Sugaring Season!

It’s sugaring season in Vermont and that means the air is filled with the sweet smell of sap bubbling away! Maple syrup is to Vermont as bagels are to NYC. They’re the best at it and they’ve been doing it a long time. Producing maple syrup is a Vermont tradition that spans generations and can be found on just about every scale from large productions you can find on grocery store shelves to independent syrup producers who make just enough for their pancakes in the morning.

Our friends at Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, VT wrote a great description of the sugaring process from sap to finish. Check it out below!

Source: http://www.jasperhillfarm.com

Sugaring.

50 degrees in mid-February? Well, it’s not the usual weather in the Northeast Kingdom, which tends towards the arctic this time of year, but for a certain set of Vermonters, the unusual warm spell we just had meant one thing: Maple Syrup season had begun. As the weather warms and snowy backroads transform into mud luge tracks, the sap of the Sugar Maples begins to rise from deep within the roots, where it has been locked up all winter, making it accessible to those seeking to tap the sweet elixir and transform it into Vermont’s other trademark product (alongside cheese of course).

When you drive through the woods of Vermont, you’ll often see hundreds of metal buckets attached to trees, or complex networks of piping winding from trunk to trunk like a giant spider web. These are the fingerprints of a maple syrup operation. At Jasper Hill, we have our own resident Sugar Maker: James Coe — who in addition to working with us is co-owner, with his wife Nella, of Ledgenear Farm in West Glover, VT, 250 acres of mixed Maple sugar woods, softwoods, hay fields and pasture. Ledgenear was for a long time a dairy farm as well, but dairying stopped in 2005, and the Coe’s have shifted their focus to sugaring and other sustainable agricultural uses. Nella and James got married in the field across the street from the sugar house. James is the resident architect at Jasper Hill and the mind behind many of the innovative designs at Jasper Hill including our new Hay Drier facility, as well as Co-Owner at the Andersonville Farm, our second dairy farm down the road.

Every year, when tapping is about to begin, Nella puts on her yellow boots, a tradition that signals the start of the season. The Coe family has been tapping the trees on this land for two generations now. When James was a child, he and his brothers would hang buckets individually on every tree. Checking on the taps and collecting the sap, bringing it back when full to add to the large evaporator pans over the wood fired arch, where the sap would be slowly cooked down. Since then they have been slowly building up the operation over the years, eventually switching over to a system of plastic tubing that runs from tree to tree (although some buckets are still used), hooking in to the tap before continuing on to the next, with the pitch adjusted just so to ensure that gravity brings all the sap to the sugar house, situated at a low point in the woods. Each tap will give around 10 gallons of sap over the season, with the largest trees tapped up to three times around the trunk.
Once there is enough sap stored at the sugarhouse, “Boiling” can begin. The sap is transferred from stainless steel storage tanks to the 4×12 evaporator.  The evaporator consists of a flat bottomed finishing pan up front, and a raised flue pan (for maximum surface area) in the back set over a brick lined “arch” where the fire is built. James “fires up the rig”, and stokes the fire every 20 minutes or so to maintain a steady, rolling boil.  The sap bubbles and foams furiously and steam fills the air.  Despite all the action in the pans, it is a slow slow process to evaporate away ~98% of the sap (water).

A sugarhouse in operation is a sight to behold, the wooden shack glowing from within as steam pours from the rig and smoke and sparks billow out of the smokestack. The interior, warm and foggy from all the water vapor, is redolent with the sweet buttery aroma of maple syrup coming into being, mixed with the smokiness of the fire. Cooking down to syrup takes a long time; 39 gallons of water have to be removed for every 1 gallon produced. Depending on how much sap has been harvested, it can be an all-night or multi-day affair. But the process itself becomes a celebration, with friends and family coming from all around to assist in the process and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Music plays, hot dogs cook in a boiling pot of maple sap, and bubbly beverages are always on hand. And if it runs into the wee hours of the morning, James will tell you that a hot cup of fresh maple syrup is as effective a pick-me-up as coffee!

Tasting the maple syrup as it’s cooking down is a part of the process, and we could experience the transformation as the warm liquid transformed from clear and mildly sweet, to gradually darkening in color and deepening in flavor.

According to James the Maple syrup is ready to “draw off” when it is at 219 degrees Fahrenheit and has a measured density of 66.9 degrees brix at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The syrup behaves differently when ready with a distinctive bubble formation and sheeting action rather than dripping when poured. At this point it will be “drawn-off” from the evaporator, filtered to remove any solids and be ready for bottling. The syrup is graded for color and flavor and categorized in the following grade A maple syrup grade standards for the state of Vermont:

“Golden Color/Delicate Taste” is the lightest in color, a pale golden color, and has a delicately sweet, original maple flavor characteristic. This is the highest quality maple syrup and the most prized.

