It has been too long for a new Cheese 101 entry but here it is, with 3 delicious cheeses from Spain, France and Wisconsin.

Cheese 101: Zamarano

Zamorano

Background

This D.O.P. cheese’s namesake derives from the town in the center of the region of production. It is made from the raw milk of the region’s Churra and Castellano sheep; ours is aged for 6 months. (Forever Cheese)

First the milk is soured using rennet. This process requires a temperature of 28-32ºC (82-89ºF) and takes 30-45 minutes.

The resulting curds are then cut until they form grains measuring 5-10 mm (1/5–2/5”). The mixture is then heated gradually to a maximum of 40ºC (104ºF), and the curds are molded and pressed, forming the characteristic wheel shape. Salting can be done using dry salt or by submerging the cheese in brine for a maximum of 36 hours.

The cheese is then left to ripen for no less than 100 days, starting from the date of molding, during which period it is turned and cleaned as necessary. PDO cheeses are identified with a numbered seal, an identifying label and a ‘casein’ label. (Cheese From Spain)

As with all cheese, the flavor of Zamorano comes from a unique combination of terrestrial elements, which ultimately influence both the milk of the animals from which it is made and the traditions of the people who create it. The continental climate of this region of Spain provides abundant pastures upon which the two breeds of sheep feed.

This cheese was originally made and developed by essentially nomadic families who would move from place to place throughout the Castillian countryside, taking their flocks of sheep with them to each new grazing land…(Gourmet Cheese of the Month Club)

Aroma/Flavor

Until I stumbled on this cheese at Whole Foods, I had never heard of Zamorano, a table cheese. Based on a simple Google search, I realized that the cheese name is, I believe, actually misspelled on the label. (Incorrect: Zamarano; Correct: Zamorano).

Zamorano features a sweet, mild aroma that is enticing. The texture is crumbly and somewhat dry. Zamorano’s flavor “offers a hint of burnt caramel and the buttery taste of sheep’s milk, with some intense, piquant highlights” (Gourmet Cheese of the Month Club) in addition to “a touch of salt.” (Forever Cheese) Unfortunately, that “touch of salt” over powered the other, intriguing flavors and was all I remembered. I love salt, but after awhile, that is all I could taste.

Cheese 101: Zamarano

Final Thoughts

The texture and promise of Zamorano intrigued me. The base flavor and texture is actually very good.(The buttery taste was a highlight for me.) However, as I continued to sample, and as much as I love salt, I came to the conclusion that it was simply too much. Unfortunately, the saltiness lingered even after all the other flavors dissipated. Maybe my chunk is saltier than others? That is definitely possible and why I would still recommend trying Zamorano.

Additional Resources

Cheese 101: Coeur de Savoie

Meule de Savoie

Note: The Whole Foods wrapper says “Coeur de Savoie.” However, after researching that name online and finding nothing, I called Whole Foods for more information. Whole Foods said the name is also Meule de Savoie, which has more information available online.

Background

…the raw cow’s milk Meule de Savoie by Herve Mons.  Meaning (also literally) “Windmill of Savoie”, it is made high up in mountainous Savoie in the Rhone-Alpes region.

This cheese has all the great hallmarks of a good alpine style.  Creamy uniform paste, pale almond color, thick woodsy natural rind, and made in wheels the size of a coffee table. (The Board and Wire)

Aroma/Flavor

Meule de Savoie is a very impressive cheese that I thoroughly enjoyed. The aroma features strong, in a positive way, notes of nuttiness. The texture is smooth and creamy and leads to a sweet flavor that is actually milder than the aroma would have one believe. One of the reasons Meule de Savoie was so unforgettable is the flavor changes in one’s mouth and lingers on the tongue.

Below are two descriptions that I believe paint an amazing flavor picture of Meule de Savoie.

The flavor is subtle, but punchy, with that high singing acidity reminiscent of a young Gruyere.  Compound butter, raw hazelnut, and a good dose of toasted hay round out the palate.  The texture has a classically creamy, toothsome grit to it. (The Board and Wire)

In both our samples, the fact that they are more aged and also made with summer milk shows in the flavor: hints of fruit, herbs, grasses. Both have a certain nuttiness, but not that strong sweet-nut tang of a Comté. Because of the fruit aftertaste, this cheese is often eaten with fruit. (A Year in Fromage)

Cheese 101: Coeur de Savoie

Final Thoughts

After sampling Meule de Savoie, one can truly tell that it is a very well made cheese that is absolutely delicious. Its mild but lingering flavors combine to create a cheese that is a must try.

Additional Resources

Cheese 101: Bellavitano Balsamic

BellaVitano Balsamic

Background

Established in 1939 by Paolo Sartori, Sartori Cheese Company is a fourth generation family owned business based in Plymouth, Wisconsin.

Well known for hard and Italian-style cheeses, the company sources milk from local, family owned farms within a close radius to the production facility. The herd size at each farm averages 75 cows and many of the farms have worked with Sartori for multiple generations. The company also operates an incentive program that encourages each farm to produce the best quality milk possible.

Balsamic BellaVitano is immersed in a 6-year-old Italian balsamic vinegar and aged further to allow the light and fruity notes of the cheese to marry with the sweet and tangy vinegar. (culture)

Balsamic BellaVitano is unique Cheddar-Parmesan hybrid created by cheesemaker Mike Matucheski at his Sartori Company of Antigo, Wisconsin. By bathing the cheese in the sweetness of Modena balsamic vinegar, the cheesemaker has highlighted the sweet, nutty, fruity flavours of BellaVitano Gold. (Cheese.com)

Aroma/Flavor

For some reason, I believed Sartori was a large cheese conglomerate and therefore avoided any of their products. At a Cleveland culture event, representatives from Sartori set me straight, informing me that they are in fact a family owned company and not a conglomerate. At the same event, I was able to sample some of their cheese, learning that they produce some delicious varieties, including their BellaVitano Balsamic.

BellaVitano Balsamic features a mild balsamic aroma that invites you to dive right in. The crystallization/crunch is evident the minute you take a bite and then the sweetness of the balsamic takes over.

Cheese 101: Bellavitano Balsamic

Final Thoughts

As is the case with BellaVitano Balsamic, crystallization in cheese can add much needed texture to a delicious cheese. However, in my opinion, the crunch went a little too far and, at times, distracted from the amazing sweet, balsamic flavored cheese. This is the only reason I gave this a 4/5 as opposed to a 5/5. Like the Meule de Savoie, this is an amazingly well-made cheese and, regardless of crystallization, one you should definitely try.