by Max Barry

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by The Free Bears of Bears Armed. . 101 reads.

'Bison Brii' Cheese

Country of Origin: Bears Armed.

‘Best IDU Cheese’, 2016.
Jointly (with one other): 'Best IDU Cheese', 2017.

This is a soft, ripened cheese made using milk from a domesticated strain of the Yamond, or 'Woods Bison', and is produced in the district of Brii (an area within the 'South Walking' section of Clan WildWoods' territories) after which it is named.
(For the location of Brii, see particularly Linkthis map.)

Bison-Brii is traditionally made in disc-like 'wheels', which are approximately from 8 to 16 inches [20-40 cm] in diameter and 1 to 2 inches [2.5-5.0 cm] thick.
The outer surface of a ripe Bison-Brii cheese is covered by a thin white crust, produced by one of the moulds employed in the cheese-making process, which itself is perfectly edible. In properly ripened cheese the interior is a cream-coloured paste which is soft and creamy in texture throughout although if the ripening was ended early then its centre may have a grey tinge, and be only semi-soft and somewhat "chalky" in texture, instead.

The traditional version of Bison-Brii cheese has always been created using unpasteurised whole milk, although in recent years (especially since contact with the outside world was opened-up in 2006 AD) alternative versions made from pasteurised milk have also been made.
The preliminary soft curd is obtained by adding [bison] rennet to the raw milk and warming this mixture to normal Ursine body-temperature (c. 37.75oC, which is 100oF). Several layers of the material are then cast into each of the round moulds, which are normally about the same size as is it is desired the finished cheese will be, traditionally using a special type of perforated ladle: These are then drained for approximately one day.
Once the curd has become firm enough the cheese is removed from the moulds, salted (using salt processed from the 'salt licks' in this district, at which wild bison congregate and where, reputedly, they were first brought into domestication: this salt contains is slightly lower than most varieties in Sodium content, because it also contains traces of chlorides of several other elements such as Calcium and Magnesium too, but this does not harm its edibility), inoculated with the culture of appropriate cheese-making micro-organisms, sprayed with spores of the fungus Penicillium candidum (which is the species that gives ripened Bison-Brii its crust), and set aside in a cool, dark place to ripen. Under normal condition the cheese takes between three and four weeks to ripen fully, and it is then normally aged for at least one more week additionally as well. A ripened cheese of 16 inches diameter weighs just under 7lb [which is just over 3kg]. The smaller cheeses tend to have a stronger flavour than the larger ones.

Bison-Brii created in the traditional manner from unpasteurised milk is also called 'Cave-Brii' cheese, because it is normally ripened in caves within this district's limestone hills. The varieties produced using pasteurised milk instead are then contrastingly called 'City-Brii' cheese, even if they were also ripened in caves [as is still sometimes the case] rather than in the more tightly controllable conditions of the creameries' own cellars [as is more usual). The traditional methods allowed for both a 'plain' variety and one that was flavoured slightly using [local] Juniper berries. 'City-Brii' comes in both of those types too, and also, as a smoked cheese [never with Juniper berries, but possibly with some of that plant's needles included in the smoke-producing material instead], or even (in recent years, and only in small quantities) in a range of "novelty" varieties into which traces of various alternative flavourings [such as mustard-seeds, gingery 'Effbark', or imported Paprika] have been incorporated. The plain version of 'City-Brii' is widely considered to be slightly less tasty than its 'Cave' counterpart.
Some batches from the plain variety of 'Cave-Brii' may also be left to mature for significantly longer, for several months or even for as long as a year. This strengthens their flavour, while both the crust and the interior become darker and crumblier, and the end-result is commonly called 'Brii Brown'. The makers of 'City Brii' have yet to duplicate this version of the cheese successfully.

Once ripened and "opened", Bison-Brii is rather perishable as cheese goes and is generally "worth" eating (by most people's tastes) for only a few days. The 'City' forms tend to last better than most of the 'Cave' ones, although 'Brii Brown' can generally outdo even most of the 'City' types. The most "keepable" varieties are, as you would probably expect, the smoked ones. Once it becomes over-ripe the same micro(organisms that were responsible for the actual ripening produce unpleasant levels of ammonia (affecting the cheese's smell, as well as its flavour) while the cheese dries out and hardens. It should therefore be kept in sealed container and stored under cool, dark conditions, or even refrigerated as soon as possible after it is purchased, especially if one has acquired only part of wheel rather than an entire, "unopened", one.
If blue or green mould becomes visible growing on the cheese then it must no longer be consumed, and should be discarded immediately (or used as bait when fishing for catfish, in which role this "spoiled" cheese is allegedly very effective)in order to prevent food-poisoning: Simply trimming off the obvious growths does not return the cheese to a safely edible condition, because once they have appeared the mould in question is likely to have spread through the rest of that cheese as well anyhows.

Bison-Brii is usually consumed in the same ways as are other types of 'soft' cheeses, although traditionally the most common way of eating it within the Brii district itself was on flat 'cakes' made using flour from the seeds of local buckwheat. It is not used as an ingredient in any cooked dishes, as such, but is sometimes served in a slightly melted form (or even baked, although that's more of an urban idea) in a [lidded] round ceramic dish and topped with nuts or fruit.
'Brii Brown' may also be consumed by itself, "dry", or dipped in honey.