CHEESE NOTES

High-res This amber-hued wedge is the Stompetoren Grand Cru, an 18-month aged Gouda that is a  beautiful example of the category. The Stompetoren is made by CONO Kaasmakers, a cooperative of 500 dairy farmers in the north of Holland, about 40 kilometers north of Amsterdam, in the Beemster region of the Netherlands, and is distributed by Kaashandel Remijn. The region is a bit inland, but like much of the country is lowlands and influenced by the nearby ocean coasts, with rich clay soil and sea air making it excellent dairy country. As Peter Verweij of Kaashandel told me, the cheese ages at a slightly higher temperature and humidity, and the caves utilize “ionization” to precisely control the conditions within the caves, allowing for the final product to have a higher moisture and softer texture while also capturing the trademark flavors of an aged gouda.
The honey-gold paste is dense and creamy, fragmenting into big shards when cut, and scattered with tyrosine crystals, giving the cheese a pleasing crunch on the palette. The flavor is rich, sweet and buttery, with butterscotch, whiskey, and hazelnut notes, and a little sharp. The Stompetoren is available at different age points, with the Grand Cru being the longest-aged. 
Purchased at Bedford Cheese Shop. 

This amber-hued wedge is the Stompetoren Grand Cru, an 18-month aged Gouda that is a  beautiful example of the category. The Stompetoren is made by CONO Kaasmakers, a cooperative of 500 dairy farmers in the north of Holland, about 40 kilometers north of Amsterdam, in the Beemster region of the Netherlands, and is distributed by Kaashandel Remijn. The region is a bit inland, but like much of the country is lowlands and influenced by the nearby ocean coasts, with rich clay soil and sea air making it excellent dairy country. As Peter Verweij of Kaashandel told me, the cheese ages at a slightly higher temperature and humidity, and the caves utilize “ionization” to precisely control the conditions within the caves, allowing for the final product to have a higher moisture and softer texture while also capturing the trademark flavors of an aged gouda.

The honey-gold paste is dense and creamy, fragmenting into big shards when cut, and scattered with tyrosine crystals, giving the cheese a pleasing crunch on the palette. The flavor is rich, sweet and buttery, with butterscotch, whiskey, and hazelnut notes, and a little sharp. The Stompetoren is available at different age points, with the Grand Cru being the longest-aged. 

Purchased at Bedford Cheese Shop

Yahoo Food asked some of the cheese experts at the Cellars at Jasper Hill to put together a list of cheeses you might not expect to find on cheeseburger — but should (pictured are my photos of some of the cheeses listed): 

10 Cheeses You Would Never Think to Put on a Burger

What do you get when you mix National Cheeseburger Day with four expert Vermont cheesemongers? 

You get a whole lot of awesome, is what—the sorts of unique combos that will make you totally re-think your go-to orange American slice or fat, doesn’t-melt-so-well hunk of cheddar.

The fine folks at Jasper Hill Farm, who make the unctuous blue cheese pictured above, put their heads together to create this crack list of the top 10 cheeses you should slap on your next burger.

The cheeses include: Mons Gabietou, Neal’s Yard Dairy Kirkham’s Lancashire, Columbia Cheese Scharfe Maxx, Spring Brook Farm Reading, Roelli Dunbarton Blue Cheddar, Vermont Creamery Fresh Chèvre, Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk, Landaff Creamery Landaff, Bayley Hazen Blue and Cabot Hot Buffalo Wing Cheddar.

Click through for the full descriptions!  

High-res Close up on the beautiful, stony rind of the Walton Umber, from Jos Vulto of Vulto Creamery. Jos has been discussed many times on this blog, and was a former fellow urban cheesemaking club member, aging his cheeses under the sidewalks of Brooklyn at one point, before he opened his creamery in Walton, NY (you can read about him in my piece for Modern Farmer). 
Jos is best known for his washed rind cheeses, the absinthe-washed Miranda being his most celebrated, but the Walton Umber has roots going back to Jos’ earliest cheesemaking experiments. I found this post from Jos’ own blog, from way back in 2010, when he first announced the development of this cheese. Amazing to see how far he’s come since then!
The Walton Umber is a raw cow’s milk, basket molded tomme, gray-brown on the rustic rind with a semi-firm, pale yellow paste underneath. This particular wheel was a bit darker brown on the rind than past versions I’ve had. With a musty, wet-stone aroma, flavors are sweet, earthy and a little bit tangy, with nutty, gamey and wet-hay notes. 
Purchased at Bedford Cheese Shop. 

