Tag Archives: cheese

Brie Soup

soup

Ingredients:

¾ C. chopped onion

½ c. chopped celery

4 T. butter

2 T. flour

2 c. half & half

2 cups chicken stock

8 oz. brie cheese, cut in pieces

1-4 oz cans of chopped green chilies

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, sauté onion and celery in butter over medium heat until translucent. Stir in flour to form a roux or paste-like consistency. Slowly whisk in milk and chicken stock and continuing whisking until smooth and well-blended. Add brie and whisk until melted. Add chilies, salt and pepper. Cool slightly. If desired, puree in blender until smooth. Serve with crusty bread, a green salad and crisp, white wine. Serves 4.

Week 47: Say Cheese

cheese

When I grew up my exposure to cheese was limited to grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese, made with Velveeta American processed cheese. The selection of cheeses in grocery stores was limited and gourmet delis were nonexistent. Gradually American palates have become more sophisticated and we have a global selection of fine cheeses now available to us. My travels have allowed me to sample Gruyere fondue in Switzerland, caprese made with fresh mozzarella di buffalo in Italy, and Stilton in the United Kingdom.

History

Cheese predates written history, but is believed to have been discovered accidentally by an Arabian merchant who put his supply of milk into a pouch made from a sheep’s stomach, as he set out on a day’s journey across the desert. The rennet in the lining of the pouch, combined with the heat of the sun, caused the milk to separate into curd and whey. That night he found that the whey satisfied his thirst, and the cheese (curd) had a delightful flavor which satisfied his hunger

Ancient Egyptians loved cheese so much that depictions of the cheese-making process were painted in tombs in 2500 BC. Homer’s Odyssey talks about how Cyclops stored his cheese. The Greeks and Romans used cheese as a delicious currency. The Romans love to dine on fresh cheese with figs, but they also used it in salads. Cheese, olives and raisins made up he meager rations of the Roman soldiers. Cheese is even mentioned in the Bible. Between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, monasteries dominated cheesemaking replacing stone or clay containers that had been common until then with copper kettles.

Cheesemaking

Many cheeses today are still produced via traditional methods and recipes, although processing has become easier with the advent of mechanization.

Cheese can be made from the milk of any mammal. The makeup of milk varies with the animal, and the variations are what make sheep cheese and goat cheese different from cow’s milk cheese. On the average, cow’s milk consists of 87% water, 3 ½% protein, 3 ¾% fat, and almost 5% lactose (milk sugar) by weight, along with water-soluble vitamins, such as A, B complex, and D. It is the protein and the lactose that are most important in cheesemaking.

Sheep’s milk contains almost double the fat content of cow’s milk and has a higher lactose content which gives it a slightly more acidic flavor. Examples of cheeses made from sheep’s milk are Italian Pecorino and Greek Feta.

Goat’s milk cheeses are known as chevre. The characteristic aroma derives from specific fatty acids which are formed soon after milking, although modern processing methods have helped to minimize the strong smell. Goat’s milk produces very small curds which is the reason why it is produced and sold in small packages.

To make cheese from milk, two things must occur: the lactose must convert into lactic acid, which is lower in acidity, and an enzyme must be added to trigger the clumping together of the casein molecules which causes curds to form. When that happens, the whey is drawn off and the process begins. The curds are cut, are slightly reheated for some varieties of cheese and salt is added to help draw off moisture. The hard cheeses are pressed, molded and air-dried. The final stage is aging or allowing the cheese to ripen.

It is through ripening that a cheese develops its varietal character. Cheeses ripen according to their shape, size, age and type. The temperature and humidity also affects the type of cheese made.

The best, most flavorful cheeses come from fresh, raw milk, but the USDA forbids the importation of raw-milk cheeses aged less than 60 days. Currently, more than one-third of all milk produced each year in the U.S. is used to manufacture cheese.

Would you like to try to make your own cheese at home? You can order supplies to get you started from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. (www.cheesemaking.com ) or for a more extensive program, get your cheesemaking certification from the University of Vermont’s Institute for Artisan Cheese.

Classifications

Fresh Cheeses – essentially uncooked and unripened curds ready to eat directly after being made, like ricotta, cream cheese, farmers cheese, cottage cheese, Italian Mascarpone and French fromage blanc.

Soft cheeses – soft spreadable consistency, surface ripened (sprayed or exposed to molds so that they ripen from the rind inward), like French Brie and Camembert.

Semi-soft cheeses – Slightly less water content than soft cheeses. Examples include French Reblochon, Italian Taleggio, el Paese, German Butterkase and semi-soft cheeses with mold on the inside such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton and a variety of blues.

Semi-hard cheeses – These cheeses have an elastic, firm texture and are easy to cut and usually have a wax, paraffin or plastic coating. What semi-hard cheeses have in common is the slight heating of the curd during the production process. Examples include Dutch Gouda, French Gruyere, German Tilsit, Swiss Appenzeller and Emmental.

Hard cheeses – made from curd that has not been heated or cooked to solidify it, but are pressed to complete the drainage of whey. They ripen evenly throughout and have a long shelf life. Examples include English Cheddar, Spanish Manchego and Italian Parmiggiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Provolone, and French Morbier.

Processed cheese – a by-product made of natural cheese, vegetable-based guys, dyes, emulsifiers and stabilizers.

Resources

Carroll, Ricki. Home Cheese Making.

Hastings, Chester. The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen: Celebrating Cheese in 90 Recipes.

International Dairy Foods Association (www.idfa.org )

Jenkins, Steven. Cheese Primer.

Roberts, Jeffrey. The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese.

