Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cheese Tasting

Despite my bad experience with Brie [1], I decided that there are still a lot of cheeses that I'm curious about. So I decided to try some more. I even convinced Leann, who's generally less adventurous than I am, to give them a try. So I bought a few cheeses at the grocery store and ate them with some sesame seed crackers, some summer sausage, toasted semolina bread with dipping oil and balsamic vinegar (not shown), and quinces. I also tried a few Mexican cheeses that I bought for making enchiladas Potosinas.[2] Fortunately for me, this round of cheese experimentation went better.

We'll start with the European cheeses. I bought K. H. De Jong brand Edam, Denmark's Finest brand Fontina, Emmi brand Gruyère, and Myzithra (no brand name). I also threw in some Meunster cheese and some cheddar, but there's no need to review those.

Edam is a creamy cheese with a flavor like a mild cheddar or gouda. This was my second favorite. If you eat it, be sure to remove the red wax rind first.

The Fontina tasted like a strong Swiss, but without the holes. This one also has a red wax rind that should be removed prior to consumption.

Gruyère is a dry crumbly cheese from Switzerland. It has a flavor similar to Parmesan or Romano.

Myzithra is a dry springy cheese made from ewe milk. It is traditionally eaten in the eastern Mediterranean as a desert, with honey or fruit preserves.[3] When I first tried it plain, it didn't seem to have much flavor at all. Leann said it tasted like a cross between rubber and stinky feet. When I ate it with honey or with raspberry jam the unpleasant flavor was a little more noticeable.

Now on to the Mexican cheeses. I bought La Morenita brand Manchego, El Mexicano brand Queso Añejo, and Cacique brand Queso Fresco.

There are two varieties of Manchego. The original cheese is made from ewe's milk in Spain and is apparently very strong. The North American variety is made from cow's milk and has a mild flavor.[4] I tried the North American variety. I thought it was like mozzarella with a little more bite to it. This was my favorite cheese out of everything that we tried.

Queso Añejo means "aged cheese" in Spanish. It is a dry, slightly crumbly Mexican cheese with a paprika rind. The flavor is very similar to Parmesan or Romano, but saltier and with a little bite from the paprika.

Queso Fresco means "fresh cheese" in Spanish. It is like a wet, crumbly mozzarella with a flavor that's less intense and not as salty.

Back during Hallowe'en I read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving.[5] When Ichabod Crane attends Van Tassel's feast, he's delighted by, among other things, preserved quinces. Unfamiliar with the term, I looked it up and learned that quinces were probably cultivated before apples, gave us the word marmalade, and some suspect it was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.[6] I despaired that I'd likely never get to try one. Imagine my surprise when I saw some on sale a few weeks ago at WalMart! So I bought some and ate them with my cheese platter. They had a grainy texture, like an apple or a pear, but were much drier and a little spongey.[7] They were sweeter than an apple but not as sweet as a pear. The flavor was familiar, which makes me think I must've eaten them in México as dulce de membrillo.

My verdicts: I liked all of the cheeses except, in the end, the Myzithra.  My favorites were the Manchego and the Edam. The quinces were good, too, though a little dry. They weren't all that special, though, so I don't mind that they're difficult to acquire.


[1] For my experience with Brie, see my review here.

[2] The recipe is available here.

[3] See

[4] See

[5] It can be read here, at Project Gutenberg.

[6] See The term marmalade, which originally only referred to quince preserves, is derived from the Portuguese name for quinces: marmelo. See

[7] It's hard to know if that's because I bought them when they were out of season and at WalMart.


  1. In "Wives and Daughters" there is a character who hates the fact that her new husband likes cheese and won't let him have it at meals. I couldn't understand this because I naively imagined that the cheeses were the ones we typically eat--cheddar, swiss, provolone, etc. This sheds new light on the situation.

  2. According to Wikipedia Edam was the world's most popular cheese between the 14th to the 18th Centuries.