I have been spending some of these hot summer evenings rereading The Cheese Primer, by Stephen Jenkins. If ever you have a question about cheese, this is the book to visit to have it answered. But reading about the wonderful cheeses of the world has motivated me to buy a few more than usual.
It started while I was reading about cheddar cheeses, a cow’s milk cheese, which comes from five counties in England. Sure, there are some good cheddars being made in the USA, although you will not find them in the grocery store. I know you probably have your favorite, but before you get all wound up about it, do me a favor, please? Go to Amazon and order a pound of Coastal Mature Rugged Mature cheddar cheese. It’s going to cost you about $25, and that’s not too bad, remembering a little goes a long way and this is not a cheddar that you are going to make mac and cheese with. Pair this wonderful cheese with crispy apple slices or grapes. If you want a wine to go with it try a big red, like a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I promise you, this is going to change the way you think about cheddar cheese. Amazingly delicious.
Another cheese that I am very fond of is Swiss Gruyere, also cow’s milk cheese. Gruyere is most often thought of as simply the best melting cheese in the world. When you first taste it, you will note a grainy texture, but the granules almost immediately melt in your mouth. It is quite a first-time experience. The flavor hints of fruit and nuts. Try it with a red Burgundy, or a pinot noir from the Willamette Valle. This is one of the traditional cheeses that fondue is made from, a wonderful recipe that too many people have forgotten about.
Lastly, I want to tell you about the most amazing cheese experience I have had in many, many years, perhaps my lifetime. I bought a small piece and English Stilton at Rouses in Ocean Springs. Stilton is blue cheese and aromatic, to say the least. It has a dry rind cheese, moist and crumbly inside, but full and rich. When I decided it was time to have this cheese for a summer evening supper, I just happened to have a slightly overripe pear on hand, and, wow, was it ever delicious. It is another cheese that goes with a big red, like red zinfandel, but also goes well with sherry or port. Honestly, this was one of the most delicious cheese pairings I have ever had.
Please remember to eat cheese at room temperature, never chilled. Rouses has a pretty good selection, Whole Foods is better, but you can also order almost anything you want to try from dear old Amazon.
A nice cheese, some fruit, crusty bread, and a good bottle of wine is the perfect summer’s supper.