Cheese, glorious cheese! Who would imagine coagulated, acidified, moldy mammal milk could be so delicious? If you can get past that concept, consider that while most cheese is made from cow or goat milk, most any lactating varmint will suffice – Venezuelan Beavers not included. So hold your nose, grab your special knife, and get ready to cut these bizarre and unusual cheeses. And a whey we go!
Donkey Milk Cheese
You might assume you’d have to pay people to eat cheese made from donkey milk, but doing so would make an ass of u and me. Actually the opposite is true: at $1,350 or €1,000 per kilogram (around $612 per lb.), donkey milk cheese is the most expensive cheese you can buy.
(image via: Luxury Insider)
Dubbed “Pule” and made from the milk of Balkan donkeys, this pale yellow semi-hard cheese is produced at the Zasavica Special Nature Reserve in Serbia. About 100 donkeys roam the reserve’s lush meadows; the sale of donkey products including Pule cheese and donkey milk liqueur (seriously) helping to pay their way. It’s said that Cleopatra owed her legendary beauty to regular baths in donkey milk, so if donkey milk cheese turns you off, you just might be in de Nile.
Moose Milk Cheese
Moose milk is highly touted by some nutritionists – the Ivan Susanin Sanitorium in Russia serves it to their patients – but you don’t have to be committed to enjoy the sublime flavor of moose milk cheese. You do, however, have to be a big spender: we’re talking $1,000 per kilogram. Though moose aren’t rare, milking them is difficult. Milkers must spend up to 2 hours in complete silence in order to extract an average 2 litres (0.52 gallon) per sitting.
(image via: Dirwell)
Compared to cow’s milk, moose milk is higher in butterfat and solids while boasting elevated levels of aluminum, iron, selenium, and zinc. The Elk House (Älgens Hus) farm in Bjursholm, Sweden, is currently the world’s only volume producer of moose cheese and the amount made is rather small: just 300 kg (about 660 lbs.) annually. Three domesticated females named Gullan, Haelga, and Juna provide the “moose juice” required to make the cheese.
Yak Milk Cheese
Yakety yaks, don’t talk back… unless you milk them with cold hands, which I’m guessing is more common than not. Shaggy, placid yaks have provided Himalayan households with milk, meat and more for millennia but yak cheese is a more modern manifestation. Got a knack for yak? Good news, you don’t have to climb a mountain to find real yak cheese anymore!
(image via: Aeranthes)
Yak milk cheese produced in Tibet is now available in the United States, one example being Wish-Granting Yak brand Tibetan Nomadic Yak Cheese imported by CowsOutside. According to one taster, “The cheese had a deep, earthy, meaty, grassy (many more adjectives…) flavor that did conjure up visions of large, warm, hairy animals (and that’s meant as a compliment, should you be wondering). I would love to have more of this cheese some day. One person said that she thought that tasting it was like “licking a sheep.” Not that there’s anything baaad about that.
Horse Milk Cheese
Mare’s milk is an age-old beverage popular in central Asia and especially Mongolia. It’s not quaffed straight from the horse, however, as mare’s milk is high in lactose and is said to have a strong laxative effect – not a good combo when you’re saddled up and ready to ride. Instead, mare’s milk is fermented into a slightly carbonated drink called Airag; the fermentation process breaks down most of the lactose. From there, mare’s milk cheese is often just a gallop or two away.
(image via: Eron Witzel)
Due mainly to economics, it’s not easy to find mare’s milk cheese at your neighborhood grocery store – the “Filly” is faux, dont’cha know. Travelers to Mongolia and parts of northern and western China, on the other hand, have many opportunities to sample locally made mare’s milk cheese.
Camel Milk Cheese
Camel’s milk has been consumed by humans for thousands of years but conversion into cheese has been problematic, mainly because unlike milk from cows, goats and sheep, camel milk does not contain proteins that allow it to curdle naturally. By adding enzymes that aid curdling, camel’s milk can be used to make a wide range of healthy, flavorful cheeses. Tiviski Dairy in Mauretania uses the added-enzyme method to produce Caravane, a $30 per pound camel’s milk cheese now available in selected U.S. east coast markets.
(image via: Connecting Places)
Across a vast swathe of central Asia and into North Africa west to the Atlantic coast, “dairy” means goat, horse or camel. Check out the humped beastie gracing the sign above at a market in Kazakhstan, for instance, and the various types of camel’s milk cheese displayed just below. Very nice, high five!
