This cheese comes from a Vermont cheesemaking legend–Peter Dixon (with a lot of help from his wife Rachel and her sister Alex). Peter is often called the godfather of Vermont cheese. He spent 30 years working as a cheesemaker and consultant, training many of today’s famous Vermont cheesemakers. He even learned some fabulous new recipes while teaching cheesemaking in the Balkans as part of a USAID mission.
Two years ago he decided to open his own creamery–Parish Hill Creamery. We were fortunate enough to spend a day with them last summer making cheese and touring their aging cave.
He and his family are serious about artisan and handmade, and it shows in their cheeses. West Blue is made in the style of a “two-curd” Gorgonzola, meaning that it’s made from two separate cheeses made over two days.
The first day’s curd rests overnight, and at the end of the second day’s make, these colder, more acidic curds are mixed with the freshly made, warm curds.
It’s a more traditional method of production that is rarely used due to the long and labor-intensive process. “In our case,” says Rachel, “we think it is well worth the effort.” Wheels of the cheese are aged between three and six months.
This particular cheese: the edible rind surrounds a dense paste with streaks of blue mold. It has a strong, yet balanced salty and sweet flavor, with additional notes of grass, barnyard and burnt sugar.
A note about Blue Cheese
Like all cheese, blue cheese was a mistake. You could follow up the creation of blue cheese with the sentence “They decided to eat it anyway.” And nobody died.
Here’s what happened. Long, long ago some cheesemaker put some cheese into a cave to age, but blue mold got into it. And like any good business person, he said, “we’ll let’s see if we can sell this.” And they did, and people liked it.
Today blue cheese is made intentionally. The cheesemaker inoculates either the milk or the curd with one of two strains of blue mold.
Mold needs four things to grow.
- That’s what the cheese is.
- Moisture and temperature, which the cheesemaker provides in the aging facility
- And air. So after some time in the aging cave, the cheesemaker will come in and inject needles into the cheese wheel. They aren’t injecting the mold. That’s already in there. They are just creating an air channel for the mold to grow.