Close up on the beautiful, stony rind of the Walton Umber, from Jos Vulto of Vulto Creamery. Jos has been discussed many times on this blog, and was a former fellow urban cheesemaking club member, aging his cheeses under the sidewalks of Brooklyn at one point, before he opened his creamery in Walton, NY (you can read about him in my piece for Modern Farmer). 

Jos is best known for his washed rind cheeses, the absinthe-washed Miranda being his most celebrated, but the Walton Umber has roots going back to Jos’ earliest cheesemaking experiments. I found this post from Jos’ own blog, from way back in 2010, when he first announced the development of this cheese. Amazing to see how far he’s come since then!

The Walton Umber is a raw cow’s milk, basket molded tomme, gray-brown on the rustic rind with a semi-firm, pale yellow paste underneath. This particular wheel was a bit darker brown on the rind than past versions I’ve had. With a musty, wet-stone aroma, flavors are sweet, earthy and a little bit tangy, with nutty, gamey and wet-hay notes. 

Purchased at Bedford Cheese Shop

High-res PRI reports on Jay’s Organic Cheese, an unlikely cheesemaking operation located in the heart of Russia and owned by an American expat: 

Meet Russia’s unlikely poster boy — and cheesemaker — for its embargo on Western goods
With Russia’s bans on Western food in place, Jay Close has had trouble keeping enough cheese on the shelf. “I don’t think I can meet the demand, but if I don’t sleep, I can try,” he says.
On a farm a few hours outside of Moscow, you can find a hand-drawn sign that reads, “Jay’s Organic Cheese Farm.” It belongs to Jay Close, one of the food producers in Russia who’s reaping the benefits of Russia’s embargo on Western foods. Jay is an unlikely poster boy for Russian agriculture, though. For one thing, he’s American. Perhaps because of that, Russian media have showered attention on this local farmer who has the gift for gab in both English and Russian. 
Ever since Russia responded to US and European sanctions by banning Western foodstuffs, Russia’s government has looked to Jay and other local producers to pick up the slack for cheese, dairy, meats and other banned goods. For Jay, that’s meant long hours and little sleep.
“The mayor came to me and said, ‘Jay, can you meet the demand for European cheese?’” he recalls. “Yeah, right. I got like six cows to feed the Russian masses on my little farm.”
These days, they produce some 75 kilograms of cheese daily. Their stock includes familiar standards like gouda, cheddar, goat, mozzerella and ricotta — varieties many Russians are used to importing from the West. 
“I’ve been to a few stores and there’s some European cheese left over, but I guess that’s all coming to an end,” says Jay. He fields constant phone calls for orders.

Read the full post.
(Photo ©2014 PRI.org)

PRI reports on Jay’s Organic Cheese, an unlikely cheesemaking operation located in the heart of Russia and owned by an American expat: 

Meet Russia’s unlikely poster boy — and cheesemaker — for its embargo on Western goods

With Russia’s bans on Western food in place, Jay Close has had trouble keeping enough cheese on the shelf. “I don’t think I can meet the demand, but if I don’t sleep, I can try,” he says.

On a farm a few hours outside of Moscow, you can find a hand-drawn sign that reads, “Jay’s Organic Cheese Farm.” It belongs to Jay Close, one of the food producers in Russia who’s reaping the benefits of Russia’s embargo on Western foods. Jay is an unlikely poster boy for Russian agriculture, though. For one thing, he’s American. Perhaps because of that, Russian media have showered attention on this local farmer who has the gift for gab in both English and Russian. 

Ever since Russia responded to US and European sanctions by banning Western foodstuffs, Russia’s government has looked to Jay and other local producers to pick up the slack for cheese, dairy, meats and other banned goods. For Jay, that’s meant long hours and little sleep.

“The mayor came to me and said, ‘Jay, can you meet the demand for European cheese?’” he recalls. “Yeah, right. I got like six cows to feed the Russian masses on my little farm.”

