Virtual Cheese Tasting
June 26, 2020
What do you need to know to master cheese?
You need to know what great cheese is;
where it comes from; what makes it great;
where you can find it;
how it is made, bought and sold;
how to get the most of it.
We will take a cheese journey with the cheeses I curated. I hope you will find discovery of cheese to be like your appreciation for wine.
CELLARS OF JASPER HILL – Vermont
Jasper Hill is a working dairy farm with an on-site creamery in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. An underground aging facility maximizes the potential of cheeses made by the creamery, as well as those made by other local producers. Leftover whey from the cheesemaking process is fed to heritage breed pigs, roaming the woodlands beyond the cows’ pasture.
Jasper Hill Farm has just designed and constructed a nutrient recovery system as an innovative approach to waste management. Their ‘Green Machine’ is an enclosed, integrated, biological treatment system for managing the manure, whey, and wash-water from the barn and creamery. This three-prong system employs Aerated Composting of manure solids, Anaerobic Digestion for primary liquids treatment, and an Advanced Botanical System for secondary liquids treatment.
Essentially, this system gleans value-added compost, clean irrigation water, and heat energy (to replace fuel-oil for the creamery boiler) from previously burdensome waste materials. A heat recovery system pulls warm air from developing compost to keep a greenhouse warm year round. In turn, the greenhouse supports the botanical filtration system as well as some vegetable production. Plus, the ability to irrigate pastures means a longer grazing season in a wintry climate.
LITTLE HOSMER is a Jasper Hill Creamery original, it is their mini version of a new world-style brie. This cheese is named for a small pond in Craftsbury, Vermont. Little Hosmer Pond is adjacent to Great Hosmer Pond, both favorite Jasper Hill destinations for rowing, swimming, fishing and cross-country skiing after a long day of cheesemaking. Naming this little cheese after a Northeast Kingdom gem ties out Jasper Hill Farm’s quest for meaningful work in a place that they love.
SENSORY NOTES – this is a very approachable and nuanced soft ripened cheese. Beneath its thin, bloomy-rind lies a gooey, milky core showing a complex array of flavors at peak ripeness: cauliflower, crème fraiche, and toasted nuts. A bright, clean finish with a hint of white mushroom aroma follows the rich flavors of the paste.
Little Hosmer is the perfect size for a cheese board. Cheese is best served at room temperature making this cheese supple and decadent without being runny. Spread on a hearty cracker (I am using Brewer’s Crackers made from spent grains from the brewing process) or slice of baguette.
Pair with: Sparkling Wines, Chardonnay or Fruity Reds like Pinot Noir
Winner of ‘Super Gold’ Award 2017 at the World Cheese Awards. Super Gold is awarded to those cheeses exceeding a Gold placing them into the running for overall Grand Champion.
CYPRESS GROVE – Arcata, CA
Cypress Grove is located in foggy Humboldt County, in the temperate northwest coastal region of California. Its origins date back to the 1970’s. In the 70s, relief for homemakers came in the form of convenience. Dinner “food” consisted of Hamburger Helper®, Shake ‘n Bake®, and pre-packaged TV dinners. Cheese? Well, — it was something else altogether. Americans enjoyed their “cheese” as slices of orange, rubbery, plastic squares.
Mary Keehn, a self-proclaimed “serious hippie” and single mother of four, lived in a different world. In search of healthy milk for her children, Mary noticed a neighbor who had goats for brush control. She asked her neighbor if she could buy two of her goats and the neighbor replied with a grin, “Honey, if you can catch ‘em, you can have ‘em.” So a determined Mary went out with grain each day and eventually lured her first two goats: Esmeralda and Hazel. Those two goats turned to four and pretty soon Mary had, well, more. A lot of goats means a lot of milk, so Mary tried her hand at making French style goat cheese. Her most iconic cheese- Humboldt Fog came from a vision she had of making a cheese that resembled the fog layer in Humboldt County where she resides. Her “Fog” line is a vegetable ash line that is traditionally used in French goat cheeses. She quickly developed a passionate interest in breeding high quality Alpine goats founding Cypress Grove in 1983.
Mary was a pioneer in cheesemaking. At that time, commercial goat cheese production was virtually unheard of in the US.
LAMB CHOPPER is their only sheep milk cheese. Released in 2003, Lamb Chopper is made from pasteurized sheep’s milk unlike the other goat cheeses from Cypress Grove. Aged for at least three months, the interior texture of Lamb Chopper is ivory white in color with a smooth firm paste. Flavors of butter and cream when young that develop an incredible sweetness of caramels and nutty undertones as it fully matures.
Pair with: white wines like Unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Vouvray.
World Cheese Awards 2018 First Place/ World Cheese Awards 2010, 2011, 2016, 2017 Second Place/ World Championship Cheese Contest 2020 Third Place
CAPRIOLE CREAMERY JULIANNA
One of my favorite goat cheeses is Fleur du Maquis but I need not look to Corsica for a fluffy, herb-rubbed bloomy rind. This domestic twist on the Mediterranean classic hails from Indiana, on the farm of one of America’s most iconic lady goat cheese makers.
Judy Schad whom I affectionately refer to as one of the “Goat Ladies of the 80’s” like Mary Keehn of Cypress Grove; has been making cheese since 1976, when she and her family moved from the suburbs to a hill farm in southern Indiana.
