From the Basque region of France comes a cheese with the best name ever. Etorki. From what I've been able to determine, it is, in fact, pronounced the way it is spelled. Ee-tork-ee. Ha! I love it because it sooo doesn't sound like a French word. When I was at Andrew's Cheese Store on Tuesday night, another cheese caught my eye (You'll be hearing about that one later. I promise.). That one was all wrapped up, and I was almost out the door when I noticed the tag for Etorki. Again. I've been bypassing this cheese for six months! Shame on me.
Anyway, this sheep's milk cheese was described by Andrew as "the Sarah Lee of cheese." As in, "nobody doesn't like" Etorki. I have to say, it's probably true. This is definitely a sheep's milk cheese. There is a certain salty, oiliness to sheep's milk cheese that is present in Etorki. What is missing is a kind mealiness - like dry mashed potato (not sure of that analogy, but it will do for now) - that I've had in other sheep's milk cheese. This cheese is almost unctuous. Creamy, melt in your mouth goodness that does leave your lips with that sticky, "I just ate something really rich" feeling. This cheese is mild, and you have to really pay attention to find the nuance, but it's there. I tasted some mellow black olive, a little bit of grass on a sunny hillside, and a some sweet caramel. In fact, I was just inspired to make some buttery salted caramels. Yea. That's it.
So, besides being a real crowd pleaser, this cheese is special because it is made exclusively from milk created by cute little black-faced Manech sheep. After the curds are shaped, the cheeses are soaked in brine for 3-6 months, making a for a rind that is capable of protecting the cheese during the rest of the aging process. We tasted the rind, and while the texture wasn't great, it wasn't shoe leather, and it had that extra bite of salt that I was missing (I'm only starting to appreciate mild tasting cheeses) in the rest of the cheese.
I don't think Etorki is going to be something that I dream about every night, but if I'm taking cheese for a party where I don't really know people's palates, this might be the sheep's milk cheese on my cheese tray. It is unusual enough to be a conversation starter (not to mention the fun name as a conversation of it's own), but the complexity of these cheese is subtle enough to please the fussiest taste buds.
Even if you never get to try this cheese, you've got a new alternate cuss word. Someone cut you off in traffic? Etorki! Someone use up all the hot water? Etorki! Need some cheese for sandwiches? Oh yea, etorki!