In 2011, The American Cheese Society in conjunction with John Hickenlooper, the Governor of the State of Colorado, proclaimed October as American Cheese Month, “ a celebration of North America’s delicious and diverse cheeses, and the farmers, cheesemakers, retailers, cheesemongers, and chefs who bring them to your table.” In honor of American Cheese Month 2013, I invite you to participate in the CHOW Cheese of the Month – American Cheeses.
The American cheese market has really grown in recent decades and there are innumerable wonderful cheeses being produced. To focus the discussion and learn the most from each other’s tasting experiences, I have selected a few categories and a select cheese within each category as the inspiration of an “American cheese plate,” if you will. Of course, if another cheese within these categories catches your eye (or your tongue), please feel free to explore and share your thoughts here.
1. Hard cheese: Clothbound cheddar – Cheddar is a hard, sharp cheese which originates from the Somerset County Village of Cheddar in Southwest England. It is produced via a process called cheddaring which involves cutting the curd into blocks, which are then turned and stacked at the bottom of the cheese vat at intervals of ten to fifteen minutes for 1.5 hours. The milk is then set, cut, cooked lightly and allowed to mat at a warm temperature. The cheese is then aged as a block or in a cloth. In contrast to block cheddar, Clothbound cheddar aka “English” cheddar is shaped into cylinders which are wrapped in permeable cheesecloth and aged in environmentally-controlled caves. These cheeses are usually earthier than block Cheddars with hearty, toasty, and nutty flavors.
FLORY'S TRUCKLE - MILTON CREAMERY www.miltoncreamery.com/cheese/florys-...
A clothbound cheddar which is made from the raw milk of Flory’s jersey cows. The curds are wrapped in cloth-lined truckles (= cylinder shapes), aged for 60 days on wooden shelves, and then transported to Iowa where they are aged for 12 months in a specially designed facility. It has a salty, caramel flavor like Gouda with grassy notes.
Cabot Clothbound – Cabot Creamery www.cellarsatjasperhill.com/index.php...
Flagship Reserve - Beecher’s Hand Made Cheese www.beechershandmadecheese.com/home.aspx
Bandage Wrapped Cheddar - Fiscalini Farmstead www.fiscalinicheese.com/cheeses.php
2. Soft-ripened cheese – These cheeses are ripened from outside in, very soft and often runny at room temperature. The most common soft-ripened cheeses have a white, bloomy rind that is sometimes flecked with red or brown. The rind is edible and is produced by spraying the surface of the cheese with a special mold called Penicillium candidum before the brief aging period. This category includes Brie and Camembert styles, Camembert, and triple crèmes.”
NANCY'S HUDSON VALLEY CAMEMBERT - OLD CHATHAM SHEEPHERDING COMPANY
A camembert-style meltingly creamy cheese, named after the co-owner of the company, made from a blend of Old Chatham sheep’s milk and cow’s milk. The texture is semi-soft in the center, and smoother and softer just under the rind becoming runnier with age. Smooth and buttery flavor, like very rich ice cream notes of hay, grass and savory vegetal.
Mt. Tam – Cowgirl Creamery
Triple crème, www.cowgirlcreamery.com/library-of-ch...
Truffle Tremor – Cypress Grove
Flavored, goat, www.cypressgrovechevre.com/our-cheese...
Harbison - Jasper Hill
Traditional Brie - Marin French Cheese www.marinfrenchcheese.com/#cheeses
3. Sheep’s milk cheese: Sheep’s milk cheeses are characteristically rich and earthy with grassy aromas and savory flavors. Sheep’s milk cheeses comprise a smaller fraction of the cheese market in the US as compared to Europe, but the availability of pure sheep’s milk and mixed sheep’s milk cheeses is growing rapidly.
VERANO - VERMONT SHEPHERD
A natural rind cheese, produced only during the spring and summer, which is aged 4 to 8 months on wooden boards in the Vermont Shepherd aging caves. The cheese is available from August until the supply is exhausted
Dante - Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative
4. Blue cheese: Blue cheeses can be classified into all categories of cheese, except fresh cheeses. They are distinguished as cheeses that have distinctive blue/green veining, created when spores of Penicillium roqueforti, Penicillium gorgonzola or Penicillium glaucum, which are added during the cheesemaking process, are exposed to air. The mold provides a distinct flavor to the cheese
RIVER BLUE AND CAVEMAN BLUE - ROGUE CREAMERY
River Blue, Rogue Creamery
A blue cheese wrapped in grape leaves that have been macerated in pear brandy. Its forward, well-aged flavor tastes of brandy, fruit and burnt cream with a creamy, crunchy-smooth texture. Flavors include hints of sweet pine, wild ripened berries, hazelnuts, morels and pears. The cheese is made during the autumnal equinox and before the winter solstice from Brown Swiss and Holstein cow’s milk and aged a minimum of 9 months.
Caveman Blue, Rogue Creamery
A rich, complex blue, aged a minimum of 6 months, that is a deliciously sweet and fruity with slight vanilla tones and a texture of butter and crystal with tastes of sweet, buttermilk with nuances of beef and bacon, tropical fruit, and hay.
Two-faced blue – Willapa
Maytag - Maytag Dairy Farms
Other sites of possible interest: