In the world of cheese like many other places right now, everything old is new again. We’ve taken that concept to heart with our Manistique cheese! Here in the U.S., we tend to have a very specific picture of cheese in our minds – rows of plastic or paper wrapped slices of cheese that are all lined up in a refrigerated case at the supermarket. However, before the introduction of these “new” materials, cheese had to get from the farm to the market and be protected from the elements. Enter the humble cabbage leaf.
In the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, the tradition of natural materials persists in a cheese that we see in rare glimpses in the U.S. called “Robiola Incavolata”, which literally translates to “Robiola in Cabbage”. Local cabbage leaves are wrapped around a pillowy, soft, mixed milk soft cheese and then tied to keep them in place. The cabbage wrapped around the cheese protects it from outside elements but has the added benefit of creating an individual curing cell around each piece of cheese, changing the way it ages and interacts with the air around the cheese. Zingerman’s Delicatessen, our flagship location in downtown Ann Arbor has carried this Italian treat over the years, but it was always hard to import and when it was in the cheese case it was so unfamiliar it was a hard sell to those not already familiar with the style.
In 2015 we were looking for some of those old school aging techniques to add to our line up here at Zingerman’s Creamery, and this quirky Italian cheese seemed like a perfect fit. Michigan is one of the largest growers of cabbage in the Midwest, so with that abundance in mind, we started wrapping some cheese!
Our Manchester Cheese has been one of our flagship cheeses from our beginnings in 2001 out in Manchester, MI. Inspired originally by the soft cheeses of southern England and Wales, over the years we tweaked the recipe many times, but by 2015 it had much more similarity to a cow’s milk Robiola, perfect for our interpretation of the cabbage-wrapped classic.
A soft gold rind of geotrichum forms on the outside after just a couple of days draining in our make room before it moves into our aging room for a three-week period. During that time it is flipped daily and rotated on the racks by one of our cheesemakers, keeping an eye on the development of the rind so that it forms gentle wrinkles as the cheese loses moisture. After the three-week aging, we move the cheeses to our finishing room. The cheeses needed for that day’s orders are hand wrapped in Savoy cabbage leaves and then tied off with raffia. A new Manistique is born! The cheese will continue to age in these leaves after it goes out to one of our customers, developing a complex flavor redolent of floral and fruity notes that lingers on your palette.
This time of year, the very thought of turning on the oven inside the house is an un-inspiring notion at best. But here in Michigan, the outdoor entertaining season is short and so we are always looking for creative ways to make food for parties and family gatherings without the heating up the kitchen. When we visited Bi-Rite Market a few years ago, they had one of our Manistique cheeses for a staff training and they grilled it up as a serving suggestion when selling the cheese, we fell in love with the idea and it became one of our favorite ways to eat this cheese!
Our cabbage wrapped Manistique is uniquely suited to this summer entertaining due to its protective shell of leaves. Grilling the cheese is a great summer take on the baked Bries of winter, plus the cabbage wrapping makes this a great centerpiece to present on the table with the charred edges of the leaves pulled back to reveal the oozing cheese within. If you don’t have a grill handy, we’ve included the adaptation for doing it inside with a heavy bottomed grill pan. Check out the recipe below to impress your guests at the next BBQ or picnic you host!
- Zingerman’s Creamery Manistique Cheese
- Oil for grilling
- we recommend canola due to its high smoke point, but any oil or fat will do
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Olive Oil for serving
- Preheat your grill (gas or charcoal) for 10-15 minutes or as recommended by your fuel/grill manufacturer.
- Remove the cheese from the plastic clamshell packaging.
- Lightly oil the outside of the cabbage wrapping. *Do not unwrap the cheese.
- Grill for 3-5 minutes on each side or until the cabbage just starts to get char marks from the grate.
- Carefully place on a plate and peel back the top layer of cabbage (you may have to snip the raffia tie keeping everything in place)
- Once unwrapped, lightly drizzle with a little bit of good peppery extra virgin olive oil and some fresh cracked black pepper, or your favorite sweet preserve (fig & cherry are our favs for this).
Indoors: Heat a grill pan or heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat, continue with steps 3-6 above.