Smith, Tim. Making Artisan Cheese.

Shrimp and Artichoke Hearts

shrimp-artichoke-hearts1

Ingredients:

3 T. butter

3 T. flour

½ t. cayenne

1 pint half & half

3 T. catsup

2 T. Worcestershire

5 T. lemon juice

5 T. sherry

3 jars marinated artichoke hearts, well drained

½ lb. Fresh mushrooms, sliced

2 ½ lbs. Jumbo shrimp, cooked, peeled & deveined

2 c. grated cheddar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400o. Melt butter over low heat in a medium saucepan.  Add flour & cayenne pepper.  Mix well.  Whisk in half & half and cook over low heat until thick and well blended.  Add catsup, Worchester, lemon juice & sherry.  Blend well.  In baking dish, combine artichoke hearts, shrimp & mushrooms.  Pour sauce over and top with cheese.  Bake about 30 minutes in 400o oven.  This is best served with a crisp green salad, rice and a crunchy loaf of bread. Serves 6-8.

Grilled Crab and Swiss Sandwich on Rye

Today is National Cheese Day! Celebrate with this fantastic sandwich.

Ingredients:

1 lb. jumbo lump crabmeat, cleaned

1 stalk celery, diced

1 t. Old Bay seasoning

1/4 c. mayonnaise

6 slices Swiss cheese

12 slices of marble rye bread

Butter, softened

Directions:

Prepare crab salad by combining crabmeat, celery, Old Bay seasoning and mayonnaise in a bowl. Divide among 6 slices of bread.  Top each with one slice of Swiss cheese.  Top each one with another slice of bread which has been spread with a small amount of mayonnaise.  Spread softened butter on the outside of the sandwiches and grill on medium heat until golden brown.

The Cheeses of Campania

Basil and Tomatoes

The region of Campania in southern Italy is known for its cheeses and yogurt made from the milk of the water buffalo.  Water buffalos were originally brought to Italy by the Goths during the middle ages. The water buffalo milk is not used for drinking and is reserved only for cheese-making. Mozzarella di bufala and ricotta di bufala are mild, creamy cheeses that are not allowed to ripen but rather are used when they are freshly made.

The milk is brought in, curdled, and then drained to eliminate the whey. After this the curd is cut into small pieces, and then ground up in a sort of primitive mill. At this point, reduced to crumbles, the curd is put into a mold and immersed in hot water, where it is stirred until it takes on a rubbery texture. The cheese maker kneads it with his hands, like a baker making bread, until he obtains a smooth, shiny paste, a strand of which he pulls out and lops off, forming the individual mozzarella (mozzare in Italian in fact means to lop off). These in turn are put into cold water and then soaked in salt brine. As the cheese absorbs salt, it firms up. The end result is a shiny white orb with elastic consistency— so that if poked it springs back to its original shape. Mozzarella, prepared in the evening is ready the next morning, oozing with freshness and rich flavor. When the mozzarella is sliced, it should have a grainy surface and appear to be composed of many layers, like an onion. If the cheese is fresh, milky whey should seep out when you cut into mozzarella.

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The authenticity of Mozzarella di bufala is identified by the wrapping printed with the name “Mozzarella di Bufala Campana” and the brand of the Mozzarella di Bufala Association with the relevant legal information and authorization number. The Mozzarella di Bufala Association was founded in 1993 and now represents 95 producers. The Association monitors the production and marketing of the Mozzarella di Bufala Campana in compliance with the production rules for the DOC (Certified Origin Brand) as set forth by the European Union agriculture policy.

Pasta Frittata

Ingredients:

1 c. cooked spaghetti or other left-over pasta

3 eggs

1/4 c. grated Parmigiano cheese

1/4 lb. Italian sausage, cooked and sliced

4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

1 t. sausage drippings or 1 T. olive oil

 Directions:

Cut cold, cooked spaghetti into small pieces.  Beat eggs, stir in spaghetti, cheese, sausage, cheeses.  Heat olive oil in an 8-inch non-stick skillet.  Pour in spaghetti mixture.  Fry five minutes or until brown and crisp.  Slide out of pan into plate; turn back into pan and fry other side for five minutes.  Cut into 4 wedges.

 

Shrimp and Artichoke Hearts

As I’ve mentioned, my husband and I first met in Pensacola, FL where he was going through flight training to become a Naval Aviator.  Pensacola is the gem of the Gulf Coast – warm weather, pristine sugary sand beaches, and azure water teeming with a variety of seafood.  The Gulf Coast is probably best known for its shrimp and we always found the best selection at Joe Patty’s Seafood downtown.  Here is one of my favorite shrimp recipes for you to savor. It makes a great company dinner with a chilled white wine.

Ingredients:

3 T. butter

3 T. flour

½ t. cayenne

1 pint half & half

3 T. catsup

2 T. Worcestershire

5 T. lemon juice

5 T. sherry

3 jars marinated artichoke hearts, well drained

½ lb. Fresh mushrooms, sliced

2 ½ lbs. Jumbo shrimp, cooked, peeled & deveined

2 c. grated cheddar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400o. Melt butter over low heat in a medium saucepan.  Add flour & cayenne pepper.  Mix well.  Whisk in half & half and cook over low heat until thick and well blended.  Add catsup, Worchester, lemon juice & sherry.  Blend well.  In baking dish, combine artichoke hearts, shrimp & mushrooms.  Pour sauce over and top with cheese.  Bake about 30 minutes in 400o oven.  This is best served with a crisp green salad, rice and a crunchy loaf of bread. Serves 6-8.