This week seems to be about how cheese can be influenced by what it's wrapped in during the aging process. Yesterday, peppercorns, today grapes! Beppino Ocelli's Piedmont dairy makes butter and cheese from cows, goats and sheep who graze on pastures full of wildflowers and herbs, and it really shows in his cheeses. In fact, according to his website, Sr. Ocelli is actively involved in research at the University of Turin to improve meadows for grazing.
The cheese I picked up at Say Cheese is one of Ocelli's "grand cheeses." My cheesemonger was so excited to give me a sample of this one, the Testun Ocelli al Barolo. This cheese is a combination of cow's milk and goat's milk cheese, and you can really taste the goat, and you can see it in the chalk white center. In this case, however, the milk is not even remotely the most exciting thing about the cheese. If you speak any Italian, or ever drink wine, you've heard of Barolo. Yes, dear reader, this cheese is covered with Barolo grape "must" during the last two months of the aging process. (After the grapes are crushed and the juice extracted for wine, the skins, seeds and pulp is left over. This is sometimes called the "must.")
If you look closely at the picture, you can see a pretty incredible cream line just under the grape encrusted rind. The grape flavor really, really infuses the cream line section of the cheese. It's unbelievable. I kept thinking of grape Kool-Aid, but in a really up-scale, mouth popping way. The interior paste of the cheese belies its goat's milk origins, but it is also very much an Italian cheese, with a bit of the crunch that comes from a cheese that is aged for seven months, and the richness of a cow's milk cheese.
This cheese is so much fun. There are layers of flavor and texture, from the creamy inner paste to the grape flavored cream line, to the grape must itself. Watch out for the seeds! If you are really OCD, you could probably save the seeds and grow yourself a vineyard of Barolo grapes!
If you can find this one, give it a try.
Sweet dreams of amazing cheeses eaten in a vineyard!