These days, they produce some 75 kilograms of cheese daily. Their stock includes familiar standards like gouda, cheddar, goat, mozzerella and ricotta — varieties many Russians are used to importing from the West. 

“I’ve been to a few stores and there’s some European cheese left over, but I guess that’s all coming to an end,” says Jay. He fields constant phone calls for orders.

Read the full post.

(Photo ©2014 PRI.org)

Letter and Call to Action from the American Cheese Society regarding the FDA and Non-toxigenic E. coli

Rebecca Orozco of the American Cheese Society recently posted a letter to a cheese-related group on Facebook, detailing recent events and actions pertaining to FDA regulations regarding non-toxigenic E. coli. With her permission I’m reposting it here. If you’re a cheese professional, respond to the call for public comments at www.regulations.gov. Via the American Cheese Society

With so many questions swirling around the regulation of non-toxigenic E. coli in cheese, ACS is posting below with the latest information we have, and a call to action for industry members.

Since meeting with FDA reps in Sacramento, we have been engaging with FDA around issues that impact our members – one of which is acceptable limits for non-toxigenic E. coli in cheese. At issue is a 2010 Compliance Program Guideline (CPG) that calls for all milk products to have <10 MPN/g (Most Probable Number/g) of non-toxigenic E. coli in at least 3 of 5 subsamples – with no samples greater than 100 MPN/g. This is lower than the amount allowed in the existing compliance program (<10,000 MPN/g), and it also lowers the amount proposed in the 2009 Draft version of the CPG, which specified a higher limit for raw milk cheeses (<100 MPN/g in at least 3 of 5 subsamples, with no samples greater than 1,000 MPN/g).

ACS reached out to FDA for an explanation of the reasoning behind lowering the permissible levels in the 2010 CPG, as well as for removing language that specifically addressed raw milk cheese. In its response to ACS, FDA made a correction to its testing protocol, increasing the number of subsamples allowed to exceed the 10 MPN/g limit from 1-of-10 to 2-of-5, as long as no sample exceeds 100 MPN/g. FDA claims that 95% of raw milk cheeses would meet these guidelines, based on the results of their raw milk pilot testing program.

The CPG has been in place since 2010, so it isn’t new. However, it is only recently that we have been made aware of enforcement of this guideline. We have requested additional clarification from FDA as to what data led to the change in the compliance policy, and to gain an understanding of any public health risks stemming from non-toxigenic E. coli that are of concern to FDA. In FDA’s pilot testing program, 885 raw milk cheeses have been sampled thus far. Of those, 2 tested positive for Salmonella spp., 3 for Listeria monocytogenes, and none for E. Coli O157:H7. The positive samples came from imported, not domestically-produced, cheeses. This indicates a pathogen contamination rate of less than 1% for raw milk cheeses.

You can see FDA’s latest public update, which also includes information about internationally-produced cheeses that have been placed on Import Alert, here: http://www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/ucm413309.htm

So, where do members of this group come in? FDA has asked for stakeholder comments to the 2010 CPG, and thus far, only 3 comments have been submitted! We need more cheese professionals to provide comments at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2009-D-0466-0008. If you need some guidance or suggestions, please see below:

Comment on how this issue may impact your business, such as:

  1. Consumer demand for cheeses to which you now have limited access.
  2. Financial losses due to lack of inventory and/or delayed shipments leading to waste.
  3. Other challenges you face due to enforcement of the <10 MPN/g guideline.
  4. Ask why the allowable limits were lowered, and what foodborne illness outbreaks have been linked to non-toxigenic E. coli levels over 10 MPN/g.
  5. Request that FDA included language/limits in the Compliance Policy Guideline allowing for differences between cheeses made from pasteurized and non-pasteurized milk.
  6. State that limits should be based on science, consider public health risks, and be realistic and consistently attainable for producers.


Thanks in advance for your support! We will continue to share updates as we receive them via our CheeseBytes newsletter, our Facebook page, and from time to time through this group.