“Amber Color/Rich Taste” will have a darker color than Golden and may have a flavor which is more pronounced than that of Golden Color/Delicate Taste, but which is not strong or unpleasant.

“Dark Color/Robust Taste” will be darker still, more towards a caramel/brown color.  It may have a flavor which is stronger than that of Amber Color / Rich Taste, but which is not sharp, bitter, buddy or off-flavor.

”Very Dark Color/Strong Taste”  has a very dark color, more towards a molasses color and opacity (The United States Department of Agriculture does not have an approved visual glass comparator which compares to the light transmittance of this grade). Very Dark Color/Strong Taste will have a flavor stronger than Dark Color/Robust Taste.

As cheesemakers, we were fascinated to learn that there is a microbiological aspect to sugaring as well. The longer the sap is stored before being cooked down, and the later it is in the season, the more microbial activity there will be in the sap. While these microbes will be essentially pasteurized out of the final product by the high temperatures, their presence nonetheless impacts the color and flavor profile of the sap, leading to a darker, more complex maple syrup.

Sap fresh from the tree is approximately 98% water, with sucrose making up the remaining 2%. As the sap is exposed to the elements and drips into the bucket, it picks up microbes, which — in a process called inversion — break some of the sucrose into fructose and glucose. Amino acids, as well, increase during the season. The additional fructose, glucose and amino acids contribute to a stronger Maillard reaction (the heat-triggered browning that we associate with grilled meat, toasted bread, caramelized sugars, etc.), which is partly why late-season maple syrup tends to be darker in color and more intense in flavor.

Among syrup aficionados, there is much debate about what the “best” profile is, with some preferring the bright, delicate flavors of a Golden Color/Delicate Taste, and others seeking out the richer, smokier, more multifaceted flavors of the darker draws. Many syrup lovers will reserve syrup for drizzling over pancakes and waffles, while the darker grades will be used as a sweetener in coffee or tea, or as a replacement for sugar or honey in baking.
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Support Women Cheesemakers!

WomensHistory

Throughout history, women have played a crucial role in cheesemaking. In honor of Women’s History Month, Saxelby Cheesemongers is celebrating women in cheese – past, present, and future! This collection includes five cheeses and one box of crackers from some of the most talented women in the business, plus a Saxelby Cheesemongers branded cheese knife. Cheeses included are:

Mini Kunik – a triple-creme blend of goat’s milk and cow cream made by Sheila Flanagan and Lorraine Lambiase at Nettle Meadow Farm.

Ascutney Mountain – a golden hued cow’s milk cheese packed with flavors ranging from roasted nuts to tropical fruits made by Jeannine Kilbride at Cobb Hill Farm.

Manchester – a firm, aged goats’ milk cheese with an aroma of fresh cut grass and asparagus stalks made by Angela Miller and Leslie Goff at Consider Bardwell Farm.

Bon Pere – a fruity, nutty Manchego-style cheese made from a mixture of 80% cows’ milk and 20% goats’ milk by Anne and Susan Gervais at Boston Post Dairy.

Appalachian – a semi-firm cow’s milk cheese with a buttery, savory flavor made by mother-daughter team Helen and Kat Feete at Meadow Creek Dairy.

Seeded Spelt Crackers –  handmade from organic, New York state ingredients by Kate Arding and Mona Talbott at Talbott & Arding.

If you’d like to learn more about the talented women behind some of our favorite cheeses, check out this article celebrating all the delicious work these women do!

Cheese And Chocolate Are For Lovers! Take 10% Off Our Cheese and Chocolate Clubs, TODAY Only!

 

Valentines01You can’t have Valentine’s Day without chocolate, or cheese, so we’ve taken our perennially popular Monthly Cheese Club and added… wait for it… chocolate! Each month for three or six months, we’ll send one half pound wedge of cheese and one bar of Raaka Chocolate that are perfectly paired. Check out these sample pairings to get an idea of the flavor epiphanies that await! Buy today and receive your first shipment on Valentine’s Day! Use discount code “bemine” for 10% off, today only!

  • Smoked Chai Chocolate with Kunik – a decadent, buttery goat/cow triple creme from Nettle Meadow Farm
  • Sea Salt Chocolate with Queso del Invierno – a creamy, citrusy and nutty sheep/cow blend from Vermont Shepherd
  • Bourbon Cask Aged Chocolate with Bayley Hazen Blue – a fudgy, sweet & salty blue cheese from Jasper Hill Farm

About Raaka Chocolate:  Raaka Chocolate (Raaka means “raw” in Finnish) is an organic chocolate producer in Red Hook Brooklyn that specializes in unroasted chocolate bars. By not roasting their cacao beans, they are allowing the unique flavors of the bean to shine through. Cheese and wine aren’t the only things that express terroir!

