Cheeses of Skyrim: Hjaalmarch, Haafingar

Author: B

At the behest of my correspondents, I have made great efforts to restrict the contents of my travel journal so as to not lose my reader’s interest. In touring the holds of Skyrim, I was unsure through what lens I should present my travels. After a sumptuous meal at the start of my journey, I knew it must be food — and thus, my catalogue of Skyrim’s cheeses was born.

The land is diverse as are its climes, and both mean the panoply of cheeses are vast. Again, for the sake of brevity, I sought to capture only the most noteworthy cheese from each hold I visited.

-B

GREENEDGE

Greenedge is a festive cheese, which I found to be rather peculiar due to the dour reputation of Hjaalmarch (and, in particular, its capital of Morthal). The name of the cheese is derived from the charming “baskets”— for there can be no other word for it — of rushes plucked from nearby bogs and woven together. The cheese is brined and pressed within these baskets, and the latter process imbues the rind of the normally cream-colored cheese with a verdant hue.

The process for eating it is also curious. Greenedge is customarily eaten at the end of feasts, where young hunters make a game of holding the rush-encased cheese over a burnt torch until its casing is burnt off and the cheese is melted into a nearly-molten state. Veterans of this ordeal are lauded for the showmanship they add to this feat, dancing the highly-combustible cheese along the torchflame without pausing too long, lest the cheese blacken or fingers burn.

Thus prepared, the cheese is flipped onto a table and guests immediately plunge bread — or, occasionally, sliced apples — into the melted cheese. This is particularly a joy to children, for it is at this point that the cheese’s secret contents are revealed — dried fruits and berries, and (in wealthier households) a single amber plum. The lucky eater that spears the plum before all others is named the king of the feast.

SOLITUDE EIDAR

The greatest of the cheeses in Skyrim, I must admit — not for its flavor or bizarre nature, but for its extreme rarity. Solitude Eidar is, as its name implies, an eidar cheese, being aged and inoculated with the spores of some fungus. And, like Eidar, it is aged underground, in this case in the vaults below the ancient city. But here are where the similarities to Eidar end.

First is the source. Solitude Eidar is a masterful translation of Western Skyrim’s staunch traditionalism to the practice of cheese-making, and this starts with the milk. It is said that only cows that belonged to the herd of Jarl Svartr, first king of Western Skyrim, can provide milk for the cheese. The royal herd, descended from these cows, is maintained by loyal retainers. Milk is shipped regularly to Solitude, where it is inspected by a royal cheesemonger — a hereditary office within the Blue Palace. This connoisseur of dairy has exacting standards for the milk he inspects — indeed, for I have seen him — and only one out of every dozen barrels is deemed fit for the making of Solitude Eidar. The milk is led to curdle, in a precise fashion using a series of hourglasses custom-made for the purpose. Lastly, a crumb of cheese from the previous batch is used in the next one — thus creating an unbroken chain of eidar dating back generations.

The result is, as I am led to understand, a cheese that has the precise appearance, aroma and taste as it had in Svartr’s day. I was skeptical until I was given two pieces of cheese, one preserved from decades ago, and one that only recently had been cut. I was instructed to sample both and tell the difference.

I could not, and I wept.

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