Best,

Rebecca Orozco
Marketing & Communications Director
American Cheese Society

Cheesemongers of Santa Fe coming to New Mexico

The Santa Fe Reporter brings the story of New Mexico’s newest cheese shop, set to open shortly: 

Queso: Hurrah, Hurrah!
Northern NM’s first proper brick-and-mortar cheese shop to focus on artisan, farmstead producers

Do a quick web search of “New Mexico cheese shops” and you’ll be lucky to find anything more interesting than a Hickory Farms outlet in Albuquerque. True, venues like Kaune’s Neighborhood Market, La Montañita Co-op and the Santa Fe Farmers Market offer a decent variety of cheeses in town, but they certainly don’t specialize in them.

John Gutierrez, however, does. Co-owner and proprietor of Cheesemongers of Santa Fe (130 E Marcy St., 405-642-8782), which is set to open in September in a former downtown office building just a cheddar wedge’s throw from the SFR mother ship, Gutierrez is Le Grand Fromage of fromage—a Dairy King and a passionate one. A Germany-born military brat with close family ties to Taos and Northern New Mexico, Gutierrez takes cheese so seriously that we had to reschedule an interview while he attended the American Cheese Society Conference in Sacramento, Calif., a few weeks ago.

Major construction began in May on the interior of the Cheesemongers of Santa Fe shop, which boasts about 1,000-square-feet of gorgeous wood-floored display and counter space, a scullery (a small wash area), storage units for keeping cheeses at their proper temperatures and offices. A few of the cheese cases, which, Gutierrez notes with more than a hint of nostalgia, are the original cheese cases from Forward Foods in Oklahoma, will hold between 100 and 150 different varieties of cut-to-order cheese. Up to 50 more selections will be available around the holidays. “We’re aiming for a 50-50 split between domestic and international cheeses,” Gutierrez says, “and we’ll carry some New Mexico cheeses too, like selections from the Old Windmill Dairy in Estancia.”

Read the full story.

(Photo ©2014 Santa Fe Reporter)

High-res If you&#8217;re anywhere near Duke University, this is an event not to miss, featuring Heather Paxson (anthropologist and author of The Life of Cheese), Ben Wolfe (Microbialfoods.org) and Portia McKnight of Chapel Hill Creamery. I&#8217;ve seen both Heather and Ben speak, so it&#8217;s a guarantee that it will be an informative and entertaining evening: 

Subnatural Cultures in and Around the Creamery from Science to Animals and Art: A Talk, Tasting, and Art Opening
Place: Jameson Gallery- Friedl Building- Duke East Campus
People: Heather Paxson (Anthropology, MIT), Ben Wolfe (Biology, Tufts University), and Portia McKnight (Chapel Hill Creamery)
Description: Heather Paxson (Anthropology, MIT), Ben Wolfe (Biology, Tufts University), and Portia McKnight (Chapel Hill Creamery) will lead a post-pasteurian talk, round table and tasting at the Jameson Gallery explaining how the microbial life of &#8220;fragrant &#8221; cheeses constitutes a &#8220;subnature&#8221; worth reconsidering. Subnature is a term coined by David Gissen to categorize what architects have historically referred to as marginalized spaces in building and landscapes (darkness, dankness, weeds, mud, smoke, dust, etc.), but which have been reappropriated and made into aesthetically pleasurable and functional places. Heather, Ben, and Portia will test this architectural paradigm in the realm of cuisine, discussing the subnature of stinky cheeses from a transdisciplinary, theoretical, and applied point of view. Jennifer Stratton (MFA, Duke) will provide a tour and answer questions about the &#8220;subnatural installation&#8221; she is curating in the same space over samples of local cheese, kombucha, and earthy beer.
For a sample of Ben, Heather and the sorts of questions that will be addressed, pls. see:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ej4BP64BsU

If you’re anywhere near Duke University, this is an event not to miss, featuring Heather Paxson (anthropologist and author of The Life of Cheese), Ben Wolfe (Microbialfoods.org) and Portia McKnight of Chapel Hill Creamery. I’ve seen both Heather and Ben speak, so it’s a guarantee that it will be an informative and entertaining evening: 

Subnatural Cultures in and Around the Creamery from Science to Animals and Art: A Talk, Tasting, and Art Opening

Place: Jameson Gallery- Friedl Building- Duke East Campus

People: Heather Paxson (Anthropology, MIT), Ben Wolfe (Biology, Tufts University), and Portia McKnight (Chapel Hill Creamery)

