger wheel. It has a very golden yellow color and creamy texture. There are clearly green bits of chives and onions scattered throughout the cheese.
$5.98 for 5.29oz

TASTE: The second you open Double Gloucester you get the strong aroma of onions! I noticed right away at how oily this cheese was and my fingers were covered in oil. Double Gloucester is usually dry and flaky when aged, but this particular brand had a fairly creamy texture. The moment you bite into this cheese you immediately taste the onions and chives. The taste explodes in your mouth and can be very over powering. I have to say, it was difficult to taste the cheese itself between all the onion and chive flavor. The onion does have a kick to it as if it was a fresh onion, which again, got to be over powering in my opinion. I felt the quality of the cheese was very low. It was very waxy, almost like plastic. A very cheap cheese feel. If you've ever had those gas station meat sticks accompanied by what they call "cheese," that is what this was like, a surprising and disappointing feature. This was made with vegetable rennet and I'm not sure if that has anything to do with it. I have a hard time believing this is how Double Gloucester was meant to be and I think the company of Westminster is more responsible for this poor quality. It was difficult having more than one bite of this stuff. It was on the pricy side too but maybe I just think that because it was so bad. I understand it was imported from England but if it is bad, so what?

Sad to say Double Gloucester is going to get my lowest score ever. I'll give it a 5 out of 10, and that's being generous. I really do feel it was more of the brand than the actual cheese in this case though, that is why I am not giving up on it. The onion and chive taste is just far too strong, you might as well just bite into an onion and be done with it. However, if you love onions then this might be the right cheese for you! I would like to find some single Gloucester and more Double Gloucester from a different company and try it again.

Here in the U.S. Westminster is famous for dogs, but the English Westminster Double Gloucester can go to the dogs as far as I'm concerned, but that's just my two cents.

CHEESE FACT: Cheese making was done by the ancient Egyptians because hieroglyphics found in tombs from 2000 B.C. depict the cheese making process!

Thank you for reading and be sure to check out my next entry in this series!