Every year around this time, a Dutch cheesemaker begins wringing his hands in anticipation of a huge financial windfall. With a high-off-his-rocker smile on his face, the Dutch dairy wizard loads a huge cargo container full of crimson globes--balls of aged edam cheese covered in red wax. The giant bounty of salty cheese is then loaded onto a ship bound for a port thousands of miles away.
The destination? Manila.
As the cheese-carrying ship dissappears over the Atlantic horizon, the Dutch cheesemaker jumps in the air and clicks his wooden heels together as he pictures the millions of Filipinos that will soon be enjoying his cheese at their Christmas dinner tables. He laughs maniacally and clipity-clops to the nearest head shop to celebrate.
OK. So the above scenario has probably never really occurred--I just like to think it has. But there is a little bit of truth in the above story. Edam cheese from Holland really does make an appearance on many a Filipino dinner table at Christmastime. But we refer to the cheese as "Queso de Bola" or ball of cheese, or cheeseball. And although Queso de Bola is technically Edam cheese, the export to the Philippines is specially formulated for the Pinoy palate--the Dutch add some extra salt just for us (perhaps we can blame them for our gout).
And luckily for me, Queso de Bola is readily available here in the States. I found the Marca Pina brand of cheese at my friendly neighborhood Filipino grocery store, and I believe the Marca Pina brand is a preferred brand in the Philippines.
The cheese itself is firm with a sharp, rich and nutty flavor, though not as salty as I thought it would be. While nibbling on a few pieces of my cheeseball and drinking a cold San Miguel, I figured I'd do something a little different with the rest of the cheese--I'd make fondue!
Filipino cheese from Holland,
and Filipino beer from the Philippines.
To make my cheeseball fondue, I relied on this Alton Brown recipe but changed out a few things. Firstly, rather than using a mix of gruyere and gouda, I of course used all Queso de Bola cheese in my fondue. As long as a cheese is semi-firm and at least 40% fat, then it will be a good melting cheese for fondue--and Edam meets these requirements.
Also, instead of using hard apple cider in my fondue, I used a bottle of San Mig. And lastly, I used kalamansi juice instead of lemon juice in my recipe. Citric acid helps to reduce the stringiness of the finished melted cheese.
Although I don't have a fondue pot, my 3-quart saucier set on my stove worked just fine. My finished fondue was silky smooth and wonderfully nutty and smoky. There was a definite taste of San Miguel though, which wasn't terrible, but could probably also be improved upon. Next time, I'll definitely try this recipe with hard apple cider instead of cheap (but good) Filipino beer.
What to dip in Queso de Bola fondue? Well, ham would work well, as would cubed pandesal, apples, pears, and even homemade longanisa.
Queso de Bola Fondue
Adapted from this Alton Brown recipe
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 (12-ounce) bottle San Miguel Pale Pilsen beer
2 tablespoons calamansi or lemon juice
1 tablespoon brandy
Pinch kosher salt
10 ounces Queso de Bola (Edam cheese), grated
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
Fresh ground black pepper
Rub the bottom of a heavy saucier or saucepan with the garlic. Pour the beer into the pot along with the calamansi juice, brandy, and salt. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat.
Meanwhile, place the grated cheese in a large bowl. Add the cornstarch to the cheese and toss to coat the cheese with the cornstarch.
When the beer begins to simmer, add the cheese to the pot one handful at a time, allowing each addition to melt completely before adding the next. Continue adding cheese by the handful and stirring until all the cheese is melted and incorporated. If the mixture starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low and continue to stir. The fondue is ready when all the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Add the pimenton and the ground black pepper. Serve fondue immediately with your choice of dippers. If you don't have fondue forks, bamboo skewers work just as well.