A question about Stilton cheese
- The Mad Greek Dec 11, 2003 01:50 PM
Hey fellow Hounds,
A friend who works a choice catering gig gave me a whole wheel of Stilton Cheese yesterday. YUM! Granted, while I am going to go through this thing like Grant went through Richmond, should I cut it into chunks and wrap it seperately? Should/can I freeze some of it? *shiver* (I hate to freeze anything unless it's meat or absolutely necessary.
Thanks a bunch.
p.s. What kind a person doesn't like blue cheese? j/k
If you can stand the smell permeating (sp?) your refrigerator...
Just wrap it in a kitchen towel and place it in the vegetable crisper drawer.
Actually, I don't like blue cheese, but I understand from blue-cheese lovers that I was probably scared off by an inferior product, which can be pretty awful.
I'm willing to eat it if it's ever served to me.
I haven't tried using it at home, because I worry that if I really don't like it, I'll have to throw out the entire dish or block of cheese.
Any ideas for trying blue cheese without committing myself? Also, what should I look for in a good blue cheese?
Funny you should mention this just now. I've never liked the blue cheeses either, but last night I was at a fancy party where the chef had put together a table of stilton and port (I don't drink port either), along with a sheet explaining the history of the combination (in brief, the English hated the French--surprise--and supported the Portguese wine industry, but the wine had to be fortified with brandy before shipping, hence the port. They then paired it not with a French cheese, but with their own excellent stilton) and how to eat it (in brief, cheese first). It was wonderful.
Your perspective can also be changed by the quality of the cheese. Good Stilton and other blues are expensive. If your introduction to it has been via the average supermarket, you have not idea how good blue can be.
I love it with port, madiera, or other sweet wines. Add some nuts, maybe a little fruit (pears, especially) - heaven. Sometimes I'll smear a little of it on the nuts instead of bread or crackers.
Oh and for the LUCKY recipient of the wheel of blue, it's great in salads (arugula, pear slices, blue cheese, walnuts with some fine sherry vinegar and oil sprinkled over it (I don't like it coated completely), so that you get a succession of wonderful strong flavors bumping up against each other. There are dozens of other salads out there, many of which combine fruit and bitter greens with the cheese, nuts, etc. Check them out.
Caseophile, thanks for the suggestions about storeage.
You mentioned saran not being good for non-blues. What do you suggest for, say, parmaggiano-regianno?
EHB............I stand corrected about the Grant/Richmond thing. Hey, it sounded funny as I was typing it. Revisionist history for funnies sake.
re: The Mad Greek
Hmm... Parmigiano Reggiano is a hard, aged cheese, so it would be at the opposite end of the spectrum, storagewise. It wants a relatively warmer temperature, and still with enough humidity to prevent it from drying out. Max McCalman's book (my favorite source for such matters) recommends 55-60 degrees, and at least 80% humidity. Maybe you have a basement or something that would fit the bill? Softer cheeses would like it a bit cooler than that.
As for a suitable wrap for your Parmigiano to wear as it waits to be eaten: the goal would be to seal it well enough to keep it from drying out, but still allow it to breathe. Cheeses, like certain other living things, slowly emit some slightly noxious gases as they age. In this case, ammonia is an important such gas. That's why you're not supposed to use saran wrap or foil for most cheeses: they trap the ammonia and steep the cheese in it, so that the cheese starts to taste funny. I believe this is one of the many reasons why supermarket cheese is often gross: the longer it's been shrink-wrapped in plastic, the longer it's been steeping in its own off-gases. Blue cheeses are an exception -- they have a very high moisture content, and no rind to protect themselves, so you need to go to special lengths like saran wrap or foil to keep them moist. Although you still might want to open them up and air them out now and then.
Anyway, getting back to the Parmigiano and what to wrap it in: I'd slap a piece of saran wrap on the exposed, cut faces of it, to prevent them from drying out. I'd leave part or all of the natural rind part uncovered, so that the cheese can breathe a bit. That part's not gonna get much drier or harder anyway.
A softer cheese would be trickier... Max would recommend wrapping it loosely in a lightly waxed paper (maybe butcher paper), and then with a layer of plastic wrap outside of that. And then you're supposed to take it out and change the wrapping daily, AND give the cheese a bath now and then if it seems too dry. Me personally, I'm a person of great love for all living things, but I just can't spare that much of it for my cheese. So, I'd probably just wrap the cheese in waxed paper, eat pieces until it didn't taste good any more, and then put the poor thing out of its misery. But you can see why I prefer to buy just a few day's worth of cheese from a place that does all this crazy stuff for me, rather than getting a headache about trying to do it myself.
