Slow Food arranged a tasting recently at the Cheese Gourmet in Linden with Kobus Mulder, a South African Cheese Judge, yip that's a job! The Cheese Gourmet stocks around 40 South African cheeses with another possible 60 to choose from. Local cheese production has certainly been on the rise. Cheese is like wine, judged according to specific criteria, i e the look, touch, smell and taste. The touch incorporates pressing the cheese to determine the firmness and as such the category of the cheese in certain instances, eg soft or hard. More specific, the amount of water in a cheese "the parameters of moisture" and how it is made determines the category and steps to make the cheese. I will briefly set out the cheeses tasted and my impression of them from a wine lovers perspective. In general I found the less pungent cheeses more subtle yet more complex on the nose.
Luciana Cows Milk Ricotta: This is a whey cheese and as such not made from milk but from the whey remaining after the cheese production, is this still cheese? The only aromas that was forthcoming from this cheese was that of corn and boiled milk, not very impressive in nose or on the palate, but I guess what you need for a panzerotti filling.
Fior de Latte - Zandam Mozzarella: Kobus referred to this as 'pasta filata' cheese, stretched and rubbery and made for the pizza industry. Original mozzarella hails from Italy and before commercialisation mozzarella always referred to cheese made from buffalo milk. Mozzarella is considered a flavour carrier and has high contents of fat (buffalo) the cheap variety is light in fat and flavour. This was a good one, some aniseed and citrus on the nose.
Luciana Rabiola: This is classified as a fresh cheese and one of my personal favourites. I much prefer this to feta in salads, especially if accompanied by rocket, fresh tomatoes and lots of balsamic vinegar. The softer the cheese the shorter the shelf life. This is not a wine cheese as it is very fatty and the fat coats your tongue numbing the flavour of your wine, I would recommend a pungent Sauvignion Blanc with this should you wish to have wine.
Belnori St Catherine (soft): This cheese had a very complex nose, reminding one of a grassy sauvignon blanc with cats pee, thyme and sage on the nose. The palate followed through and this is certainly a "cheese-platter" cheese. It is also made from goats milk.
Klein River Havarti (semi hard): I did not like this cheese, it seemed boring after the previous one. The colour was more yellow and Kobus told us that the colour depends on the amount of carotene in the milk which is directly related to the amount of green grass the animal consumes. This cheese was very umami, a flavour better described as a salty meaty kind of flavour, seaweed etc, but not unpleasant http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umami!
Van Der Poel Jong Belegen (semi hard): This cheese went very well with my wine which at the time was a Paul Cluver Pinot Noir, it was umami with an underlying herbaceousness and we were told had a long shelf life. Me likes!
Dalewood Huguenot (hard): Lots of umami, buttered toast, salted walnuts and more. Certainly a complex palate. Kobus told us that the bacteria in a particular room creates a unique flavour for each cheese maker which would be impossible to duplicate. The bacteria is essential to mature the cheese and the animal rennet coagulates the enzymes. This was a GREAT cheese.
Portobello Angelot (soft washed rind): This had a musty wine cellar, dusty, smokey nose, farmyard deluxe. On the palate it was citrus butter and thyme on the finish. This cheese is washed (whatever that means) and contained brown bacteria like Camembert cheese (okay!) I did not like...
Cremona Gorgonzola (blue): Very umami with a rich strong flavour, we could not get enough of this, yum, it had a long lingering flavour and most surprisingly went extremely well with the Pinot Noir, making the fruit stand out and softening the tannins.
Well that was it. Now that I bored you to death, please do visit the Cheese Gourmet in Linden Johannesburg, they have all kind of luscious goodies including olives, olive oils, jams and biscottis. The kind of shop you expect to see in Cape Town or on a wine farm. Lovely!
My next blog will be an overview of all the nice restaurants in Parys so that all the day trippers can have something to look forward to.
Yum yum and good night...