Recently I took notice of some cheese at the Windsor Heights Hy-Vee with a most usual warning, "Not for children." It was the Habanero Ghost from Jim's Cheese of Waterloo, Wis. that came with this hand written advisory. Of course I had to give this cheese a try, despite its unsettling, nausea-inducing mottle.
With a soft, Velveetesque texture, this cheese is decidedly hot, even tongue numbing. Ghost pepper chiles may pack the punch, but fruity habanero flavor dominates. An unexpected vinegary twang is off-putting though; my guess is the habaneros used were neither fresh or dried, but pickled.
On another visit to the cheese display I spotted other offerings by Jim's Cheese. I chose the Habanero Jack.
The texture is a smidgen drier. A hint of sour, but nowhere near as unpleasant as the Habanero Ghost. A few seeds lurk within, but are hardly firebombs. I prefer this over the Habanero Ghost. My favorite chile-laced jack still is the Caribbean Red Hot Jack from Laack's [see blog post].
A cheese with more local roots is the superb smoked gouda from Frisian Farms of Oskaloosa. So flavorful you may find yourself nibbling down the rind, but don't do that when you can shave off the thin veneer of wax casing and use the rind to flavor a soup. I had purchased a half-pound from their stand at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market and shared it amongst friends. It didn't last the morning.
A while back ago I had the pleasure of noshing on some of Frisian Farms' gouda curds at Peace Tree Brewing in Knoxville. A wholy different experience, these curds are softer, moister and milder in flavor than its more mature expressions. Perfect for a simple nosh, paired with a jalapeño beef stick from Timber Ridge Cattle of Osceola.