Browning Gold is a humble cheese.  At the cheese counter, it does little to differentiate itself from other aged cheddars.  Yet what it lacks in visual intrigue, it makes up for in flavor.  Browning Gold offers warmth and sweetness, and seems a natural fit for a casual intimate gathering.  More importantly, Browning Gold retired my family’s bias against aged cheeses.

Browning Gold is a hard, cheddar-style cheese produced by 5 Spoke Creamery in Westchester County, New York.  It is farmstead produced with raw cow’s milk and cave-aged for 24 months before market.  The cheese is produced in a large brick format; each cheese weighs about 10 pounds.

browning-gold-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011Browning Gold looks as if it has been wrapped in a white paper skin.  The rind’s surface molds give the exterior a velvety feel.  The interior paste is the color of pale straw,  darkening to nutmeg at the rind.  To the touch, the paste is solid and a bit greasy.

Browning Gold has a musty aroma.  Its rind smells like fresh earth and mushrooms.  Its interior paste has a baked cheese cracker scent.

Browning Gold has deep flavor and marked sweetness.  Its flavors are strongest at the start, then mellow while chewing.  Its dominant flavors are a warm nuttiness and pineapple sweetness.  The cheese also has a some sourness.  It leaves a mild aftertaste.

The cheese has a moist and crumbly texture in the mouth.  Browning Gold breaks into pebble-sized morsels on the tongue,  encouraging one to savor the cheese.

With its sweeter profile, Browning Gold was an easy sell at our table.  One juvenile taster commented that it tasted like a sweet and savory sauce.  We all liked this cheese a lot.  The day after our tasting, there was a hasty scramble for the remaining cheese.

Browning Gold is a superb stand-alone cheese.  Its crumbly texture demands slow eating and seems ideal for a casual gathering.  It would be fantastic on a day hike, camping or as an everyday cheese.

Purchase Notes:  I purchased Browning Gold at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).  The cheesemonger commented that Browning Gold is available occasionally.

Beaufort is a raw cow’s milk cheese from the Haute Jura area in France, close to the Swiss border.  Cows grazing on alpine grasses provide the milk used in its production.  Beaufort is aged for 18 months, has a natural edible rind and arrives in huge 80-pound wheels.

Our sample of Beaufort was a thin slice from a large, doorstop-sized chunk.  The interior of the cheese is a deep, golden yellow.  This cheese is smooth and solid.  Its surface unmarred by holes or fissures.  At the rind, the cheese has orange and brown tints.  The rind itself is a warm tan.  (Note:  To see what Beaufort looks like in the shop, try this photo).

Beaufort’s aroma is not strong, but it smells like a farm.  The interior has the scent of butter and the rind smells like cow and dried hay.

Unlike other hard cheeses we’ve tried, this one bends.  Our thin slices of Beaufort broke up into large chunks as we handled the cheese during the evaluation.  Beaufort’s surface is greasy to the touch.

Beaufort’s flavors start softly, but end sharply.  It is very mild at first, almost like a light Gruyere.  It finishes with a nutty, salty flavor that is stronger but still milder than an Aged Gouda.  The bang from this cheese comes at the very end: the cheese really coats the mouth with its flavors and after swallowing, a felt-like feeling remains.

Beaufort did not win any fans during our evaluation.  Half of the tasters were unimpressed by its mild flavor (a guest taster called it boring) and the others were put off by its after-effects.  Ben called the after-effect “spicy,” but this is his catchall description for foods that produce negative mouth effects.  No one wanted to purchase this cheese again.

When we purchased this cheese, our cheesemonger raved about Beaufort calling it “the bomb.”  Yet this cheese literally bombed with all tasters.  Conclusion: preference is informed by personal likes and experience and best not be too swayed by other’s raves.

Parrano is a hard cow’s milk cheese made in Holland.  It is a gouda-style cheese that uses Parmesan Reggiano cheese cultures during production.  According to our cheesemonger, this is a relatively new Dutch cheese, with production beginning in the 1970’s.  Parrano is aged for 5 months and has a waxed rind.

Parrano

Parrano is the color of cheese pizza, with bland interior shades and a sharply contrasting red rind.  Parrano’s interior is light yellow-orange, darkening to orange-brown near its rind.  The waxed rind is labeled.

To the touch, Parrano is solid and firm.  Its surface is smooth with small intermittent holes.

Parrano is like a distant cousin of Parmesan Reggiano: it has the aroma and nutty flavors of Parmesan Reggiano, but is closer in texture and mouth feel to Gouda.  Parrano is milder than Parmesan Reggiano, not as salty or nutty and it lacks a long after-taste.  Its texture is flaky like Gouda and has that cheese’s creamier mouth feel.