By the way... be sure to leave any cheese out at room temperature for 1-2 hours before serving it. They taste better at room temperature.
That's pretty much my spiel about cheese storage. I'm afraid I'm gonna be much less helpful with the Civil War history. :-)
Storing cheese is tough! I always try not to buy more than a few days' worth at a time. But since you've actually got your hands on this awesome wheel of Stilton this time... I definitely don't think you should freeze it. Provided you like its current degree of blueness, I think the goal should be to keep it just as it is, i.e. keep it cold, to prevent additional blueing (i.e. excessive growth of that yummy blue mold), and keep it very moist, so that it doesn't dry out. So, I agree with the previous poster that the best place for it in your house is probably the vegetable crisper drawer in your fridge, which is designed to keep stuff cold and moist (though it's still probably less than ideally moist). I'd wrap the cheese in something less permeable than a paper towel, though, to do a better job keeping the moisture in. I think aluminum foil or even saran wrap would be right in this case (though it should be noted that these are generally bad for non-blue cheeses). I would leave it in as few large pieces as possible, because if you cut it up, you'll increase its surface area, which will increase its risk of drying out. And, as you eat your way through it, if you find any outer regions that are too hard or too blue, you can cut those off and proceed toward the middle.
As for the poster who wants to revisit blue cheese after a bad experience... I've never seen Cambazola - it's supposed to be some hybrid of Camembert and Gorgonzola, right? Some other relatively mild blues that come to my mind include Beenleigh Blue, Cashel Blue, Mont Briac, and Great Hill Blue (though I've had some stronger Great Hills too). Of course, each of these could be stronger or gentler depending on how it's been aged. You can actually inspect the cheese and see how much blue there is, too, and look for one with only a few flecks here and there.
Also, consider the possibility you didn't like the last blue you tried, not because it was too strong, but rather because it was just plain nasty. Even a good variety of cheese purchased from a good store can taste bad if you happen to get a bad batch, and I think most blue cheese you buy at the average supermarket will be pretty gross no matter what kind it is. I don't know what part of the country you live in (or, for that matter, if you even care enough to do this), but can you make your way to a good cheese shop and try a few nibbles of different blues at the counter before you buy one? I know most people aren't as crazy about cheese as I am, but that's definitely the best way to buy cheese if you can swing it.
I'm in Calgary, Alberta.
There are a few cheese shops in the city, so I will take all suggestions under advisement and see about sampling them. That's why I asked for suggestions--I would have no clue about what to look for.
I suspect what I had before was your average grocery store blue cheese--it was pointed out to me by someone I knew that it might simply be that it was not good cheese.
Thanks for the advice. The one experience left me wary, but I'm willing to admit it's probably not representative of all blue cheeses and try again.
Uh, Grant never went through Richmond. Although it was always Lincoln's hope to overrun the Confederate capital and end the war, the Union's efforts to that end were inept. The closest Union troops got was Petersburg, south of Richmond, where they became hopelessly bogged down in a months-long seige of the city. Grant ended the war by chasing down Robert E. Lee's worn-out troops at Appomatox, which is at the other side of the state, near Lynchburg.
Maybe you went through you Stilton more like Sherman went through Atlanta...
Stilton is a fairly dry cheese, so it should keep better/longer than some softer cheeses. I would keep it in a large piece - or perhaps cut off a piece for current use as you go along, so you are not unwrapping the whole cheese all the time. Wrap tightly in saran (the real/original stuff not any old plastic wrap) or thick waxed paper and then in foil. Some people advocate buttering the cut side of a cheese to further block air infiltration - I have tried this in the past, with cheddars, but am not sure how helpful it is.
For the person just exploring blues, I find some, especially the cheap commercial product to be just too sharp for my taste(I recently had a maytag with this quality. for example). The nuttier stilton (nice with buttered bread) and the salty, savory roquefort (at the right point of ripeness) are much more attractive. Also the high cream, mild bleus like saga or carambazola (?) might be more attractive to a beginner . Gorgonzola torta (the milder gorg layered with mascarpone) is also a good starter blue; also cashel blue from ireland. With all of them, let them warm up toward room temp - they are not attractive at refrigerator temperature. Once you get started, there is a huge range of delicious bleus out there to try out.
As an ardent Stilton lover, all I can say is 'congratulations' on having such a friend as to give you a whole wheel! Today's price is about $22 / pound -- for very good reason.
- Eaten with soft fruit (apricots)
- Eaten with good port wine (my favorite) -- as pointed out, this is close to the original "port wine cheese"...
- A little on a nice grilled steak
Oh, I tasted Cambazola for the first time last week. This too is a wonderful, soft blue.