Join us for Valentine’s Day!

BEER + CHEESE + PIE: FOLKSBIER, SAXELBY CHEESEMONGERS, FOUR & TWENTY BLACKBIRDS

 

 

When it comes to comfort, there’s nothing better than butter!

If you can believe it, we love butter almost as much as we love cheese!! Our butter producers take care to use only rich, delicious grass-fed milk and craft each block by hand. Whether it’s gracing a slice of your favorite sourdough or finishing off a dry-aged steak, these butters are sure to turn anything they touch to gold!

Ploughgate Cultured Butter

Salted 1lb ($25)

Ploughgate Cultured Butter

Salted 8oz ($11)

Ploughgate Cultured Butter

Unsalted 8oz ($11)

Trickling Springs Butter

Salted 1lb ($25)

Trickling Springs Butter

Unsalted 1lb ($25)

Trickling Springs Goat Butter

8oz ($14)

 

Shout It From The Mountaintops: Alpine Cheeses for Winter Blues!

180101_AlpineCheeseThe mercury’s been in a downright low position lately, and seems intent on hanging out there for a bit. So rather than whine about the weather, why not warm up by stocking your pantry with some savory comfort-food-ready cheese?

Alpine cheese refers to any cheese that is made using methods similar to those made in the Alps… Think Gruyere, Emmenthaler, Comte and such. These cheeses are characterized by their firm, yet elastic texture, low salt content, and super melt-ability (yes, that’s the technical term). They have a wide array of flavors, ranging from fresh cut grass to chocolate to toasted hazelnuts depending on the forage of the animals (usually cows) whose milk was used to make them.

In the kitchen they’re chameleons, making gluttonous grilled cheese, mac and cheese magic, fabulous fondue, and gratuitously good gratins. Just slice, grate, and add to your favorite dishes for a butterfatty kick in the pants that is sure to banish the winter blues!

Spring Brook Tarentaise – $15 

pleasant-ridge-reserve_580xSpring Brook Tarentaise is a sharp, firm cheese that is sure to please just about any crowd. It is crafted in the Alpine-style, meaning that it follows the tradition of famed cheeses of the Alps like Gruyere, Beaufort, and Comte. Made from rich, raw Jersey cows’ milk in a traditional copper vat, Tarentaise is rich, complex, and full-flavored. Aged for 7 months or more, the texture is smooth and dense, with deep, nutty, and spicy flavors abounding. Hints of freshly cut grass and sweet toasted hazelnuts accent the flavor profile. Please note that all cheeses are cut to order in half pound increments, meaning that there will be a slight variance in weight. Rest assured you’ll never receive less than the quantity you order, but you might score a little bit more!

Calderwood – $12.50

20170725_saxelcheese_101_lg_580xCalderwood is a rich and robust wheel of raw cows’ milk cheese coated in finely chopped fibers of hay. The wheels are washed with brine for six months in the Cellars at Jasper Hill before being coated in hay and sealed in Cryovac. After an additional four months of aging, the cryovac is removed and the cheeses are left to dry and form a natural rind in the cellars. The finished wheels of cheese are firm nutty and complex, with hints of earth, caramel, chestnut honey, and tropical fruit.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve – $16

pleasant-ridge-reserve_580x1One of the winningest cheeses in the history of the American Cheese Society, Pleasant Ridge Reserve has taken home a few blue ribbons: 2001, 2005, and 2010. Cheesemaker Andy Hatch crafts these Alpine-style wheels just 10 weeks out of the year, when the cows are out on pasture. The flavors locked within each wheel of Pleasant Ridge are the perfect expression of the terroir of the low grassy valleys of southwestern Wisconsin in summertime. Each rich and hearty wheel sports a stately coffee brown rind, and tastes of toasted nuts and caramel. Aged between 6 to 11 months. Please note that all cheeses are cut to order in half pound increments, meaning that there will be a slight variance in weight. Rest assured you’ll never receive less than the quantity you order, but you might score a little bit more!

Fondue for You – $60

fondue-for-you_580xWhen the mercury drops and the snow begins to fall – there’s just one thing a true cheese-aholic craves – fondue! It need not be a big to-do, Saxelby’s taken care of all the cheesy details when it comes to crafting winter’s finest melted cheese dish. We’ve chosen three perfect fondue-ready cheeses, and will even throw in our favorite fondue recipe to get things started! All you need to provide is heat!

