Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Alpha Tolman: Cheese # 1 in the Jasper Hill's Cheese Series

Over the recent extended Memorial Day weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Jasper Hill Cellars and Creamery in Greensboro Vermont.The facility is state of the art and simply quite amazing. I was truly impressed by the attention to detail throughout all the stages of production and aging  of their cheeses and the mandatory sanitary procedures throughout the facility.
I will be reviewing all of the cheeses that are produced or aged at Jasper Hill. I would like to note that all of these cheeses are wonderful examples of artisan cheese production and affinage.

The Cellars at Jasper Hill is an innovative 22,00 sq ft underground facility. The Cellars were constructed for the purpose of providing affinage, or aging expertise, as well as distribution and marketing services for local cheesemakers so that they may access the burgeoning market for artisan cheese nationwide.

I would like to thank the marketing team at Jasper Hill for allowing me to liberally use their ad copy and photos.

ALPHA TOLMAN is named for a philanthropic dairy farmer who built the Greensboro library in 1900. Alpha's grandfather, Enoch, was one of the town's original settlers. Alpha's namesake cheese is made in a satellite creamery, located within the Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick, VT - a facility designed to incubate value-added projects and enrich our agricultural economy.

True to the Alpine cheese making tradition Alpha Tolman is a cooked raw milk cheese. Rennet is added to the milk to form the curd, which is then pressed into molds to expel any whey that is left. The newly formed cheeses are then washed in brine which helps to form the rind and gives them a funky edge. The formed cheeses are then set to age between 8 to 11 months in the Cellars humidity and temperature controlled cave.. Alpha Tolman has a buttery, nutty and fruity flavor when young, developing bold meaty, caramelized onion flavors as it matures. The inner paste has a light straw color and has a thin outer rind. The texture is dense and pliant, easy to cut and ideal for melting.

When shopping for Alpha Tolman look for a cheese that is not dry or cracked as this is a sign of a wonderful cheese past it's prime The texture, aesthetic, and flavor make Alpha Tolman an ideal choice for fans of Appenzeller (or fondue!).For a satisfying meal, follow the lead of Swiss/French raclette – melt onto a serving of fingerling potatoes, cured meat and natural sour pickles.

Wine Pairing: Big jammy New York reds with a younger version or a locally brewed porter or ale with a more mature cheese.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Maytag Blue: A Great American Blue Cheese

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Maytag Blue Cheese is made in Iowa on the Maytag family farm in Newton Iowa and has been a prized American farmstead cheese since the early 1940's. 

 Maytag Blue is made from unpasteurized cow's milk  from the Holstein - Friesian cows that graze on the farm and Penicillium Roqueforti molds. Each step of its production is still done by hand. The raw milk is entered into vats and rennet is added to form the curd. The curd is then ladled into hoops and formed into four pound wheels. The cheese wheels are then seeded with the mold and left to age for six months in cellars on the farm. When the cheeses are fully aged they are wrapped in Maytag's iconic blue and silver foil.

The finished cheeses have a light straw colored paste and ample blue veining, a nice peppery zing and wonderful crumbly but creamy texture. Maytag Blue's flavor will become more assertive as it ages and this cheese holds up well so this is not a bad thing. If you enjoy Roquefort, Cabrales or Stilton give this American classic a try and I promise that you will not be disappointed.

When shopping for Maytag Blue do not purchase any that have a grayish tint to the paste or are excessively runny. These are signs of excessive aging and will make for a very unpleasant purchase . As noted above this cheese will hold up pretty well so wrap it in wax paper or tin foil and place it in the refrigerator but remember to keep it separated from other foods and cheeses.

You can serve Maytag Blue crumbled over salads or melt it over grilled burgers. It also makes a great blue cheese dressing.

Wine pairing: Strong domestic reds or sweet whites like Sauternes. It also goes well with medium bodied ales.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Halloumi: The Grilling Cheese From Cyprus

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Halloumi is a cheese from the island of Cyprus and is often called the grilling cheese. In 2006 Halloumi was allowed to be promoted in the United States, Europe and Canada through an agreement with the Cyprus Ministry of Commerce and Tourism. This agreement has opened the doors of export to these three markets and has made this interesting and unique cheese easier to find.

Hallumi is made from sheep milk in the old traditional way in both small villages and modern factories. The milk is pasteurized and then allowed cool before the rennet is added. When the curd has formed it is pressed into molds and cooked in the expelled whey water. The cheese is then dry salted, folded, seasoned with fresh mint and brined for 24 hours. The resulting cheeses are then vacuum packed and aged while being kept refrigerated below 7C /44.6F

Halloumi has an odd mouth feel that is almost rubbery and it squeaks when chewed. This may seem strange or  unbelievable, but it is true. The cheese has an off white paste that has a semi firm texture, and a slightly salty milky flavor with a touch of mint. Another unique aspect of this cheese is that it does not melt when it is heated so it is great for grilling or skewered with meat and vegetables. This cheese is wonderful when it is grilled to a golden yellow on both sides and served with eggs or sauteed vegetables. It is also great grilled  on top of crusty bread covered with bruschetta. The locals on Cyprus enjoy it served at room temperature with chilled watermelon during the summer. Even though it is semi firm Halloumi can be shredded and used in omelets and over salads.

Halloumi has become quite popular and can be found in most supermarkets and specialty food shops.Try to find the Shepherds of Cyprus brand if possible.