The Caboc Conundrum

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Last week I promised to unveil the outright loser of the Burns Night Cheese fest. As the quick-eyed blog reader would have discerned from the title of this post, it was Caboc.

IMG_3333-2What is Caboc? Well, therein lies the conundrum. According to Jenny Linford’s Great British Cheeses: “The richness of this cheese, produced by Highland Fine Cheeses in Tain, Scotland, is explained by the fact that it is made entirely from double cream, with a lactic starter used instead of rennet. The thickened cream is shaped into small logs and coated in golden brown oatmeal. The soft yellow paste inside has a buttery creaminess, which contrasts with the texture and nutty flavour of the oatmeal coating.”

Perhaps I set myself up here. I love a good heart attack cheese (ah, Vignotte, what times we’ve had…) and I thought: If anyone knows how to do heart attack food properly, it’s those Scots. Well, not in this instance. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Apparently, Ruaridh Stone, owner of Highland Fine Cheese Co which makes Cadoc, (and whose mother, Susannah, revived the Caboc recipes from centuries of slumber) has stated (thanks fromagehomage):  “I think it’s a taste which should stay in the 1970s, but it has had a revival” and “For some it tastes like rancid butter rolled in oatmeal, some might say nutty, but with that much fat there’s little, if any flavour.”

I’d suggest: none at all?

Clearly head of PR at Highland Fine Cheese Co., Ruaridh continues: “Selling the cheese is a nightmare (Dignitas?) as it really is a Scottish specific line, the French say it is butter, the English just don’t get it and so it’s mainly eaten by people with triple heart bypasses and purple noses. At 70% butter fat it’s a kind of heart grenade.”

Much as it pains me to say it, the French are correct: It’s just like eating slices of butter. Half of the log remained after Burns Night. I kept chipping away at it this week waiting to get it, to taste it, to understand why it’s called cheese.  I’ve also noticed that it hasn’t exhibited any of the signs of aging that you expect with a cheese: no hardening, shifts in colour, flavour intensity. It just remains inert, untouchable. It’s Scotland’s oldest cheese, dating from the 15th Century, and I’ll bet there are some ancient logs of it half finished and unchanged lurking in the heather, waiting to be gobbled up by your dog before it has a massive coronary on the way home.

Next week: I think I’ll use this as a jumping off point to look at other heart attack cheeses. And it’ll give me an excuse to try some Finn. 

Burnt Out: Burns Night cheese review

Cheese Supreme

“Och, what a night,” as a Scottish Four Seasons might sing. Much was drunk, little was rhymed, and it was completed with three Scottish cheeses paired with water biscuits, apple slices, and 10 year Glenmorangie (the Highlander’s favourite).

No doubt, the markets have been in constant flux as the world awaits the verdict on Fromology’s first ever “Cheese Supreme” crown, so without further ado:

Barwhey’s Beastie: wins the crown!

Cheese Crown (as sculpted by Tanys Pullin)

The normalcy of the cheddary exterior belies the complex, deeply Scottish flavour within – full of countryside, booze, and spice. A deserved winner, with extra depth than the other cheeses. However, a week more mature, the remains of the Beastie and its now greatly amplified trio of countryside, booze and spice has become a cautionary tale: “Finish your cheese,” mothers say as they tuck in their wide-eyed offspring, “or it’ll become like the Beastie!”

Lanark Blue: also wins!

Lovely Lanark Blue, bluey and creamy and just very nice. Didn’t have the complexity or originalityCheese Crown (as sculpted by Tanys Pullin) of the Beastie, but, a week later, it’s still very approachable and enjoyable and we can all laugh around it without fear of a beating (I’m looking at you Beastie). So the two cheeses share the crown.

And the third? Well, let’s just say that while there was no clear winner, there was definitely a clear loser.

But for what reason did it lose? Aha, well, next week ye shall know…

O my luve’s like a very mature cheese: Burns Night

Event cheese

Robert BurnsBurns Night (Jan 25th) – the annual celebration of legendary, barely intelligible Scottish poet, Robert Burns – will soon be upon us.

Traditionally, you’re meant to have a plateful of what sounds like Glaswegian street slang for either gangs, drugs, or venereal disease : Haggis, Cullen Skink, Neeps and Tatties, washing it all down with a peaty single malt.

Obviously, this is a prime opportunity to eat a wee bit a cheese-ie (as they probably don’t say in Scotland). Particularly, artisan Scottish cheeses of which there are more than a few. I’ll be seizing this opportunity (as I currently know sweet f.a. about Scottish cheese) so expect a post mortem next week.

These recommendations are from Paxton and Whitfield:

Barwheys Beastie is a delicious handmade hard cheese which delivers a long and complex flavour. The texture is creamy with just a hint of crumbliness. Barwheys cheese is made in Ayrshire, a wee distance from where Robert Burns’s mother is said to have made cheese. The ‘Beastie’ is the most mature release of this fledgling Dairy and the name is a reference to the line “wee sleekit Cow’rin timorous beastie” from Burns’ poem To A Mouse.

Lanark Blue is an unpasteurised ewes’ milk cheese handmade on a small family run farm at the foot of the Pentland Hills in the Southern Uplands of Scotland. It has two levels of maturity – six weeks (early season) and up to eight months, just in time for Burns’ Night. The unique flavour of the extra matured cheese is deliciously powerful and pungent – apparently once described as a ‘kilt lifter’. Roquefort in style, but entirely its own cheese.

Criffel

Buy it online at thecourtyarddairy.co.uk

Criffel is made by Loch Arthur Creamery in South Scotland. The Dairy is part of a charity organisation called Camphill Community which works with adults with learning disabilities. This washed rind, raw milk cheese is in very short supply as they are not a commercial outfit. It’s flavour is full, earthy and distinctive and the unique shape and rind comes from their use of square seedling trays as moulds, back when they couldn’t afford industrial cheesemaking equipment.

More recommendations can be found at Fiona Beckett’s site, Matching Food and Wine, where she’s had suggestions from London’s La Fromagerie. The Isle of Mull Cheddar she suggests will certainly be enjoying a brief and comfortable stay on my cheese slate.

Might skimp on the Skink though.