Parrano is a modest diversion from the traditional Aged Goudas of Holland.  Our tasters were mixed on this cheese; those that already enjoyed Parmesan Reggiano liked this cheese, while others thought it too tangy and reminiscent of Aged Gouda. Parrano is a cheese somewhere in between Aged Gouda and Parmesan Reggiano, so comparisons to those two mother cheeses were inevitable.  This is a nice hard cheese for a picnic or as an everyday snacking cheese, but it’s not compelling enough to put on a party plate.

Bandage Cheddar

Bandage-wrapped Cheddar

Bandage Cheddar is a raw cow’s milk cheese, made by Fiscalini Farms in San Joaquin County, California. This cheese is “bandaged” in cheesecloth during its aging period of 16-36 months.

Bandage Cheddar is pale blonde in color.  It has small holes throughout, creating ridges in its surface texture. This cheese has a dense, solid feel.  (Note: We received an unusual sample with just the cheese’s interior and no rind.  Our photo does not reflect the cheese’s shelf appearance).

The scent of Bandage Cheddar is much like other aged cheddars–tangy and very sharp when held close to the nose.  Bandage Cheddar’s scent gives true hint of its expected flavors.

Bandage Cheddar has a sharp flavor, much like other good aged cheddars.  Its flavor begins tangy and sharp and leaves an even tangier aftertaste.  Jacob thought its tanginess was close to Aged Gouda, yet noted that it was a lot sharper.  The sharpness was not biting or acidic and lingers briefly on the tongue. A thin slice of Bandage Cheddar yields many enjoyable flavors.

We all liked this cheese, yet it did not make our repurchase list.  Ben suggested that this cheese would do better with a more substantial bed than french baguette.  He’s right!  The airy baguette was too wimpy for Bandage Cheddar.  This cheese deserves a hearty pain au levain-style bread to support its complex flavors.  Bandage Cheddar would make a good fall cheese with pears or apples, and I bet it would be delicious melted on anything.

Lampchopper

Lamp Chopper

Lamb Chopper is a sheep’s milk gouda made in Holland specifically for Cypress Grove Chevre (of Arcata, California).  Lamb Chopper is a firm cheese made from pasteurized milk and is aged for 3 months.  It has a dark waxed rind.

The interior of Lamb Chopper is a pleasant beige, turning to a deeper gold at the rind.  The surface of the cheese has small, shallow dimples yet is otherwise smooth to the touch. Lamp Chopper is easier to slice than the aged gouda we tried in early June and does not have the aged gouda’s flakiness.

Lamb Chopper’s scent is akin to parmesan “with more pump.”  The odor is tangy and sharp, but not unpleasant.

The flavor of Lamb Chopper is similar to an aged gouda or sharp cheddar in that its flavor is tangy and salty.  However, we found Lamb Chopper more mellow and with creamier mouth feel than the aged gouda we tried in early June.  Lamb Chopper’s flavor does not linger on the tongue.

Lamb Chopper failed to win over Ben and Jacob and neither suggested that I buy this cheese again. Since neither was a big fan of the aged gouda, I am curious to explore if there are any gouda-style cheeses that will catch their fancy.

Lamb Chopper is more mellow than an aged gouda in color, initial flavor and aftertaste. This would be a nice cheese to share with family (especially those with small kids) or take on a picnic.

Dutch Gouda, Aged 2 Years

Gouda, Aged 2 Years

Gouda can be a young semi-soft cheese or an aged hard cheese.  We tried a dutch Gouda that had been aged for 2 years.  This cheese is made from cow’s milk. Our sample of Aged Gouda is the color of uncooked pasta, deepening in color towards the rind. Ben noticed that it’s hard surface was slippery like glass yet uneven with some dimples and bulges.  Jacob said the cheese had an aroma similar to parmesan cheese. The cheese is hard and dense with a thick rind.  Use a sharp knife with this cheese as it is hard to cut.  Slices flake from the cheese. A small flake packs a lot of flavor.  Jacob and Ben agreed that this cheese is tangy–very tangy.  Ben commented that it had an even tangier after taste (we need to develop a tang-o-meter to scale cheeses on this adjective).  Neither was willing to buy it again.  I’m partial to hard aged cheeses and I liked it.  Matt was ambivalent. The 2-year Aged Gouda may not warrant a second try for us, but it would make a fitting end to a rustic meal.