By Janet Fletcher
March 7, 2014
Hubaner, an aged cow's milk wheel from Austria, makes me wonder what other fabulous cheeses that nation has been keeping from us. I can't recall ever tasting another Austrian cheese, so I did some digging through books to see what I might have forgotten.
Steve Jenkins, author of "Cheese Primer," all but ignored the country when he published his authoritative tome 18 years ago. "Flabby, rubbery, bland" was the best he could say about Austria's Emmentaler, the only widely available Austrian cheese at the time.
Hubaner rewrites the story. Made in a modern cooperative creamery near the Swiss and German borders, this impeccable cheese compares favorably with the finest alpine wheels of Switzerland and France.
And at about $20 a pound, it's a steal. I can't think of another cheese that delivers so much character for the price.
Made from the raw milk of 34 small farms - the average herd size is 15 cows - Hubaner resembles an Appenzeller or raclette, although it is smaller.
The 8- to 10-pound wheels are matured for roughly eight months, a lengthy treatment for a cheese of this size.
The exterior is flawless, with a thin, dry, even rind. Inside, the butter-hued paste displays a few perfectly round pea-size eyes, the result of gas that the culture produces.
Hubaner's aroma isn't as robust and meaty as the fragrance of some alpine cheeses, like Spicherhalde. It's more subtle, hinting more of brown butter and toasted walnuts than dry-aged beef.
Shave it with a cheese plane and notice its supple, satiny texture. There's no grainy or sandy quality, no dense fudginess. Hubaner feels like silk.
Some alpine and alpine-style cheeses are so concentrated that they seem almost sweet, and I tire of them quickly. Hubaner I could eat all day.
Look for it at Say Cheese and Cheese Plus in San Francisco, and Cheese Board in Berkeley.
Pair it with a malty beer, like the Saint Botolph's Town brown ale from Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project.