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Around the World with Cheese

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There is a pub near my home that carries many imported beers, so I’m told. They have a punch card you can get so that each time you try a beer from a different country that country gets marked off your card as you attempt to go “around the world” via beer sampling.

Wouldn’t it be fun to apply the same exercise to cheese? Let’s look at three countries: Italy , France , and Germany. Let’s see what some of the most famous/popular cheeses are that each country produces. These countries may have many styles and cheese profiles that they’re known for, so we will pick just a cheese type from each of these three countries and look at its history and characteristics.
Italy - It’s hard to say the name and not think about mozzarella. No cheese tour of Italy would forget the famous Parmigiano Reggiano or parmesan cheese. A hard cheese with a thick rind, comes in a round shape know in Italy as a forma. The best maturing for this cheese is up to 24 months in Italy. From the regions of Northern Italy the only cheese produced in the provinces of Parma , Reggio Emilia , Modena , Bologna , and Mantua can be labeled Parmigiano Reggiano by Italian law. We American’s usually grate it on pasta and other dishes. In Italy it is often eaten as a table cheese. It has a fruity flavor and is often combined with traditional Balsamic vinegar.
France - France has such an array of cheeses, particularly it’s goat cheese. For a fun and famous cheese to have a drink with, I will take Camembert. The fragrant, cream centered, neatly boxed Camembert is one of the most famous and popular French cheeses. This cow’s milk cheese is named for the Norman village of Camembert from which it originates. It is an uncooked, pressed, semi hard cheese. Camembert is at the beginning of it’s ripening a crumbly and soft cheese and it gets creamier over time, usually 2-3 weeks. It must be aged 21 days in France to legally be called Camembert. It has a delicate salty taste and it should have a clear yellow appearance. Camembert is often eaten in salads or baked and served with fruit or nuts.
Germany – Butterkase , Bierkaese and the Bavarian Emmentaler are all famous German cheeses. Let’s take a look instead at the semi soft, smokey, rich and creamy Bruder Basil cheese. Still made in Germany with the tradition of the Trappist Monks from the Abby of Rotthalmunster where this cheese originates from, the cheese is smoked over beech wood embers. This firm yellow cheese has small holes and a natural waxed ring of a dark mahogany color. It is ideal for snacking or grilling on sandwiches. Bruder Basil is best paired with a dry white wine, or of course, a dark German beer.
So many places, so many cheeses, all around the world. The choices are as endless as the traditions, craftsmanship, and history of cheese as a food staple in the human story. The next time you are out to eat , having friends over , or just sitting down on your own at home with some cheese on your plate - take a trip around the cheese world by sampling different cheeses from different countries.