This rosy little button of cheese is the Miranda, from urban cheesemaker extraordinaire Jos Vulto of Vulto Creamery. He’s actually no longer an urban cheesemaker per se —having built himself a cheesemaking facility in Walton, NY (in the Catskills, about 3 hours north of the city) — and now splits his time between Brooklyn and Walton, heading up there to make and age his cheeses and bringing them back to be distributed at a limited number of cheese counters in the city, as well as selling them himself at the farmer’s market at McGolrick Park in Greenpoint. He’s only been up and running in a licensed facility for less than a year and batches are still small, but already the reception has been excellent among cheesemakers and turophiles alike. You can learn more about Jos (and some other “urban cheesemakers”) in the post I wrote for Modern Farmer in July 2013.
His main cheese currently is the Ouleout, a washed-rind wheel roughly in the vein of a Taleggio (you can see some beautiful shots of the Ouleout on the Vulto Creamery Instagram). The Miranda is essentially the same style as the Ouleout, and is made from the last curds of the Ouleout batches. Whereas the Ouleout comes in a larger format, 8” or so in diameter, the Miranda goes into small italian cheese moulds, producing the little towers some 3” in diameter and height. Because the curds are the last in the vat, they tend to be a little dryer than the Ouleout curds. They also get a light pressing by stacking the mould on top of each other.
What really distinguishes the Miranda, however, is the wash. Whereas the Ouleout gets a basic brine wash, the Miranda is treated with the herbal spirit of absinthe, made by Cheryl Lins at Delaware Phoenix Distillery, a Walton-based distillery. This is definitely the first absinthe-washed cheese I’ve ever encountered (although if you know of others both I and Jos would be curious to hear about them!), although the cheese does not have a bright green color, nor does consuming it induce artistic outbursts or hallucinations.
The appearance of the Miranda is particularly striking, a small tower with slightly concave sides and a bit of mushrooming at top and bottom, with distinct grooves lining it vertically. The rind is a deep pinkish-red color with a frosting of white, with a bit of grit to it from the washes. Cutting it open reveals the pale-yellow paste, velvety and buttery, oozing at the creamline, with a scattering of eyes and fissures. The aroma is pungent and funky without being challenging.
The flavors have the trademarks of a great Taleggio: brothy, meaty, savory and earthy, with nutty and grassy notes and a bit of barnyard; the absinthe wash lends it additional complexity, subtle fruity and yeasty hints, a bit of sour and tang on the finish.
Availability is currently spotty as it’s a very limited edition cheese, but you may find it at Bedford Cheese Shop, Campbell’s, Greene Grape Provisions, or Eataly, with more locations coming in the future.
There is personal significance to this cheese for Jos, as well; I’ll let Jos express it in his own words: "This cheese is produced in a limited edition in the honor of my late wife Miranda, who died in December 2012. She was a great supporter of my cheese making venture and a beacon for me to hold on when I was overcome by doubts. One of her wishes was to have a cheese named after her. The absinthe is produced by Delaware Phoenix Distillery in the same village in upstate New York as the cheese. It is appropriately named ‘Meadow of Love’".
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