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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Say Cheese: A hit of juniper

By Domenica Marchetti

(Domenica Marchetti)

I have always preferred the spicy, juniper-spiked flavor of gin to the blandness of vodka. So when I spied a thick round of Juni, a cow’s milk cheese from northern Italy whose paste is shot through with crushed juniper berries, I did a little happy dance. I had not heard of this cheese before and just happened to come across it while perusing the cheese case at the Balducci’s in Old Town.

Juni is a recent release from Caseificio Pier Luigi Rosso, a family-owned operation in Italy’s Piedmont region that has been making cheese for more than a century. The company makes a variety of raw toma-style cow’s milk cheeses; these are round cheeses with a characteristic rough gray-brown rind, and a creamy-hued semi-soft paste. The texture can vary from dense to crumbly, and in flavor they tend to be nutty, with an intense cheese-cave aroma.

This flavored version of Rosso’s toma brusca, which literally translates to “acid toma,” is so named because the milk used to produce it is left out to “rest” until it has soured somewhat. According to the company’s web site, once the cheese has been pressed the wheels are aged for 45 days on spruce wood in damp caves. In addition to Juni, Rossi makes several other toma brusca variations, including one with peperoncino (hot pepper) and one with herbs.

Juni has a rich ivory-colored interior (speckled with bits of juniper berries) that is pale in the center and darker near the rind. The texture starts out firm and crumbly but turns creamy as the cheese ages. Its flavor is assertive: salty and lemony and somewhat meaty, with a pronounced hit of spicy juniper and (if you eat the rind, which I do) a somewhat bitter finish.

The spicy quality of Juni (which is available at all area Balducci's) makes it great for a holiday plate. I like to toss a few whole dried juniper berries on the plate for decoration and serve it with sliced peppery dry salami and briny green olives.

Marchetti blogs at Domenica Cooks. Follow her on Twitter.

By Domenica Marchetti  | December 7, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Say Cheese  | Tags:  Domenica Marchetti, Say Cheese  
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