I stared down at the wheel, and realized something was off. No, maybe not off, but, different…Yes, the wheel was not quite a wheel. It was an oval. Perhaps I am more of a burgeoning child in the world of cheese than I already thought, but this is eye-catching. Who thought an oval could have such impact?
Alsace is the land we travel to for this washed-rind cow’s milk cheese. A place that rests on an edge, geographically, culinarily, and in days past militarily, politically. But lets not look back to darker times, not when we have such deliciousness at hand. The beguiling mix of French and German cultures now sings as a harmonious chorus, rich in wine and food traditions.
The fern that adorns the top of Gres des Vosges is charming, and asks the question, Why? It is obviously for show, as it daintily sits atop offering no enhancement to flavor, or structural assistance. There is a fair amount of debate over the reason for said fern. Some claim that the fern is a symbol of the Vosges mountains. But several others claimed that the plant symbols of the Vosges were those of the blueberry and daffodil. I’m settling on a shared title until further proof.
One should not gloss over the washed rind on this cheese, as the washing solution is one of cherry Kirsch: a clear, colorless fruit brandy, in its finer form it has a surprisingly dry profile. The traditional method of distillation ferments the entire mass of the cherry, pit and all. This releases small amounts of hydrocyanic acid from the pits, lending the finish a bitter almond undertone. Never fear, though, science is near. In these doses you are far from toxicity; apple seeds also contain this chemical naturally, and as they say, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
In taste, this is everything and more you could expect from a cheese washed with a liqueur! Strength, funk, spice! You must stand strong and willing, but the rewards are great. Especially when washed down with a lush wine, perhaps even from the region. Bring on the aged Gewürztraminer, the Pinot Gris, and please for goodness sake, some Riesling Spätlese!
Want to track down this cheese or maybe others? Visit my friends at Formaggio Kitchen at formaggiokitchen.com and see what they have in stock.