Description: Heather Paxson (Anthropology, MIT), Ben Wolfe (Biology, Tufts University), and Portia McKnight (Chapel Hill Creamery) will lead a post-pasteurian talk, round table and tasting at the Jameson Gallery explaining how the microbial life of “fragrant ” cheeses constitutes a “subnature” worth reconsidering. Subnature is a term coined by David Gissen to categorize what architects have historically referred to as marginalized spaces in building and landscapes (darkness, dankness, weeds, mud, smoke, dust, etc.), but which have been reappropriated and made into aesthetically pleasurable and functional places. Heather, Ben, and Portia will test this architectural paradigm in the realm of cuisine, discussing the subnature of stinky cheeses from a transdisciplinary, theoretical, and applied point of view. Jennifer Stratton (MFA, Duke) will provide a tour and answer questions about the “subnatural installation” she is curating in the same space over samples of local cheese, kombucha, and earthy beer.

For a sample of Ben, Heather and the sorts of questions that will be addressed, pls. see:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ej4BP64BsU

Head up, Nashville-area folks, The Southern Artisan Cheese Festival is returning this September 27th! The South’s cheese scene has experienced tremendous growth and development in the last decade, and this is a great opportunity to sample the the wares of producers new and established. 

SOUTHERN ARTISAN CHEESE FESTIVAL

Saturday, September 27th
2:00 - 6:00pm
At the historic Neuhoff Building in Nasvhille, TN

Cheesemakers and food artisans from eight states come together to celebrate the growing movement of handcrafted foods here in the South. Festival attendees sample any of hundreds of small batch cheeses, cured meats, jams, breads, crackers, pickles, and more. The good folks who create these amazing foods are here to chat and will offer their goods for sale so you can take home your favorites.  Regional craft beers and a selection of cheese-friendly wines are included with your ticket to sip while you nosh and socialize.

Cheesemakers: Belle Chevre AL  |  Blackberry Farm TN  |  Boone Creek Creamery KY  |  Capriole Goat Cheese  IN  |  Caromont Farm VA  |  English Farmstead Cheese NC  |  Good Shepherd Cheese KY  |   Greendale Farm GA    |  Kenny’s Farmhouse KY  |  Kent Walker Cheese AR  |  Manyfold Farm GA  |  Nature’s Harmony   GA  |  Noble Springs Dairy  TN  |  Paradox Farm NC  |  Prodigal Farm NC  |  Sequatchie Cove Creamery   TN  |   Sweet Grass Dairy GA  |  White River Creamery AR  |  And one honorary southerner: Marcoot Jersey Creamery in IL

Get your tickets here

(Photos ©2014 Southern Artisan Cheese Festival)

Culture.pl, the “comprehensive source of knowledge about Polish culture”, has a nice piece about Oscypek, a traditional smoked sheep’s milk cheese with a unique appearance:  

Food Fundamentals: Osycpek

Oscypek (os-TSEH-peck) is a decorative traditional spindle shaped smoked sheep’s cheese from the Podhale region.

Since 2008 the cheese is a protected trade name under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin geographical indication. Two things are needed to create the regional speciality: a special breed of sheep called Polish Mountain Sheep, a shepherd, a small mountain hut with a hearth, a shepherd’s apprentice and a pastureland. This seasonal cheese is produced from May to September during sheep milking season (sometimes small amounts of milk from a special breed of cow - the Polish Red Cow is added).

The sheep of the Podhale region feed on a variety of vegetation. What they eat can be tasted in their milk and therefore the cheese. The shepherd apprentices, who look after the sheep the entire season and rarely leave the mountains in that period, have a demanding job. The animals require milking three times per day. And sheep herds have a couple hundred specimens. The milk is poured through a linen cloth into a wooden bucket, then dried rennet is added. The curdled substance is squeezed from the whey and shaped like a spindle. The decorative elements are made by putting the cheese in a wooden mould. The 17 to 23 cm long oscypek is then dipped in brine and placed under the roof of the mountain hut. It is smoked in cold smoke coming from a small fire inside the hut. The cheese matures for a period between a few to a dozen or so days. It becomes flavoured and golden.

Read the full post.

(Photos ©2014 culture.pl)