It's hard to believe we've never spoken — not even once — of this cheese, with an appearance almost as arresting as its flavor. It carries a hefty stink and an equally substantial creaminess, an ideal pick for the fall and winter. But what's that name all about, and why does it have a brown band around its middle?
Forsterkase (pronounced for-ster-kaz-uh) means "lumberjack cheese," which refers to its thick outer circumference of pine, which harks back to a time when plastic forms weren't available to give cheese proper shape. Creative, they are, the Swiss who make it, and for that we're grateful; the bark they use imparts an unmistakable rusticity as it ages, penetrating the interior and making itself known, in pleasant contrast to its rich milkiness.
The cheese makes a good story, too, since only one creamery produces it, an aberration in an industry that favors mass production and standardization. You'll find the creamery in Toggenburg, northeast of Zurich, but we'll refer to it as Cow Country because grass is abundant and rolling, and wide plains abound, leaving plenty of room for cows to graze and wander. You'll find that sheep and goat cheeses are more often produced in marginal environmental climates, with rocky or hilly topography.
Made from raw milk, it's aged by superstar affineur Rolf Beeler, who we've praised before in our profile of Tomme Vaudoise. During its aging the wheels are washed in brine, inspiring the proliferation of smelly little b-linen bacteria that make stinky cheeses the way they are.
At its best, and thanks to Rolf it should be just that, a wheel will be soft and unctuous, much like the picture above. Don't let its oozing interior fool you-- this isn't mild or innocuous like a brie. Expect earthy, woodsy flavors, and resounding notes of pine. This is a serious cheese, and could easily stand alone as a centerpiece on your cheese board for an appetizer, surrounded by hazelnuts, some fig cake, and your favorite most robust brew.
You can find Forsterkase at Formaggio Kitchen for $33/pound or at Murray's Cheese for for $25.99/pound. Be sure to be a smart cheese shopper, though. We saw this cheese retailing for upwards of $40/lb!
• The Cheesemonger: Brie
(Images: Formaggio Kitchen and Iron Cheff.)