As the Beach Boys sang on a forgotten B-Side, “Wish they all could be California Cheese”. And you will hum along too after a taste of the Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold from Modesto, CA.
It’s the salty buttery combo that is so seductive when balanced perfectly in a cheese and this one had me at first bite of this firm, aged wedge. It will keep you captive well into a long, smooth finish.
In fact, I had to laugh at myself because I took a piece and held it up to my nose to get a sense of the aroma when suddenly it was gone! I ate it on impulse. It was like holding a piece of ham up to my cat.
I’d better lay my cards on the table-you can’t get the San Joaquin Gold in Canada right now, but as many of us travel to the US I figured it might be a good one to enter into you TO DO list on the iPhone or Blackberry (or jot on a piece of paper that you will find 2 years from now in your denim capris).
Above is the label for your shopping reference. You can see the cheese is farmstead, made from the milk of the Fiscalini’s own cows. They are very proud that their milk standards exceed even the California State Standards and “cleaner” than organic. The farm is animal welfare certified, environmentally certified and powered by renewable energy produced on-site. This cheese is made from raw milk in 32 pound wheels and typically aged about 16 months. The one I had was a bit older–from March 30, 2010.
The cheese has a similarity to Parmigiano Reggiano and was originally created to be a Fontina-style product which ended up evolving into something rather unique. The Fiscalini’s refer to the Joaquin Gold as their “Gold Medal Mistake” (winning Gold at the World Cheese Awards in London 2004/2005). As it ages the cheese develops the tasty and crunchy tyrosine crystals and develops some toasted nutty notes.
Snack on it, grate it, melt it, travel with it. This cheese is extremely versatile.
And while your mouth is watering you CAN get the amazing Fiscalini Clothbound Cheddar here in Canada (Sobey’s carries it). For more details you can read my ravings in this Spread piece (because it really deserves to be raved about.). Cheesemaker Mariano Gonzales, who honed his skills at Shelburne Farms in Vermont (where he created one of the first American clothbound cheddars) is responsible for the Fiscalini clothbound but credit for the San Joaquin’s creation goes to Tom Putler.
The San Joaquin gold is vegetarian friendly as it is made with a microbial rennet (and has a natural rind). (The clothbound is also made with microbial rennet but rubbed with lard before being bandaged).