Thursday, July 25, 2013

OMG: Sheep's milk camembert

My mother's a big fan of sheep's milk cheese. She once transported a duffel bag full of cheese across thousands of miles by land and by air. I didn't know what she was up to until the day after we'd landed in New York. I opened our refrigerator and founds a shelf full of cheese with Portuguese labels or no label at all. I'm reminded of that episode of I Love Lucy where Lucille Ball attempts to smuggle an obscene amount of cheese from Italy by pretending a slab of cheese is a swaddled baby. [Season 5: Episode 26]

I'm embarking on a cheesescapade. I plan to taste each of the varieties of cheese listed by Fresh Direct, an online grocer. And, it's been marvelous. My latest discovery is the buttery heaven that is sheep's milk camembert. Here's the strange thing: I have recent memories of turning up my nose at camembert. It was tooo strong. And that smell. Something was rotting and why on earth would I want to put that rot in my mouth?

But now the white mold that forms the ripe rind of the cheese doesn't bother me. I use to cut it off as though it had cooties. Now it's part of the cheese's charm. Perhaps, I'm finally growing up. That is, before I had immature taste buds, and therefore I liked the bland. Now, I'm judging cheese on it's own terms. Yes, it's moldy milk. But there are ways to cultivate mold that bring out the greatest flavors.

"You can't get this cheese here," my mother explained when we questioned her about the alleged craziness of her heist. Pasteurization kills the flavors. The best cheeses are local, as is the cheese that caught my fancy. It's made by Old Chatham Sheepherding Company of Hudson Valley. Spread it in some toast. It's like butter. Literally.