November Cheese Club Selections
Sottocenere al Tartufo
Sottocenere means “under the ash” in Italian, and it’s the way they’ve been aging cheese for centuries. In fact, ash-aged cheeses can be found across Europe, from soft goat’s milk cheese in France to aged pecorino in Southern Italy, because ash is an effective way to seal the cheese against mold both while it ages and after release. But this is definitely not your great-great-grandfather’s cheese.
It’s a rare (and delicious) example of innovation in European cheese. Most cheeses made in Europe use protected recipes and methods to conform with history. The European model has delivered some great cheeses to be sure, but it also means that European cheesemakers don’t have the same ability to experiment (for better or worse!) that we do.
And then there’s Italian cheesemaker Sergio Moro. He wanted to use traditional methods to make something new. So, first he added truffles to the actual curd (most truffle cheeses just have truffle oil added to the rind.) And then he added truffle oil to the rind, but he didn’t stop there. He also added a menagerie of spices to the beech ash — cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, coriander, licorice and fennel.
The result? A heady yet balanced pungency with a satisfying creamy texture. Hint: Grate some Sottocenere into your Thanksgiving mashed potatoes to ramp up the wow factor!
Pairing: Truffles + champagne = happy times. It’s also phenomenal with Italian Barbera or white Burgundy.
Saxon Creamery’s Snowfields Butterkase
The cheeses that come from Saxon Homestead Creamery in Cleveland, WI all start with the milk of one herd of cows who graze on fresh grass in the summer and hay in the winter.
Jerry Heimerl and his wife Elise, along with her brothers and their families, are carrying on the dairy traditions of their ancestors who emigrated from Germany in the 1840s.
Like many American artisan cheesemakers, they tailor what cheese they make to what the cows are eating, because cheese really is seasonal. When the cows are on fresh pasture, the milk may lend itself to one style of cheese. When they move to hay, the milk gets richer in cream and protein and wants to make another kind of cheese to exploit that richness. This is why their tagline is “Flavor by Nature.”
This is one of those rich milk cheeses. They make it in the winter with limited availability milk and then they age it six months. The cheese wheels rotate through three aging rooms from winter through late summer to develop its unique flavor characteristics.
The final cheese has a rich, creamy texture with flavors of sweet milk and Parmesan notes. Sometimes you may even get a little crunch from the tyrosine crystals formed during the aging process.
Pairing: Snowfields Butterkase is perfect match with a German Riesling. We also enjoy crisp Pilsners or lager, Zinfandel, grapes, smoked ham and Chardonnay with our Butterkase.
Parish Hill Creamery’s Hermit
Ok, we admit it. We have a total “cheese crush” on Parish Hill Creamery. We love their passion, their methods and their innovation. Owner Peter Dixon has 30+ years working as a cheesemaker and consultant, training many of the famous Vermont cheesemakers. At Parish Hill, he’s joined by his talented and delightful wife Rachel and her sister Alex.
Parish Hill is all about making seasonal, handmade, raw milk cheese. They source raw milk from a nearby farm that is as committed to quality as they are. But sourcing the best milk possible isn’t enough for Parish Hill. They also make all their own starter cultures. That’s pretty rare in the cheesemaking world. Most cheesemakers just buy starter cultures from commercial firms. But not Peter. He prefers to do everything the “hard way.” He even uses a scythe to trim the fence line on his farm!
Hermit is a new addition to their lineup. It’s a washed rind cheese, washed as it ages in a Belgian quadruple ale from Hermit Thrush Brewery in Brattleboro, VT called Rowdy Monk! This is a limited availability cheese—made in small quantities and not available in Denver.
Pairings: This cheese is perfect for cocktails. Both Old Fashioneds and dry gin Martinis with a twist would offset the orange bitters taste of Hermit. We’d also enjoy a bold red like Shiraz and an English brown ale with Hermit.