February is the suckiest month. My boyfriend sometimes makes the case for November: clearly the rambling of mal-adjusted soul that never fully knew autumn-induced joy and Santicipation (love you, honey!). After emerging bleary-eyed from a Polar-Vortex funk last year, I resolved to make plans, preferably hot ones, for this year.
Costa Rica, a bit pie-in-the-sky for our budgets, fell through. But the universe stepped in with two lucky opportunities, thanks to said boyfriend. First, a weekend work trip to Ottawa, on which I was invited to tag along. Almost immediately after, a week-long stint in Fort Myers Beach, squatting in the beach-side haven his parents rented for the suckiest month – air-kick!
Florida was a lot of ol’ faithful cheeses: melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella with tomato and basil and gooey cheddar crowning stuffed peppers. But our mini-break in Ottawa brought a new dairy love to my life: Black River Cheese’s Maple Cheddar. I’d seen it around the block many times, but had never bought it. That is, until I bought absolutely everything to eat.
They say you should never shop when you’re hungry (not even for inedible things!), and we were living proof of that, headed to the grocery store to stock up on snacks having skipped dinner. We spent around $100 on “snacks” (for an army, I guess). Nestled in the spoils was Black River’s Maple Cheddar, to be paired with our crackers, or, y’know, eaten straight off the plastic knife with which we cut it.
Generally, cheese is not sweet. A lot of my favourites have sweet undertones (hay, Piave), but rarely is the overall impression more sweet than salty – which is why they’re usually so yummy with an accompaniment like jam. Not so with Black River’s.
The Maple Cheddar is a medium-aged cheese, so not too strong, which allows the maple syrup that it’s mixed with to really take the reins. It doesn’t have pure maple syrup’s bitterness or much of cheddar’s saltiness to create a more layered, deep flavour, so its powerfully-sweet impression won’t be for everyone (my boyfriend didn’t care for it, but he’s usually more of a salty/bitter guy – pun unintended but welcomed with a smirk). I, however, found it refreshingly soft and simple, and just devoured it.
Much like icewine is a true dessert wine, so does this cheese just scream dessert. Grilled cheese and cheese bread are two of the suggestions Black River makes for how to use it best, and I’d have to agree – bread would set off the sweetness while letting the cheese be the star. I’d tread carefully with any pairings. Common sidekicks like salty meats and antipasto would be too much, in my humble opinion. A lightly-smoked (not grainy) mustard would be interesting, or a Saskatoon berry jam (probably the only time I’ve ever wanted this specific jam, but I think its sorta-blueberry, sorta-apple lightness would be just right).
Honestly, though, it’s best left to its own devices, with just a little bit of bread. Suitable for both screw-you-February days and cuddled-up, what-month-is-it-anyway sojourns.