Grilled-cheese sandwiches taste better afloat

A grilled-cheese sandwich—with fine cheese, good bread and lots of butter—is great eating just about any time, but when you’re aboard your boat, cruising around Lake Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe for two weeks, it’s golden.

We tried grilling a sandwich using a light rye with caraway with, for the first time, German Limburger cheese (above) and it turned out sharp yet delicious. Later that day, when I talked with Julia Rogers on the phone about The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, I mentioned the Limburger variation and she suggested we sometime try Pont-l’Évêque, the pungent cheese of Normandy. Which we will do.

Another delicious sandwich resulted from the use of St. Albert Extra Old Cheddar. Cheddar is such a natural on toasted bread, but we did expect Extra Old Cheddar to have more oomph. On the other hand, as I believe it’s aged only 22 months, our expectations were unreasonable.

But, combine the St. Albert with a supermarket Blue such as the Danish Rosenborg, and it immediately became our favourite of the cruise. The Blue gives the Cheddar the zing that we love. (We almost always have Rosenborg Castello in the cheese bin. Not so much for snacking or eating as for use in salads. It’s inexpensive and readily available in supermarkets.)

Our all-time favourite grilled-cheese was the Camembert and Blue combination we enjoyed maybe 15 years ago, also on a boat, this time in Southwest Florida. The sharp Blue was the perfect counterpoint to the creaminess of the Camembert, all of it oozing out of crusty French bread, well-buttered, of course!

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, loves boating as much as he enjoys cheese.

Our cheese plate overfloweth

After I wrote about the Twelve Cheeses of Christmas, it dawned on me we may never ever again be as cheese rich as we are right now at our house. In addition to the delightful dozen, here’s what’s resting at 4C and high humidity in our fridge:

Parmigiano-Reggiano Vacche Rosse

People who know their cheese often say Parmigiano-Reggiano delle Vacche Rosse is the best Parmigiano-Reggiano there is.

Is this the red cow that makes the milk that makes the best Parmigiano-Reggiano?

Parmigiano-Reggiano from Red Cows, in English translation, is made from the exceptionally rich and creamy milk of the original milk source for Parmigiano-Reggiano, the Pezzata Rossa, a breed almost extinct by the by the late 1980s, writes Stephanie Zonis in The Nibble, an excellent online food magazine. Like the Jersey cow, its milk has a higher butterfat content and more milk proteins, but it isn’t a high-yielding cow. After the Second World War, as the old artisan ways began to succumb to efficiency, it was replaced by the higher-yielding Friesian. The result: a less-rich Parmigiano. The other result: The breed began to die out, since only a few committed farmers would keep less profitable herds. Over the last 25 years, some herds have been reestablished, thanks in part to the Slow Food Movement, and are now being used to produce small quantities of this high-end Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The combination of higher butterfat and more proteins allows for the production of a cheese that is better suited for a longer period of aging, producing a 30-month-old cheese instead of the 24-month aging period of most other Parmigianos. The extra aging yields a cheese that is uniquely nutty, fruity and grassy, with a flavor that is richer than most Parmigianos. The texture is more creamy, even though the cheese is aged for a much longer time (The rule of thumb is, the longer the cheese is aged, the drier the paste). This is a special-occasion cheese: Serve it as the cheese course, in chunks, drizzled with 25-year-old (or older) balsamic vinegar, The Nibble writer recommends.

We haven’t taken our first nibble yet, as other cheeses needed to be eaten first, but I’ll provide tasting notes when we do.

Here’s what else awaits us:

Chevrai

This soft, unripened goat cheese from Woolwich Dairy in Orangeville was given to us for Christmas with a goat-cheese baker that we’re eager to try.

Wilton Cheddar

I picked up this five-year-old cheddar during a quick visit to the Wilton Cheese Factory north of Kingston.

Black River Cheddar

A six-year-old cheddar from Black River Cheese in Prince Edward County that we’re in no rush to open.

American Cheese

A colleague of mine who loves to grill with American Cheese brought us a sample from her last visit to the U.S.

1000 Islands River Rat Cheese Curds

Cheese curds make such nice snacks, and these from River Rat are not as salty as those from La Belle Province.

Grand Camembert L’Extra

Where we live out in the boonies, the nearest cheesemonger is 45 minutes away. When the urge for cheese strikes, sometimes I’ll cruise Loblaws or Metro. That’s how I must have ended up with this Agropur product. Obviously, the urge was not that great as the Camembert is still with us, two weeks beyond its best-before date.

Rosenborg-Castello Traditional Blue Cheese

We always have some around for use in salads as it has bite and isn’t expensive for everyday use.

Bonnie & Floyd

So, why are we not eating any sheep’s milk cheese and have inventoried only one goat cheese?

Quite frankly, after I spent a day at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese in November, I brought home so much sheep and goat that by the holidays we had exceeded our quota. In other words, we over-ate.

But the best is still to come. As a bonus for learning to be a cheesemaker for the day, each participant in the program was allowed to pick a 2-kilogram wheel of any Fifth Town cheese to take home. As Bonnie & Floyd is a favorite of mine, my choice was easy. As a result, I’m doing my best, despite the cold in all storage spaces in our condo building, to age my wheel for a Valentine’s Day treat.