With Ntala and boys at Crazy Mare Ranch
Henrik and Ryan love cheese and no one will be more straightforward about what they like, and why, then children.
I drove through the humid early mid-July morning spying vividly dappled hues of summery emerald and peridot jeweled meadows and bushes and trees. Crazy Mare Ranch was range road after range road, ribboning and winding – long and straight – and up and down and up and down; the rhythm of the repetitive movement lulled me into auto-drive and lured me through the expansive undulating countryside, ardent azure sky stretching taught from horizon to horizon … as I drove on and on. To make cheese with Ntala. And I got lost.
Arrived to welcoming waving by two lads at the gate, smiles wrapped around eager ears. Running behind my car, they caught up and helped me unload, peering into my boxes and bags. Anything interesting? Cheese. Yes, cheese. And they were excited. Ntala makes cheese 2 or 3 days a week, but they were still excited. These boys have an appetite for learning, and tasting and exploring and eating and cheese. After we got the milk heating in our make-shift vats, I got out my cheese (above).
Ntala disappeared briefly to present some of hers. Above is an incredibly gorgeous Stilton that she made using Mary Karlin’s recipe from Artisan Cheese Making at Home. Ntala has her own large cave for aging cheeses and this one grew a pretty funky jacket that many a Stilton would covet.
It has been so long since our last “official” Cheesepalooza Tasting that I had quite a collection of aged specimens that begged tasting. Cutting into each for the first time is absolutely thrilling. Above is the Pecorino I made May 4th, 2013. It is 11 weeks or almost 3 months old. I am delighted by the rind and the texture of the cheese. This one was not pressed, but turned every 15 minutes for about 3 hours, thus the eyes. When in Sienna, I bought a 50 pound wheel of young Pecorino and carried all over Italy with me, and then home. It was that delicious. This is not that delicious, yet. The texture is a bit rubbery, but it was still a bite of subtle Spring (below).
Next, I cut into my first waxed cheese: The Gouda. I had made a small round and the large wheel November 2012. The round one we enjoyed long ago, and this one is 8 months old. Surprise! It is not the creamy Gouda that I expected! But, it is deadly delicious. No pun intended. I did eat some and have lived to tell the tale, so plan to continue to enjoy this happy little accident. It was aging in the same cave as my Buttermilk Blue, but how did this happen? Gorgeous, isn’t it? Children were not allowed to devour this one.
Ah! I have been so eager to cut into my Asiago Pepato as I had to literally scrub deep blue mold off of it over the Christmas season. There were a couple of days… maybe three, that I didn’t check my cave, and that was three days too many. I made a small disc that we enjoyed over the Christmas holidays, and look at this mature and deeply flavourful nutty wonder. It is complex like an aged cheese, still creamy, yet firmed and dryer than the Gouda. The peppercorns offer a bite of heat and a nugget of welcome texture amid the flurry of tasting so much cheese.
Gruyère is Vanja’s favourite. This is the one I was so eager to compare to our own Alberta award winning Sylvan Star Gruyère that neither of us can get enough of. This was a deliciously fruity cheese, dryer and less creamy that most Gruyere’s. It was scrumptious, but nothing like the flavour profile of a traditional “winey” Gruyère. I was tickled with this cheese and plan to savor it alone, later, when I can really take the time to identify its characteristics. Well, I plan to do that with each of these pleasures.
Here is the cheese board all decked out for the Tasting Party! Can you guess which is which? I haven’t identified them all, yet.
Each is identified. I was tickled to find a traditional Cabeaucou recently and had to pick it up to compare to the ones I make.
My Buttermilk Blue is completely different than Ntala’s, yet we both used the same recipe. This is mild, yet tangy, with a velvety texture that melts on the tongue. I added it to the salad Ntala made for our lunch and this cheese, with her dressing and the freshly harvested garden lettuce, had my eyeballs playing a swift game of ping pong in the back of my head with every bite.
The little Cabécou purchased for this tasting.
Ntala’s gorgeous Stilton.
Ntala’s strong and soupy Buttermilk Blue: a work of art and a powerhouse filled with tang and flavour.
Ntala’s marinated chevre.
Ntala’s hard aged deeply flavourful and complex goat tomme.
I cannot get enough of her Stilton and the boys? Well, they were adventurous.
They tried everything. Henrik liked my Caerphilly the best. Ryan loved the Farmhouse Cheddar. I have never seen such polite cheese tasting manners and don’t think I have enjoyed a tasting quite as much as it was intimate. We sat around the mounds of cheese and picked and pecked and pondered.
Then I came home with more cheese to age and add to this already impressive collection. The saying would usually be: “I cannot believe I ate the whole thing.” But this time it is: “I cannot believe I made all of this cheese myself.” Can you see me patting myself on the back? I am truly in awe. When we started Cheesepalooza last August 1 with challenge one, I had no expectations close to this. I have made new friends. Ntala is one of them. I have acquired a great deal from this project this past year: knowledge, skill, friendships, and a whole lotta cheese.