Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Holey Cow

Janet Fletcher: This new cow's milk wheel from California's Central Coast Creamery derives its inspiration from Switzerland and the category of eye-riddled cheeses, mostly undistinguished, known here by the unfortunate shorthand of "Swiss cheese." It's a crime that the term has come to suggest bland cheeses suitable only for sandwiches. Switzerland's cheeses are numerous, diverse and often sublime.

Creamery owner Reggie Jones, started in 2008 with his wife, Kellie, says he had Swiss Emmentaler, in mind when he devised Holey Cow, but he envisioned a much smaller wheel. Emmentaler can weigh 200 pounds, an impossible size for a small retailer.

Holey Cow wheels weigh a more manageable 10 pounds and have a natural rind, like Emmentaler, because they are exposed to air as they age. Made with pasteurized milk from Central Valley farms - Jones says he can't find hormone-free milk on the Central Coast - Holey Cow is ready for release in two months, although more aging doesn't hurt. But demand has been so strong that Jones can't hold on to it, a reflection of how tasty and well-priced this cheese is.

The cultures used for Holey Cow and other Swiss-style cheeses generate gas that produces the big internal eyes, or holes. A butter-colored wedge of Holey Cow has a mouthwatering scent, an aroma that merges sour cream, salted butter and custard. The texture is firm and easy to shave.

It is almost too concentrated, too buttery and sweet, to enjoy in larger chunks. Try the cheese in the paper-thin sheets produced by a cheese plane. It has some piquancy but no real bite; a child could enjoy this cheese on a sandwich.

It may not be sophisticated enough for a dinner-party cheese tray, but Holey Cow makes a pleasant snacking cheese. Serve it with a brown ale or a Belgian dubble such as Chimay Red Cap.

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