This is an Italian truffle cheese preserved in ashes ("Sottocenere" literally means "under ash" in Italian). Does that sound tasty? Not to me, and my skepticism was heightened when I unwrapped the cheese, which has a distinctly stale smell. But I liked the look of it -- the gray rind and black specks (the truffles) give it a very classy look -- so I pressed on. It turned out to be a very flavorful, mild cheese.
From reading about this cheese around the internet, I gather that the use of ashes in preserving cheese is old Venetian custom, and the ash ingredients for this cheese include nutmeg, cloves coriander, cinnamon, licorice and fennel. It is a semi-soft, cow's milk cheese, and we enjoyed it with some simple crackers.
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