Producer: Various (Asturias, Spain)
Milk: Raw Cow & Goat Milk
Age: 4 months+
One of the things I love about cheese is that it gives me a sense of place. Even if I've never visited the area where a cheese is made, I get a feeling for the caves, the farm and the people through its smell, its taste, and its look. That is one of the many reasons I don't like factory produced cheeses. The average supermarket cheese is like a T.G.I. Friday's; benign, faceless, lacking in personality and color. By that same token, Gamonedo is a hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurant frequented by cabbies, neighbors, and Chowhound members. These might seem like romantic ideas thought up to idealize what is, frankly, a pretty ugly cheese, but hear me out.
One whiff of Gamonedo and my mind travels from my small Brooklyn apartment to Asturias, Spain (also home to Cabrales). The smell of the air in the caves still hangs on the cheese. The rustic, pockmarked rind is evidence of where a farmer's hands were used instead machinery. Like its fellow local cheese Cabrales, Gamonedo was originally made with a mixture of cow, goat and sheep's milk. Currently either a mixture of cow and goat (like the one I tried) or simply cow is used.
Before aging, the cheese is lightly smoked over applewood. It's then placed in the caves to age for approximately 4 months. During this time, the cheese develops natural "blueing". I use quotes because the blue mold is really more of a grey in this case. Since this blueing occurs naturally (as opposed to other cheeses that are manually pierced), the mold develops on the outside, sneaking inside only in cracks.
Gamonedo's flavor is strong and yeasty. Combined with dark smokiness, it brings to mind a taste not unlike hearth baked bread. The acidic bite and spice of the blueing hits the palate as part of the aftertaste, along with a pleasant "cheesiness" that leaves me with a palatable remembrance of the cheese's flavors. It's not a cheese for the everyday cheese plate, rather it should be savored as a treat or a new adventure.
Gamonedo has limited availability, and, as such, tends to carry a high price tag. If you happen to find some, definitely give it a try. Over at Cobblestone
Foods, we have a limited supply available for $24.00/lb. Online, iGourmet has it for $29.98/lb.