Just like any chocolate connoisseur worth her salt should be able to spout off the flavor differences between Madagascan and Venezuelan Sur del Lago beans, a cheese connoisseur should be able to do the same for sheep and goat's milk.
In the chocolate world it is easy to discover these differences. You can find dozens of artisans using different beans to make different bars that are the same other than the bean origin. If they are made with the same equipment, same processing, same percentage, etc., then in tasting you can easily attribute differences to the beans themselves as all else is the same.
Unfortunately, in the cheese world it is much harder. One method for learning the difference is the way I did it. After tasting hundreds of cheeses of various ages, textures and rind styles in both sheep and goat, I have come to have a deep appreciation for the different attributes and flavors of each milk type.
However, I can now demonstrate and pinpoint the differences to my customers in a quick sampling and discussion of two cheeses. Miticaña de Oveja and Miticaña de Cabra.
These two cheeses are made in precisely the same way, by the same company on the same equipment. The only difference is that one is made with sheep's milk and one with goat's. They are both soft ripened, bloomy rind (think Brie rind) cheeses aged for 21 days in Murcia, Spain.
Miticaña de Cabra is made of goat's milk and is essentially a Spanish rendition on the much more famous French, Bucheron. A lot of cheese geeks will call me crazy for this one, but I like Miticaña de Cabra better than Bucheron. The paste is flaky and slightly chalky and not really too soft or spreadable like Chevre. The flavor is very bright and citrusy with plenty of crisp acidity but not too much.
Miticaña de Oveja is made of sheep's milk and due to the richer sheep's milk the texture is a little softer but otherwise similar. Where the flavor of the Cabra is acidic and crisp, the flavor of the Oveja is musky, barnyardy and savory. It feels fattier on the pallet, too.
After tasting these two cheeses, the aspiring connoisseur can quickly understand the difference in these two milks. They also make extremely beautiful presentations on the cheese plate. At my house, I cut 1/4 lb. slices off the log of cheese and present these slices on their face as little mini wheels. The rinds are mild and delicious making serving super easy.
With their fresh, easygoing flavors and at only $15.99/lb., Miticañas have become my go to cheeses for summer cheese plates. Of course, I always use both. It's educational for my guests and good fun for all, but you can always sample both at the counter and decide for yourself.
Matt Caputo is one of the first American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Experts (CCP). At Tony Caputo's Market & Deli, Matt runs one of America's most cutting edge affinage (cheese aging) programs. Matt is also an internationally recognized chocolate expert. Beyond cheese and chocolate, he has an incredible depth of knowledge when it comes to the categories of cured meats, olive oil, vinegar, honey and pasta. Preserving culinary traditions of Italy and other Southern European countries is Matt's life long goal.