Cheese of The Week is a weekly feature on The Daily Meal, drawing on the expertise of internationally renowned cheese expert and consultant Raymond Hook. What follows is based on an interview with Hook.
Want more? Click here for the Cheese of the Week Slideshow.
All you need to do to know that Canarejal, a traditional sheep’s milk cheese produced by the Santos family in Valladolid, Spain, is unlike any other cheese around, is look at it. When it’s ready to serve, the top is cut off, and the oozing, creamy goodness inside is enough to make any cheese lover moan with delight.
The cheese starts with sheep that graze along the banks of the Duero River, in an area rife with wild herbs including rosemary, thyme, lavender, oregano, and sage. As opposed to using traditional animal-based rennet, the enzyme mixed in with the milk is thistle-based rennet, which is extracted from the stamens of thistles hand-harvested an hour before sunrise. This adds to the creaminess of the finished product, and also gives it another healthy dose of terroir.
The cheeses are aged for two months, and then shipped off to the world’s leading cheese shops and restaurants. When it’s time to serve, make sure that the cheese sits out at room temperature for at least two hours, then delicately cut the top off the cheese. "The interior is like non-heated fondue," says Hook, "and if you cut this like a normal cheese it would just run all over the place."
The cheese’s flavor has "animal" notes, as any good sheep cheeses will. But it’s nowhere near overpowering. Hook suggests serving it on warm toasted rustic country bread alongside a hoppy IPA (he likes to eat it with Dogfish Head’s Aprihop, because the apricot flavor in it is a good counterbalance).
This cheese will immediately become the centerpiece of any party, and as your guests gawk at it, you can also let them know that in 2006, chef Ferran Adrià designed an entire dish around it at his landmark restaurant elBulli.