Friday, December 18, 2009

A New (to me) Cheese, Hoja Santa from the Mozzarella Co.

I'm not usually a huge fan of fresh goat's milk cheeses. They are enjoyable, certainly, but I prefer the subtle complexities of a firm textured aged cheese or a runny ripe washed-rind stinker nine out of ten times in my state of cheese snobbery. For the most part, I just don't get from chevre much besides a mix of pleasant herbal tangy notes. They just don't make me think and I've never been wowed by one. I blame the laws regarding cheese-making and import in this country for this primarily. The fact that all raw milk cheeses must be aged for at least sixty days have for the most part ruins any chance of a goat's milk cheese from being anything more than just good because ninety percent of them happen to be aged under sixty days and must therefor be made from pasteurized milk.

That's why I was so thrilled to be introduced to Hoja Santa a week or so ago when it showed up on the cheese trolley at work. It's made by Paula Lambert of the Mozzarella Co. in Dallas, Texas. Louis, our resident cheese expert, told us all that Paula got her start making Mozzarella in Texas after living for a time in Italy. Apparently, she became frustrated with the quality of the cheese that was available to her and decided to take matters into her own hands. Who can blame her?

Hoja Santa, Paula's latest and greatest creation made from pasteurized milk, is fresh goat's milk cheese wrapped inside a the Hoja Santa leaf. The leaf itself is native to Mexico. The lore surrounding it ties it closely to Christianity and the birth of Jesus Christ, so it's even more perfect for the upcoming holiday season. Botanically, it is from the same family as sassafras, and, as expected, imparts that same herbaceous flavor with hints of root beer and anise. I love the tart tangy quality of the cheese blended with the sweet anise flavor on the long finish. I feel like Paula manages to come by some really great quality goat's milk that is exceedingly rich and creamy possessing a buttery quality that I haven't experienced before. It makes me want a seriously smokey Pouilly-Fumé or a young fruity Speyside Scotch to go along with it.

I'm thankful to Paula Lambert for changing my opinion about fresh domestic goat cheese. Now I'm much more apt to enjoy a lot of other chevre-style cheese even if they are made with pasteurized milk. Having too many cheese options to enjoy is a really good problem to have in my opinion, and my taste for cheese just became a little broader. So until my next trip to Europe, where I can eat fresh raw goat's milk cheese, I will happily nibble on Hoja Santa.

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