Sunday, January 6, 2013

One of Many Guilty Pleasures - La Tur

When people ask me what my favorite cheese is, I often respond with the familiar statement "that's like choosing your favorite child!" But when I am forced to answer this question, 9 times out of 10 I say La Tur. 

Here are the basics -

Cheese: La Tur
Producer: Caesificio Alta Langa
Location: Bosia, Italy (between Alba and Cortemilia)
Milk: Pasteurized Cow, Sheep and Goat
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

When La Tur is being made, the milk is pasteurized at a low temperature but for a longer time so it still meets the requirements for pasteurization. By using this form of pasteurization, a lot of the natural (good) bacteria that lends flavor to the cheese is allowed to live and the milk does not come away with the cooked flavor of the high temperature, short time pasteurization. After the curds are ready, they are carefully placed into their forms (the curds must be treated very gently or else the curds start to break and lose a lot of their moisture). Once the cheese has taken the proper shape, it is taken out of the form and allowed to age for 15 days before being shipped out for sale. The cheese comes wrapped in a cupcake like wrapper and is encased in a plastic tub in order to allow this fragile cheese to continue maturing as well as breathing while being shipped all over the world. The rind on the outside is pretty wrinkly due to the Geotricum used during the cheesemaking process. 

This particular wheel I photographed was close to being perfectly ripe. The outside was very sticky and gooey (see how it sticks to the wrapper) and when I cut it in half, it still had a little firmness, but was close to being completely soft. If I were to let this come to room temperature (the proper temperature at which to eat cheese), it would get even softer... yum!

The taste of this cheese is nothing short of an experience. The smell is almost on the pungent side with grassy and floral notes. By using all three milks, you get many nuances of flavor. As you scoop in (I often eat this cheese with a spoon - but crackers or bread work just as well), you are first hit with the luscious creaminess of the cow's milk, followed by the earthy, nuttiness of the sheep's milk and finishes with the slight tang of the goat's milk. All together you get a lactic, unctuous, grassy, beautiful flavor. This cheese is  rich, yet balanced and pairs beautifully with a variety of wines. My personal favorite is a Moscato d'Asti - the effervescence cuts through the cream while the slight sweetness sings with the floral, grassy notes of the cheese. 

I chose to write about this cheese today because one of my amazing team members - Jacqueline - recommended that I write about La Tur as it is a cheese that is loved by both of us. It was also Jacqueline's last day in my department today and I decided that this post would be a tribute to her dedication to the department and her team. Thank you for everything that you have done Jacqueline, you will be missed! Good luck on your next adventure. :)

As always, if you would like a sample of the La Tur or any of the other cheeses that I have written about, please stop by the cheese counter! We'd love to talk to you about cheese and give you a taste or two. I hope to see you all in the near future. Until then, eat, drink and be happy!