What began as an experimental variation of The Old Kentucky Tomme by Hungarian intern, Julianna Sedli, has become a Capriole success story. During production the milk is coagulated and the curd is cut, cooked, washed (to reduce some of the acidity), and then carefully ladled into large molds. Cheeses are flipped (but are not pressed) over several hours. Afterwards, the young Juliannas are unmolded and placed in a brine solution for about eight hours, then removed to a drying area for two days before being placed in the aging room. The cheeses develop a surface of white, flossy Penicilium candidum mold. Once the surface mold is developed, the Herbes de Provence are applied, wrapped in paper, and stored in boxes to finish aging.
Aged 4-8 months, the cheese shares many similarities to Old Kentucky Tomme, Tomme du Savoie and Brin d’Amor. Like an Old Kentucky Tomme, it is a buttery and smooth but nuttier and firmer like a Tomme du Savoie whilst sporting a mushroomy natural rind of herbs like a Brin d’Amor Julianna is a mild, semi-hard aged goat cheese dusted with Herbes de Provence, lavender, rosemary and wildflowers that add another dimension layer of flavor. It melts beautifully and combines with flavors both sweet and savory.
Pair with: light, fruity wines like Rosé, Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Noir
BEEHIVE CHEESE – BARELY BUZZED
In 2005, brothers-in-law Tim Welsh and Pat Ford left the fast-paced world of software and real estate seeking a more simple way of life as artisan cheese makers. They traded in their traffic commute for mornings waking before dawn to receive and prepare 500 gallons of farm-fresh milk to be made into cheese. They gave up briefcases and laptops for the romance of making hand-crafted cheese: hours spent mixing and warming milk, feeling it thicken and envelope the room with the sweet smell of custard. Days spent following an artisan’s patience for their cheeses to ripen to perfection.
When you take a bite of Beehive Cheese, it melts like butter in your mouth- that’s because it’s made from some of the creamiest and cleanest milk in Utah, lovingly crafted into specialty cheese by a family whose mission statement is “Making Friends With Cheese”. Named for the Beehive State of Utah.
Beehive Cheese takes their base cheese Promontory an Irish Style Cheddar to create Barely Buzzed. Originally and experiment with a surprise outcome, this cheese took it’s first award at ACS competition in 2007. Cheese with Coffee?? was the initial reaction. Why not? You put cream in coffee.
This is a full-bodied cheese with a nutty flavor and smooth texture. The cheese is hand rubbed with a unique blend of espresso and lavender that infuses the cheese with an inviting aroma and taste. Espresso is ground fresh with French Superior Lavender buds and imparts notes of butterscotch and caramel, which are prevalent near the rind, but find their way to the center of the cheese. The cheese is aged on Utah Blue Spruce aging racks in Beehive Cheese Co’s humidity controlled caves during the six to eight month aging process to develop texture and flavor.
I’ve put Barely Buzzed on a Burger, into the crumble for Apple Crisp and in a fondue made with a dark beer. I like pairing this cheese with Ritual Chocolate Bourbon Barrel Aged Single origin cacao bar. Ritual Chocolate started in Colorado, now located in Park City Utah.
Awards – 1st Place, American Cheese Society Annual Competition Five Times 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2016
World Cheese Awards 3rd Place 2014 and Gold Award 2019.
Pair with: Medium to full-bodied reds. Porters and Stout beers.
HOW TO STORE CHEESE: CHEESE CARE AND STORAGE
Cheese is alive! Cheeses, like fruit and wine, it continues to ripen and change over time.
HOW TO SERVE CHEESE
To best enjoy any cheese, eat it at room temperature. I like to keep it out for an hour or so before serving to allow the flavors to fully express themselves.
HOW TO STORE CHEESE
Keep your cheese in the fridge when it’s not being served. The colder temperatures will stabilize the cheese and keep it from ripening too quickly. However, don’t freeze cheese! Freezing cheese can alter the flavor and texture in unappetizing ways.
HOW TO WRAP YOUR CHEESE
Cheese should be kept wrapped in cheese paper. The paper is specially designed to allow the cheese to breathe and not get dried out. The next best thing to wrap your cheese in is a layer parchment paper with another layer of saran wrap over the parchment to keep it from drying. I find parchment paper to be very cost effective and easy to cut to size.
HOW LONG YOUR CHEESE WILL LAST
Soft cheeses should be eaten more quickly than aged cheeses – a good general rule of thumb is that soft cheese should be eaten within 2 weeks of cut and wrap, and more aged cheeses can last in the fridge for a few weeks or longer! The firmer the cheese is, and the less moisture it has, the longer it will keep. You can keep aged cheeses for a REALLY long time… (2 months or more) They might develop surface mold on the cut surface, but they’re still safe to eat – just trim that mold off!
IS IT OKAY TO EAT MOLDY CHEESE?
Some cheeses like Blue Cheese have good bacteria introduced during production to intentionally create veins of mold. This mold is edible. However, there are certain kinds of mold that are more or less desirable. Should any mold develop on the cut surface of a hard cheese, don’t worry, and DON’T throw the cheese away! Simply trim away the surface mold and then keep on enjoying that glorious cheese. Mold on the surface or interior of a soft ripened cheese indicates it should be discarded. Mold spores travel undetected quickly through the moisture in softer cheeses.
The firmer the cheese the less moisture and lower water activity in the cheese for a longer shelf life and ability to be in ambient temperature like an aged gouda, cheddar or Italian style cheeses. The softer the cheese, the more moisture and higher water activity making it more perishable with a shorter shelf life.