I found out from friends that today was National Cheese Day and I was so unprepared! As I didn't have a particular cheese picked out, I decided to go with the cheese that I had in my refrigerator - the Grand Cru Surchoix from Emmi Roth.
I've talked about this cheese briefly before in a blog post back in November of 2012 here http://www.shootinthebries.blogspot.com/2012/11/a-winning-cheese-plate.html but it has never had a post of its own. As it won 3rd Best in Show at the 2012 American Cheese Society Conference, I figured it deserved its own post.
Cheese: Grand Cru Surchoix
Producer: Emmi Roth USA
Location: Monroe, WI
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)
The name "Surchoix" means that this batch of cheese is the best and by far, a cut above the rest. The folks at Emmi Roth USA take great care in choosing which wheels of their Grand Cru line will be aged for 5+ months longer to be made into the Grand Cru Surchoix. The original wheels are aged around 4 months, the reserve wheels are aged for at least 6 months and the Surchoix wheels are aged for at least 9 months. Allowing the cheese to age this long really helps to develop some complex flavors that you wouldn't see as pronounced in the younger versions of the Grand Cru.
The cheese is an Alpine style washed rind cheese that is made with a similar recipe to that of the Swiss Le Gruyere. I've been inside of the massive aging rooms at the Emmi Roth facility in Monroe, WI and it is quite impressive to see how many wheels of cheese they are able to make! But even with the volume of cheese they create, they still take such precious care of each and every wheel. The wheels are washed and turned regularly, and each batch has a "tester" wheel that is plugged and tasted at various stages of aging. They definitely take the quality of their cheese seriously.
Today is the first time I've tasted the Grand Cru Surchoix in quite a while and I was reminded of how wonderful this cheese really is. When you take your first bite, you are greeted with the contrasting textures of the creamy paste and the crunchy tyrosine crystals. You taste the buttery, caramel-y richness that develops into an incredible nutty, mushroomy flavor. I definitely had my fair share this evening... oops!
Tonight we had a zinfandel blend from Ridge Vineyards (the Three Valleys) with the cheese and it was quite a nice pairing. The wine was slightly jammy, so it gave the light sweetness that pairs so nicely with cheeses that have a little more age on them. I also have had this cheese with some salami from Creminelli (the Wild Boar and the Tartufo) which were incredible pairings as well. The Surchoix is also a fantastic melting cheese, so try using it with your next batch of fondue or macaroni and cheese...
That's all I have for you tonight. I apologize for not being better prepared for National Cheese Day, but at least I was able to feature an incredibly tasting cheese like the Grand Cru Surchoix. This cheese should be available at most of the Northern California Whole Foods cheese counters, so be sure to go in and ask for a taste soon. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!