This month, as part of our own Scratchin’ Cheese of the Month Club, we headed back to The Rumrunner, here in town, to pick out a couple of cheeses for tasting. The only general rule, although we play fast and loose with it, is that we pick out cheese(s) that we’ve never had before.
First up is a French soft cheese: Morbier — you can see it on the left in the photo. You might notice that vein running through the center of the cheese and think that this is some sort of blue cheese. It’s not; that vein is made from ash. Apparently (at least according to the Internet), this cheese was originally created from leftover curds. After making a batch of comté cheese, if there were curds left over, they would be placed in a cheese mold and covered with ash to protect them overnight. The next day, the curds would be topped up to finish the wheel of Morbier.
So, how does it taste? While it’s a soft cheese, it does have a moderately strong flavor and a slightly strong smell, although it’s not in the class of some of those “stinky cheeses.” The flavor is slightly nutty and creamy, and tastes so good on its own that we probably wouldn’t use it in cooking; just for cheese and crackers or bread. If we remember correctly, it costs about $16/pound. Not super-expensive, but not cheap, either.
The second cheese we tried was Manchego a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese. It’s not a soft cheese, having been aged. Instead, this cheese seems to be, perhaps, the Spanish equivalent of Parmesan cheese, as it’s somewhat crumbly and has a sweet, nutty flavor. We originally were only going to buy about 1/4 pound (a good size for tasting), but we tasted it in The Rumrunner, and liked it so much, that we ended up buying over half a pound. Immediately upon our first taste, we knew that this cheese, while good on its own, could be put to good use in cooking. According to the cheesemonger, this cheese is very popular now for things like chile rellenos, and tasting it, we believe him.