As you read this Dairy Foods, the annual international issue, it should become apparent that the rest of the world is much more adventurous in its use of flavors and flavoring ingredients. One of my favorite examples is the use of game animal to season cheese spread. That's right, I'm talking bear, moose, wild boar and even reindeer.
Finnish Cheese Co. of Espoo, Finland, markets Silva-brand processed cheese spread in reusable glass jars. Finnish Cheese says that glass containers maintain the flavoring features of processed cheese in the most efficient way. And flavor is exactly what these cheese spreads are about. In addition to the game flavors, other unique varieties in the Silva line include prosciutto ham, smoked mushroom and wasabi. There's also a more familiar garlic variety.
"Garlic, as well as fresh herbs, are frequent ingredients in premium cheeses. In fact in Europe it is common to find cheeses coated with herbs, garlic and/or breadcrumbs with instructions to bake or grill them, much like one would do with a breast of chicken," says Lynn Jacobus, marketing analyst-flavors division of Mastertaste, Teterboro, N.J. "Another trend is for mild cheeses to include fruits and nuts. Some of the more popular additions are almond, apricot, cherry, pineapple, strawberry and walnut.
"Cream cheese spreads are following the sweet heat trend. This is particularly common Down Under in Australia and New Zealand," says Jacobus. "Examples of flavor combinations include kiwi onion and mango chili."
"In Asia Pacific there is a lot of dairy flavored apple and green apple," says Jacobus. "Citrus is big and often used with aloe. The two complement each other, resulting in a light and refreshing flavor profile that melds well with the acidic profile of fermented milk."
Grape is another flavor rarely used in U.S. dairy foods, but common in the dairy products of some Hispanic and European countries. German Firm Dr. August Oetker Nahrungsmittel markets a variety of cultured dairy products including quark. There's an apple with pear variety as well as a quark containing whole grains and flavored with grapes, dates and figs. "Other European flavors not traditionally in U.S. dairy foods include apricot, cranberry, grapefruit, mint, passionfruit and plum," says Jacobus. "Brown sweet flavors are also popular in dairy applications."
For example, Luxlait Association Agricole of Luxembourg markets seasonal yogurts. In winter the line includes rich, brown sweet flavors such as Black Forest Cake, Russian cake and Spice Cookie (includes almond pieces), which the company says are designed to soften up the cold wintertime.
The summer yogurt line does the opposite. The yogurts have a lighter texture and are designed to be refreshing through the inclusion of real fruit pieces. Flavors are Lime, Papaya and Watermelon.
Luxlait also has a line of lactic fermented-based drinks in some unique peach flavor combinations. One mixes peach with honey and includes royal jelly, which is recognized for possessing revitalizing and stimulating properties. Another peach variety contains lime and balm, with the latter known for its relaxing qualities.
In Southeast Asia, you will find some very unique flavors that complement dairy foods. For example, kulfi, an Indian frozen dessert that is creamier than American ice cream, commonly comes in the fruit flavor chikoo. With sweet, brown sugar notes, chikoo has a flavor profile that resembles kiwi and has the texture of pear. It complements pistachio very well, which is the nut of choice in Indian kulfi.
There's more. Indians will flavor dessert-type foods (such as kulfi) with rose. The floral notes of rose work well with certain Asian spices such as cardamom, which has a warm and eucalyptus sensation with camphorous and lemony undertones.
Interestingly, cardamom is an expensive spice, second only to saffron, which of course is a commonly used Indian spice. Saffron provides kulfi with a great flavor and color, and is often used in combination with nuts.
And we Americans thought we were exotic with dulce de leche . . . not even close!