Cheesetopia

As a public service, here’s Jeff Katcher’s cheesy letter from Camp Hill:

Cheesetopia News

October 2, 2008 Edition

Hello everyone,

In this edition of Cheesetopia News, I’ll tell you about Stichelton, a fantastic raw-milk version of the celebrated English cheese, Stilton; present our specials running this week and next; announce an early closing this Friday; and answer our question of the week.

Stichelton-Ye Olde Stilton

Following a Listeria scare in 1989, the last maker of raw-milk Stilton in England switched to using pasteurized milk. While pasteurization does eliminate undesirable microorganisms in milk, it also kills off good bacteria and inactivates enzymes that contribute to the complex and lively flavor profile of an artisanal cheese. Nonetheless, by dint of long experience, a few dairies were able to continue turning out Stilton cheeses of good quality.

A few years ago, Joe Schneider, an American expatriate cheesemaker and Neal’s Yard Dairy, a renowned British cheese seller and exporter, joined forces to revive traditional farmhouse, raw-milk Stilton. The recipe and technique have been continuously tweaked and improved based on comments from shops and their customers, as well as the cheesemaker’s personal assessment. The result, while still a work in progress, is a masterpiece, one that retains all of the meaty essence of a Stilton, but has the inimitable buttery texture, sweet flavor and astonishingly long finish that only a raw-milk cheese can deliver.

Why isn’t it called Stilton? Well, Stilton is the only Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) cheese in the UK. When earlier production of raw-milk Stilton ceased, the PDO standard was revised and now specifies that Stilton must be made from pasteurized milk. So the new raw-milk cheese needed to have a different name. “Stichelton” was selected, because it is the ancient name for the village of Stilton.

We have brought in a small amount of Stichelton. (If customers like it, we’ll try to get more.) It’s not inexpensive, but we think that the phenomenal quality more than justifies the price. If you love Stilton, you owe it to yourself to taste this superlative version. As with Stilton, a port or other sweet wine makes a perfect companion. A hearty ale might do the trick, too.

Finally, we also have some Stilton from Colston Bassett, generally acknowledged to be the best of the seven current producers of Stilton, and one of only two to hand ladle the curd, which yields a more even, creamier texture. Our supply comes from a wheel that was hand selected by Neal’s Yard Dairy for its exceptional condition. Stop in, compare the Stilton and Stichelton, and see which one you prefer.

Our Current Specials Running Through Saturday, October 11

Cucina Antica Pasta Sauces -These superior pasta sauces are made from imported San Marzano tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. The natural sweetness of the tomatoes eliminates the need for added sugar, so these healthful sauces have fewer calories than run-of-the-mill supermarket brands and much more flavor! All come in family-size 25 oz. jars. Choose from:

Tomato Basil-Versatile: use as is or add meat, mushrooms or anything else you like.

Puttanesca-Give zest to your pasta with Italian olives and capers.

La Vodka-A little cream, a little cheese, a lot of panache, but no vodka (darn!)

Arrabbiata-If you like your sauce spicy (but not too spicy), this one’s for you.

Marinara-Redolent of garlic, as a great marinara sauce should be!

Tomato basil, arrabbiata and marinara sauces regularly $9.95. On sale for $8.25. Save $1.70! Puttanesca and La Vodka sauces regularly $10.75. On sale for $8.95. Save $1.80!

Our imported Rustichella d’Abruzzo pastas are perfect under your sauce. Their shape and rough surface, created by extruding the pasta through bronze dies, really grab hold of sauce, and their flavor is far superior to anything you can get at the supermarket. Select from eight varieties.

Two Enticing Italian Cheeses on Special

Aged Provolone-Several customers have told me that they’ve been unable to find aged, extra sharp Provolone in this area. Well, we have it here at Cheesetopia! Our Provolone “Vantia” is imported from Italy and is perfect for shaving over salads or just enjoying on its own. On sale for $12.50 a lb.  Save $2.45 a lb.!

Pecorino Crotonese-Italy is famous for its pecorino, or sheep’s milk cheeses. (“Pecora” is the Italian word for sheep.) While Pecorino Romano is perhaps the best known in the US and is widely used to grate over pasta, there are many other illustrious pecorinos from different regions of Italy. The recipe for Pecorino Crotonese originated in Calabria, although the cheese is now made mostly in Rome and its environs. It is much less salty than Pecorino Romano, with an alluring flavor that is earthy and a bit reminiscent of sun-dried tomatoes. On sale for $13.95 a lb.  Save $3.00a lb.!

Question of the Week

Q: How are blue cheeses made?

A: The veins in a blue cheese are caused by a Penicillium mold (Penicillium Roqueforti or, less often, Penicillium Glaucum). The mold is related to, but different from, the one from which Penicillin is derived.

The mold spores are introduced near the start of cheesemaking-usually to the milk before the curds are formed-but the mold needs oxygen to develop. Once the cheeses are shaped and have begun to age, they are “needled, ” i.e., deeply pierced all over to create air channels that enable the growth of the mold. Depending on the closeness of the holes and the density of the paste, there may be more or less molding in different blue cheeses. While we call this category of cheeses “blue,” the actual color may appear bluish gray, green, or even purplish.

I am sometimes asked if someone who is allergic to Penicillin can eat blue cheeses. The answer is generally yes, since there are few, if any, documented cases of people who claim to be allergic to Penicillin having a negative reaction to blue cheeses. (Still, you should follow the advice of your doctor if you have any concerns.)

There is a common misconception that “blue cheese” is a single entity. In reality, there are many kinds of blue cheeses. They exhibit a range of strengths and consistencies, from mild and creamy to strong, crumbly and spicy. If you’ve been put off by a strong-tasting blue cheese, try a milder one. You may just find one to your liking!

Do you have a question regarding cheese or a specialty food you would like answered? Email me at jeffkatcher@comcast.net.

Until next time, may the cheese be with you!

Jeff Katcher

Owner, Cheesetopia

Cheesetopia

2201 Market Street (rear of building)

Camp Hill, PA 17011

Tel: 717-901-5999

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