The Saxelby Exclusives Trio: cheesey collaborations with farmers, chefs and brewers

SaxExclusives

A trio of cheeses made exclusively for Saxelby Cheesemongers in collaboration with some of our favorite cheesemakers, restaurant / chef partners, and brewers! This limited-edition roundup showcases the best of the best – rare, seasonal, and delicious cheeses, each with their own story to tell.

bone_char_peal_580xBone Char Pearl

Bone Char Pearl is a mixed milk cheese (fifty percent cow and fifty percent goat) that is made at by Barbara Brooks at Seal Cove Farm in Maine. The young buttons of cheese are dusted with a fine coating of bone ash produced by Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and aged by the expert affineurs at Crown Finish Caves until they reach three weeks of age and are ripe and ready to eat! Bone Char Pearl is tangy, fudgy and distinctly earthy with a tannic and mineral finish imparted by the bone ash.

20170725_saxelcheese_101_lg_580xCalderwood

Calderwood is a rich and robust wheel of raw cows’ milk cheese coated in finely chopped fibers of hay made exclusively for Saxelby Cheesemongers by Jasper Hill Farm. The wheels are washed with brine for six months in the Cellars at Jasper Hill before being coated in hay and sealed in Cryovac. After an additional four months of aging in hay, the cryovac is removed and the cheeses are left to dry and form a natural rind in the cellars. The finished wheels of cheese are firm nutty and complex, with hints of earth, caramel, chestnut honey, toasted bread, and tropical fruit.

folksbier_willoughby_square_580xFolksbier

A pungent, limited edition collaboration between Saxelby Cheesemongers, Jasper Hill Farm, and Folksbier Brauerei! Willoughby is an odoriferous round of washed rind cows’ milk cheese that is normally washed with a salt brine. However, this special batch has been washed with Folksbier’s ‘Recurring Dreams’, an American pale ale with a citrusy, herbal kick. Recurring Dreams is a continuing series at Folksbier that explores the NE-style pale ale through modifying variables batch to batch, a repeated process with subtle yet distinguishable changes.

One Day Only: Take 15% off all of our monthly clubs!

CyberMonday.pngGet out of your turkey comas and head to Saxelbycheese.com for the ultimate cheese-lover’s Cyber Monday deal! Today only, we’re offering our legendary monthly cheese clubs and cheese and chocolate clubs for 15% off!

Each month, you’ll get a handpicked selection of the best American farmstead cheeses available delivered right to your door, along with tasting notes and detailed producer information. Makes the perfect gift for both seasoned and aspiring curd nerds alike!!

full-cheese-collection-sq

Chocolate lovers rejoice!! Our Brooklyn neighbors and bean-to-car chocolatiers Raaka are offering 50% off the first month of their First Nibs monthly chocolate subscription! Use the discount code “50FN” on their site and delight your favorite choco-holic this Holiday season!

One stop cheese shop: order your Thanksgiving cheese plate today!!

CheeseplateWith all of the running around and last-minute chores that (inevitably) come alongside the joys of Thanksgiving, why not leave an entire course to us!!

We’ve curated a range of perfectly composed cheese plates for this very purpose, and our Cheese and Charcuterie gift set comes with everything you need to lay out the perfect spread of cocktail hour apps! This set includes three wedges of American farmstead cheeses, accompaniments and delicious cured goodness from Olympia Provisions and from Cesare Casella, the country newest salumist churning out delicious prosciutto from heritage hogs in Rhode Island!

Remember to place your order by midnight tonight to receive your delicious cheese by Thanksgiving!!!

Chef Spotlight: Greg Baxtrom of Olmsted

HarbsionOne of our favorite things here at Saxelby is getting out into the field to see how our chef partners are using our American farmstead cheeses in creative ways! We serve over 100 restaurants in the NYC area, and each one has their own ways of highlighting the unique, handcrafted products we provide them with.

This week, we’re putting the spotlight on chef Greg Baxtrom of Brooklyn restaurant Olmsted, who has devised a way to turn Jasper Hill Farm’s Harbison into a theatrical experience for all five senses!

A veteran of Chicago sensation Alinea and NYC’s legendary Blue Hill, Baxtrom has pulled together influences from both kitchens to create a dish that is thoughtful and conceptual, while at the same time down-to-earth and ingredient forward.

The delicate, pudding-soft wheels of Harbison are split in two and bruleed with a hand torch. The spruce bark girdle surrounding the cheese, combined with the mold rind, turn the exterior of the Harbison into its own fondue pot, while the flavorful paste inside browns and bubbles. To a perfect gooey consistency. The cheese is presented with a torched pine branch, adding an extra aroma and highlighting the cheese’s forest and resinous flavors.

Being a seasonal restaurant (with its own culinary garden!), Olmsted’s menu changes quickly and often. However, this memorable piece has been one of the few items that had remained consistent since their opening!

Whether you torch it, broil it or simply dig in with some bread and a spoon, Jasper Hill’s Harbison is an American artisan original and a perfect dinner table centerpiece for the Holiday season!

Chef Baxtrom in Action