Carabao Milk Cheese
Water Buffalo milk cheese is much more common than one might think – enjoying that slice of pizza with mozzarella cheese? The Carabao, on the other hand, is much less well known unless you’re in Guam or The Philippines where they’ve been THE domestic ruminant since pre-colonial times. Carabao milk can be processed into a cheese called Kesong Puti, which enterprising Filipinos sometimes use as a pizza topping.
(image via: GMA News)
Fresh Kesong Puti is a soft, white cheese made from unskimmed carabao milk to which is added salt and rennet. It may have a slightly salty taste and, if vinegar is used instead of rennet, a somewhat sour tang. Filipinos will often enjoy slices of fresh Kesong Puti for breakfast, ideally spread on freshly baked “pan de sal” bread.
Reindeer Milk Cheese
Cheese-lovers who can pronounce Juustoleipa (psst, it’s “HOO-stah-lee-pah”) or Leipäjuusto (you’re on your own) will find themselves in the Lapp of luxury, since this distinctive burnt-looking Finnish cheese is traditionally made with reindeer milk. Domestic U.S. dairies have begun producing Juustoleipa and Leipäjuusto using cow’s milk, which is said to result in a milder flavor, due to the difficulty in acquiring fresh reindeer milk the other 364 days of the year.
(image via: Neatorama)
If the thought of eating cheese sourced from Santa’s sleigh-pullers isn’t odd enough, consider that one of the traditional ways Finns enjoy Juustoleipa is by dipping it in their coffee before eating. Ho Ho Huh?
Sheep’s Milk Cheese – Casu Marzu
(images via: IT Thing)
This post has focused on cheeses made from the milk of mammals other than the Big Three (cows, goats and sheep) but there’s one particular sheep’s milk cheese that demands inclusion. The internet-savvy among you have probably heard of it: Casu Marzu. Most descriptions merely mention the fact that Casu Marzu is from Sardinia, it’s made from Pecorino cheese, and it’s crawling with maggots that can jump up to 6 inches if disturbed. What more do you really need to know?
Here’s a (thankfully) short video of two gentlemen getting up close & personal with a ripe Casu Marzu – a “moving” experience, to say the least:
Here’s another, longer video that shows how Pecorino and Casu Marzu cheeses are made. The narration is in German but if you don’t sprechen ze Deutsch that’s fine – for some things, words aren’t necessary:
(image via: Culinary Schools)
Casu Marzu is barred from entry into the United States because of health issues. It seems the Cheese Fly maggots that infest Casu Marzu and add flavor via their digestive liquids can survive their trip through the gourmand’s stomach, wreaking havoc in their small intestine. One solution is to place the oozing hunk of Casu Marzu inside a sealed paper bag in order to suffocate the larvae. It’s said one can hear a delicate “pitter-patter” sound as the maggots try to escape their festering prison. Another, better solution is to simply stay the heck away from Casu Marzu in the first place.
Human Milk Cheese
What, you thought we weren’t going to cover cheese made from human milk? Breast milk, to be precise? Never fear, we remambered…er, remembered. Human breast milk can be processed into soft, slightly hazelnut-flavored chick cheese without too much trouble. New moms whose cups runneth over may find that an oversupply of boob broth can be a boon, babe. Is the world really ready for human breast milk cheese, though? We could ask Congressman Bob Barr, who was infamously served what Borat referred to (after the fact) as cheese made by his sister from her own breast milk but we’re guessing that’s one encounter he’d very much like to forget.
In France, at least, lactating lasses have another option for their extra output: ship it to Le Petit Singly, who will add their lady lait to the mix. Sooner than you can say Grand Tetons, Le Petit Singly’s cheesemakers will form a flurry of femme fromage in 250 and 500 gram rounds. The company’s website even offers recipe suggestions for their girly gouda, such as souffles that presumably won’t fall flat when you open the oven door too soon.
(image via: Cheesevine)
There you have it, nine non-bovine cheeses you won’t find in your average cheese shop, most especially the grandiosely named National Cheese Emporium run by Mr. Wensleydale. That miserable excuse for a cheese shop doesn’t even stock cheddar, “the single most popular cheese in the world!” At least they play lovely bloody bouzouki music… for a while.