Lore:Cheeses of Skyrim: Riften, Falkreath
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This continuation of my travel journal, which focuses on the cheeses prevalent in the holds of Skyrim, explores a land and its cuisine that is as diverse as the multitude of flavors that danced across my tongue. Again, for the sake of brevity, I sought to capture only the most noteworthy cheese from each hold I visited.
Once reserved exclusively for the jarls of Riften, riftwash is a cheese with a glassy, violet-black exterior, which belies a pallid and crumbly core. As a goat's milk cheese, it is uncommon in the more temperate of Skyrim's climes. Pressed to remove much of the water within the cheese, unlike the goat's milk cheeses of Stormhaven, which the Bretons prize for moistness, riftwash is comparably dry.
Rumor says that the cheesemakers bathe wheels of riftwash in the muddy waters of Lake Honrich, which results in its dark hue. This is, of course, an outrageous falsehood. In truth, the cheese is washed several times in Riften's famous blackberry mead before being shrouded in wax which has been dyed with blackberry must, a by-product of the city's burgeoning meadworks.
The people of Falkreath seem to earnestly appreciate their hold's longstanding association with battle and death. The shops, and indeed many families, draw their names and personal heraldry from the seemingly boundless graveyard that abuts the city. It is no surprise, perhaps, that one of Falkreath's most reputed cheeses relies on the dead for a key part of its production.
Barrowost, or more commonly, barrow-cheese, much resembles the common eidar cheese found throughout the holds of Skyrim. Whereas eidar cheese is aged in cellars or caverns, however, barrowost is exclusively aged in barrows—the crumbling, draugr-infested tombs of Skyrim's dark past. Be it the stagnant air, the endlessly sweating stone, or the dark magic within its walls, the cheese gains an intense earthy sweetness, punctuated with sharp notes I find impossible to resist.
As an aside, I learned that Falkreath still practices an ancient Nord custom, the "grave curd." According to the practice, a fresh farmer's cheese is interred atop a loved one's coffin. Every year, on the anniversary of the departed's death, the grave curd is exhumed and a fifth of it is consumed by the bereaved. Many would balk at eating from a grave, but gods help me—the piece that was served to me was delicious!