It’s time for our monthly Cheese Club selection and fall makes us excited. We’re getting peak flavor cheeses from animals that grazed on the richest grasses, wild flowers and herbs all summer. If you’ve been in one of our classes, you’ve heard us say that cheese (raw milk mainly) is really an expression of the grass the cow/goat/sheep ate before she was milked. That rich summer pasture makes for some amazing milk and some robust cheeses.
Raw Cow Milk, Switzerland
Appenzeller is one of our favorite European cheeses. It’s a raw milk cheese made in Switzerland following a 700-year old tradition. It’s called an alpine cheese because the cows who provide the milk for it the cheese graze in high mountain meadows. The unique combinations of grasses and wild flowers they eat transfers flavor into the milk. We often say that cheese is really a cow’s expression of the grass she ate.
Appenzeller relies on one more thing to create its trademark spicy flavor–an herbal brine, the composition of which is a strictly guarded secret. Only two people know the recipe, although it’s known to be some combination of wine and 25 different herbs, roots, leaves, petals, seeds and bark.
The cheese is bathed in the brine for 10 days and then sent to age, where it continues to be rubbed with the brine at regular intervals.This delightful nutty and spicy cheese is great on a cheese board or a sandwich, but it takes fondue to a new level.
Pairings: The spicy flavor imparted during the brine wash makes this a classic companion to German Riesling or Gewurtztraminer. If you prefer red, choose a fruity red, such as a Rhone or a Pinot Noir. Beer more your style? Find a malty beer. It’s ideal with this cheese. Add some pickled vegetables and you’ll be heaven.
Jasper Hills/Von Trapp Farm Oma
Raw Cow Milk, Vermont
While this cheese isn’t an actual alpine cheese, it definitely has alpine heritage. It’s made by Sebastian von Trapp on his family’s farm in Waitsfield, Vermont. Yes, those (Sound of Music) van Trapps!
It’s a washed-rind, tomme-style cheese made from the raw, organic cow’s milk. What’s a washed rind cheese you ask? We think of them as the stinky cheeses, but this one is very approachable. These cheeses are bathed or scrubbed with a brine or wine or beer or cider. That “washing” encourages the growth of a bacteria called Brevibacterium Linens (known affectionately as Brevy!).
Brevy gives the cheese an orange rind, a stinky smell (slight in this case) and a meaty, umami flavor. Should you eat the rind? That’s total personal preference. Our advice is that if you like the cheese inside the rind, taste the rind. It’s going to be a stronger version of the cheese. If the cheese is as strong as you want to go, don’t eat the rind.
We also love this cheese because it’s a great example of the collaborative nature of American cheese. The von Trapps make it, but it’s aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hills, a nearby farm that built 2,000 square feet of underground caves to age their cheeses and other in an effort to put American cheese on the map.
Oma balances pungent and sweet flavors with aromas of cured meat and cultured butter. The thin, orange rind contributes an earthy flora and adds a richness to the cheese.
Great Hill Dairy’s Great Hill Blue
Raw Cow’s Milk, Massachusetts
Great Hill Dairy, on the shores of Buzzard’s Bay, MA, 50 miles south of Boston, makes just one cheese: Great Hill Blue. That’s pretty rare for a creamery. Most make at least a couple or a handful of cheeses. But in this case, it shows Great Hill’s dedication to perfection.
Tim Stone. the founder, was literally born into dairy. He grew up on a dairy farm, but by the time he came of age, the family had sold off its herd of Guernsey cows. Fortunately for Tim, though, they kept the farmstead.
In 1997, Tim decided that just because his farm wasn’t producing milk, it didn’t mean he couldn’t make cheese at his family’s turn-of-the-century dairy barn. He began sourcing milk from the many local dairy farms surrounding him. Then he took that raw milk and a unique recipe and started producing award-winning cheese. He’s taken “Best of Show” twice in the annual American Cheese Society awards.
And here’s where the passion comes in. Tim could expand exponentially based on demand, but he won’t, because to grow larger (and make more money) would mean that Tim doesn’t have his hands on the cheesemaking and every step of the process. He still fills every cheese mold by hand using traditional techniques.
The result is a rindless blue with a bright acidic tanginess and a hint of peppery bite. It’s also got a salty aroma and flavor, which makes it a great pair for a Tawny port or a fruity ice wine or a nice stout.
Smoking Goose Dodge City Salami (Indiana)
You might not think of Indianapolis as the epicenter of one of America’s best sources for cured meat, but you should. New York’s Grub Street magazine calls owner Chris Eley “the meat expert rethinking one of the world’s most ancient food traditions.”
It’s old world craft, with a new world flavor. Chris and his wife Mollie start with humanely raised animals from small, family-owned farms (no hormones, 100% vegetarian fed).
Then they use traditional methods like seam butchering each animal, hand tying every piece, and curing without additional com-pound nitrates. It’s just one of the reasons they were awarded a prestigious Good Food Award in 2015.
Named in honor of Smoking Goose’s original neighborhood once known as “Dodge City,” this salami is strewn with fennel pollen and studded with pink peppercorns. The fennel gives it a light anise flavor and the sustainably raised pork gives it a big, bold, rich flavor.
We love it on charcuterie boards, but it also is delicious sliced thinly and dressed pea shoots for a simple first course.