Belper Knolle Info
Ugly Duck or Diamond in the Rough
I first found this cheese at the Bra Cheese Festival in Italy in 2009, I believe, where it was being presented shortly after it was first introduced in Switzerland.
This cheese was such a hit when I brought it home that I just had to do the research and many trials over the past year or so to get as close as I could to that initial surprising taste. It is just so different, I do not even know what to call it, so I will leave that up to you, our brave cheese makers out there, looking for a new direction.
Yes, a bit of an ugly duck but wait until you try it!
Sold from Alleyways in Italy
When I first saw this cheese several years ago in Italy at the Slow Foods Cheese Festival in Bra, I walked right past it (I mean it really did look like a little mud ball) until my second trip around. This time, the presenter in the booth was a bit more obvious, plus a number of his patrons were displaying their delight in the cheese. I just had to see for myself.
This was unlike any cheese I had ever tasted before. It was being offered in thin shavings just as a truffle (tartufo) would be shaved, and its appearance was not unlike the famous truffle I saw at the festival, being offered discretely in the small alleyways and doorways around the town, as seen in the photo below.
An Irregular Favorite
The cheese was an irregular, small roundish ball with a darkish rough coating. Not at all in line with what I have come to expect in the cheese world, but Wow! What a flavor it packed.
When passed across the face of the truffle shaver, it revealed its heart of milk and cream. This was a very unusual cheese indeed and quite the surprise, coming from Switzerland, the home of those massive Alpine wonders.
Of course, I had to bring a couple of these home in my limited bag allotment.
To say this cheese was a hit with all of my friends would be an understatement!
Our Winner Was...
I usually bring back quite an array of very special cheeses when I travel, as shown by the photo below and so, not surprisingly, this cheese returned with some pretty impressive company:
- Aged Gouda from Betty at L'amuse, one of Hollands best sources
- Etivaz and Rebibe, the largely unknown treasures from the Swiss Alps
- A Beaufort From the Savoie Alps of Bourge St Maurice
- Bitto the historical cheese from the Valtalina of Italy
- A Reblochon collected from my favorite small farm in the mountains of Savoie
- MonteVeronese from the north of italy
- A true artisan produced Camembert sourced from Herve Mons (perhaps the last of these)
- A Corsican 'Brin d'Amour' from my friend Pierre Gay's fromagerie in Annecy France.
- AND the star "Belper Knolle" shown below hiding in a pile. The tiniest cheese made the biggest splash.
Whenever I put this collection out for tasting with friends, the focus always returned to this little gem tucked into the collection at the right above and lableled as "Belper Knolle". All in all it was voted the best of the trip.
What is a "Belper Knolle"
Well, besides from being a very new cheese, it is a lactic fermented curd (meaning very little rennet, coagulation is mostly from acid development) that is drained, seasoned with salt and garlic, and rolled in crushed black pepper.
It is then dried for a long period in the cave and, when it is ready, it is served as small shavings, much as a truffle or Parmesan would be shaved to embellish culinary wonders.
"Belper" refers to the area of Belp (from Belp), where it was first produced, and "Knolle" is the German/Swiss for tuber, indicating the italian tartufo or truffel.
Now before I venture further in this, I need to mention that the Swiss producer has registered this name in the US, so do not try to use any related namings or publicity if you plan to make this for retail.
My intent here is to provide inspiration and a new direction for adding flavors to cheese as we go.