Friday, April 29, 2011

Cheese: Myzithra, Cotswold and Aged Cheddar with Irish Whiskey

Myzithra or Mizithra cheese is primarily produced on the island of Crete (where it is the most widely used cheese), but it is produced in other areas of Greece as well. 
It is made with leftover whey from the production of Feta and Kefalotiri cheeses, along with raw sheep or goat milk, with a ratio of milk to whey of about 7 to 3. It is available three ways: (1) Fresh, unsalted and soft, in egg-shaped balls with a pungent aroma and mild flavor; (2) Sour; and (3) Aged, which is hard and salty. Aged myzithra, which this was, is used as a grating cheese in pastas, soups and casseroles. I was taken back when I first tasted it. It was unlike any cheese I've ever tasted. As dementors (in the Harry Potter series) are to spirit, Myzithra is to spit. It just seemed to soak up all the spit in my mouth and overpower it. 
It is described as "pungent." 
Pungent is defined as "sharply affecting the organs of taste or smell, as if by a penetrating power; biting; acrid." That is an accurate description. My initial reaction was not pleasant. I have been sampling it multiple times over the last couple of weeks and I am starting to get used to it. Rachael says she had it on spaghetti at the Spaghetti Factory and really loved it. It is probably very good as an ingredient cheese. As for a cheese on a cracker on a cheese sampler plate, I would go with other choices. 

On the opposite end of the scale of the Myzithra, the Kerrygold aged cheddar with Irish whiskey was a salivary delight. 
It is made from pasteurized cow's milk. The Kerrygold website describes the Irish whiskey as providing "undertones" of a "smooth, woody and nutty taste." It is relatively soft and creamy, but has a very sharp, distinctive and prominent taste: the kind of cheese that you want to eat in small bites and savor, as the taste is complex - multiple flavors assault your tongue. One reviewer notes that it would be very good on mac n' cheese, or in a cheese sauce on potatoes, cauliflower or cabbage. 
That is a cheese sauce I would love to have. If I were making up a cheese plate, this would be a choice for that plate. One of my favorite cheeses.

Gloucester cheese is an unpasteurized semi-hard cheese made in Gloucestershire, England, since the 16th century and comes in two types. Single Gloucester is made from the milk of Gloucestershire breed cows within Gloucestershire and is crumbly and light in texture. Double Gloucester is allowed to age longer and has a stronger and more savory flavor. Cotswold cheese is made by blending Double Gloucester with chives and spring onions. 
It is a trademarked name and can only be made by Long Clawson Dairy. It is creamy, tangy, rich and has an overwhelming taste of chives. The dominant image in my mind as I eat this cheese is that of a cup of sour cream infused with chives, ready to spread on to a baked potato. In fact, I would love to eat this cheese melted on a baked potato. 
It is a wonderful stand-alone cheese which would also be a great served on  a cheese plate. 

Each of these cheeses is very different from any other cheese I've ever eaten. They were a fun combination. None of these are milk-toast cheeses - each has a very prominent and distinctive taste. The Myzithra was not my favorite, but as an ingredient in a pasta, or something similar, I can see that it would be a good choice because it is very strong. Given a choice of only one of the above, as a stand-alone sampling cheese, the aged cheddar with Irish whiskey would be my overwhelming choice, but the Cotswold is very pleasing and good. I would view the Cotswold as more of a comfort cheese, probably very good on a grilled cheese sandwich.

After doing this post, I made a grilled cheese sandwich, 1/2 with Cotswold
and 1/2 with the aged cheddar with Irish whiskey. 
Both were good, but the Cotswold, as I suspected, is wonderful in that capacity. Hard to imagine a more perfect cheese for a grilled cheese sandwich.

1 comment:

  1. I have to agree with Rachel Mithra cheese is great on spaghetti with a little butter is awesome but you don't really want to eat it plain, too strong.