Wednesday, January 12, 2022

A Simply Better Continental Cheese Selection.

Continental Cheese Selection

From Simply Better By Dunnes Stores

Gorgonzola Piccanta

A Christmas present of cheese put me thinking of a Swiss holiday and an excursion to the town of Gruyères, and aliens! There were fabulous views, a church, a chateau, and the famous cheese!

There was also a strange museum – based on the film Alien. The HG Giger Museum is based on the work of the graphic artist of the same name, who did the special effects for the film and others (such as Poltergeist 11).

This way for cheese!

A similarly themed bar is adjacent and it was here that we had coffee and minuscule meringues made with Gruyère. Then a short drive downhill to an “industrial” cheese manufacturer where a robot is usefully employed turning, watering and replacing big wheels of cheese in the racks.

Gruyère was included in Continental Cheese Selection by Simply Better Dunnes Stores at Christmas and it was quite a pleasant and tasty surprise, not least because some were “new” to me, as the vast majority of the cheese eaten here in this house over the past few years has been Irish. 

Babies in the bar.
G'us a drink, now!

So it was nice to see and taste what is going on the continent. And there was a good bit of variety in the selection. There were two fairly familiar cheeses, the Gruyère and the Gorgonzola. The other two were completely new to me, the soft rind Langres from Champagne and the L’Edel de Cleron from Franche-Comte. Also included was a little jar of Fig and Macadamia Nut Chutney from Girona in Spain; the nuts from Australia the all-spice from Jamaica.

One day last week, we made a fruitless run to try out the Cork Marina Market again but the large car park was full and lots of pedestrians coming in as well, plenty of  families around with schools still on hols. Quite a gang already eating out on benches under the full sun. We had to beat a retreat. 

What now for lunch? I thought of this selection and we opened the L’Edel de Cleron produced by Jean Perrin. I was reading about it and saw that Perrin makes it with milk from Jura Mountain Montbéliarde cows, the same milk used for Mont D’Or (both are wrapped in spruce bark). 

In the belly of the beast! Inside the pub in Gruyeres

So we heated up the cheese in its little round box and, when warm and soft, scooped it out with fingers of toast. Very delicious indeed, lusciously creamy and it vanished very quickly. Just the job though for lunch and I drizzled some of local honey (Leamlara) onto the last few scoops and that added to the pleasure.

Langres Cathedral

Langres is named after a little town in Champagne and is distinguished by a wee hollow on top of its small drum shape designed to hold a tiny pool of brine while maturing. Our producer, Fromagier Schertonleib,  went a spirited step beyond and this is matured with Marc de Champagne!  A touch of class.

It is a cows milk cheese with an edible orange coloured rind. It is creamy and smooth and melts on the palate. There is a delicate pungent aroma while the flavour is light, though the intensity of aroma and flavour can change as it matures. It is excellent on its own or when used in cooking.

By the way, we did use the multi-national chutney with all the cheeses (plus some Hegarty’s Cheddar that we had in the fridge) and it was excellent. The versatile Spiced Plum and Port Jam (by The Big Red Kitchen) also saw plenty of use and really starred with the Gorgonzola, as did the lovely Toro Albalá Marqués de Poley Oloroso (from O'Briens Wine).

Gorgonzola (via Pixabay)

Speaking of Gorgonzola, this Piccante Gorgonzola (AOP) was produced by the Arrigoni family in Lombardy, a region where nowadays the famous blue is made mostly in commercial plants. It traditionally has a white moist paste with green/blue veining and a sharp lactic smell.

The chateau at Gruyeres

Our Piccante has a beautiful smooth texture and a rich spicy flavour - so little bits are best! The rind is inedible. There are two types of this cheese, Piccante (savoury) and Dolce (sweet), with the latter (less blue-veined with a more delicate taste) representing some 90% of the production (ref: The Oxford Companion to Cheese).

French Onion soup with Gruyère (at Market Lane)

And the Gruyère? Characteristics of this famous Swiss cheese are its dry, firm and chewy texture and a moderately tangy flavour and with a nutty sweet finish - no need for any chutney here. A good one for the cheeseboard and a superb cooking cheese. The rind by the way is inedible.

Ours, a 15-month cave aged cheese, is made in traditional copper vats by the Margot family in the heart of the Jura Mountains and it is slowly matured in caves. The texture is firm and smooth and the flavour is rich and intense. 

Hegarty's copper vat

Gruyère is made mainly from Holstein milk and its long-time cross-mountain rival Comté (or Gruyère de Comté) from Montbeliarde. Just a few miles north of my house in Cork lies Whitechurch where Hegarty’s make a superb Templegall that can rival the Swiss and French; they use milk from their Freisians and, yes, they make it in a beautiful copper vat (over 60 years old).

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