Blue Ribbon Beauties – Award-Winning Cheeses From Saxelby’s Collection

ACS Winners.jpg

Everybody loves a winner! We’re tickled pink by the tremendous response we’ve had to the recent Wall Street Journal roundup of American Cheese Society award-winning cheeses. Check out the full Saxelby selection of ACS award-winners and assemble a blue ribbon-worthy cheese plate of your own!

SOFT & CREAMY

Decadent gooey cheeses are a must-have for any cheese plate! Serve with a spoonful of honey or your favorite preserves. Soft cheeses should ideally be eaten within 2 weeks of purchase, so we recommend buying only as much as you need for your next few dinners.

Harbison: Gooey, bark-wrapped cheese. Cultured cream, mustard, and raspberry flavor notes

Noble Road: Mild, mushroomy Brie-style cheese

Moses Sleeper: Funky soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese. Broccoli, truffle, and creamy flavor notes

THE STINKERS

For those who love the funk, a pungent washed-rind cheese is a must have in any cheese lineup! These savory and potent cheeses are a perfect foil for wine and beer pairings – try an off-dry riesling or a creamy brown ale.

Grayson: Beefy, custardy washed-rind cow’s milk cheese

Slyboro: Pungent vegetal washed-rind goat’s milk cheese

AGED & STRONG

These mature cheeses pack a punch! Sturdy and robust, these cheeses provide richness, depth and heft to a cheese plate, and will hold up practically forever in your fridge! Don’t be afraid to stock up and savor these over the course of many weeks.

Marieke Premium Gouda: Butterscotchy, crystalline, and carmelized aged gouda

Cabot Clothbound Cheddar: Nutty, brothy, grassy, and sweet clothbound cheddar

THE BLUES

In the world of cheese, it’s not a bad thing to have the blues! Blue cheeses can range from mild-mannered to kick-you-in the-pants in terms of their flavor intensity, but we always like to end a cheese course with a little blue. Pair with bold red wines, fortified dessert wines like port, sherry, and madiera, or even with spirits like bourbon and whiskey.

Cayuga Blue: Goat’s milk blue with mushroom, vanilla, and black pepper notes

Bayley Hazen Blue: Rich, fudgy cow’s milk blue with chocolate and anise flavor notes

Ewe’s Blue: Bright, buttermilk-y, and fruity sheep’s milk blue

Dunbarton Blue: A cheddar/blue hybrid with sweet, toasted nut and burnt sugar flavor notes

Click here for a link to the Wall Street Journal Roundup!

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Producer Spotlight: Vermont Shepherd

VermontShepherdVermont Shepherd is a 250-acre sheep dairy located in Westminster West, Vermont. Vermont Shepherd is one of the oldest sheep farms in Vermont and is the second oldest sheep dairy in the United States. The Major family has had sheep on the farm since 1965 and have been a sheep dairy since 1987. The farm is now run by the Major and Ielpi families, and is home to over 300 ewes.

To celebrate their unique character and seasonal spirit, we’ve put together a package that not only reflects their cheesemaking talent, but the farm itself and the surrounding community. In addition to making their small batch cheeses, Vermont Shepherd sends small amounts of their sheep’s milk to an artisan in the neighboring town of Bellow’s Falls to be turned into a gentle, fragrant soap.

Scenes from the farm.

A New Saxelby Exclusive: Calderwood from Jasper Hill Farm!!

Calderwood

After a lengthy R&D process, we’re proud to premier our latest Saxelby exclusive!!!

Calderwood begins as a wheel of Alpha Tolman, Jasper Hill’s delicious alpine-style cheese, which spends several months of its aging process coated in hay from lush Vermont pastures located right on the farm.

The hay used to make Calderwood is harvested from pastures surrounding Jasper Hill Farm and dried in a special hay drying machine. The Calderwood Cropping Center, the first machine of its kind in the United States, can dry hay in a matter of a few hours, where it would take 3-4 days to dry in a sunny field. Jasper Hill Farm’s founders, Andy and Mateo Kehler, observed a hay dryer in action in Parma Italy, a region whose cheese calls for grass-fed milk, but whose climate is a bit too rainy for making consistent dry hay, and were inspired to bring the Italian technology stateside. The Cropping Center allows them to make high quality dry hay for feed that lasts the whole year, which is paramount to their quality standards as cheesemakers. Many of Jasper Hill’s award-winning cheeses are crafted from raw milk. Good quality hay is a key ingredient in the cheesemaking process, ensuring the microbiology of the cows’ digestive systems and the milk itself is at an optimal place for cheesemaking.  

Read about Calderwood in the New York Times! >>

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Above: Calderwood Cropping Center

Bred for Deliciousness! Sample Five Cheeses From Five Different Dairy Cow Breeds!

CowBreedsWhen we picture a dairy farm, most of us (Americans anyways) picture the iconic red barn-silo duo and black and white spotted cows happily chewing their cud in the midst of bucolic pastures. What most of us don’t realize is that there are hundreds of breeds of dairy cows in the world, all hailing from different places, and bred for specific purposes. And does the breed of the cow influence the flavor of the cheese, you ask? Heck yes!! The breed of cow (in concert with how they are raised and what they are fed) has an indelible impression on the finished cheese – from flavor to texture, and even (yes) the color!

Read on to learn more about the rare and diverse breeds of cows favored by our farmers, and treat yourself to a taste of cheese from five different breeds with our ‘Cow Breed Quintet’

mollycaitJERSEY
Spring Brook Tarentaise

Jersey cows, long prized for their capacity to produce milk chock full of butterfat, originally hail from the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel just off the coast of France. Characterized by their caramel color, sweet dispositions, and toupee-like hairdos, these cows produce more milk per pound of their own body weight than any other! They are also terrific grazers, thriving in the intensive grazing programs that many of our cheesemakers employ. The color of their milk is astonishingly yellow – this color comes from the carotenes in the grass they eat, making the old adage ‘you are what you eat’ totally apparent – and true! Spring Brook Farm has one of the country’s top herds of registered Jersey cows, and their Tarentaise shows off just how special the milk is.

unnamedDUTCH BELTED
Weybridge

Dutch Belted cows are like the Oreo cookies of the cow world – their glistening black coats boast a broad white stripe encircling their ample bellies – in fact, they might be more aptly called Dutch Cumberbunded. The first Dutch Belted cows were brought to the United States in 1838, and were quickly adopted by circus magnate PT Barnum who featured these rare and beautiful cows in his traveling shows. The Dutch Belted cow nearly became extinct in the 1970’s, but thanks to a handful of stalwart farmers and breeders, the breed is back in business! Patty and Roger Scholten of Scholten Farm in Vermont chose the Dutch Belted breed because ‘they look great’ (Patty’s quote – our cheesemakers are aesthetically-minded too!), produce milk with good butterfat, and their legs and hooves are well suited to being out on pasture. Weybridge, the diminutive disc of soft cheese made from their milk actually tastes a bit like a cow pie! (And we mean that in the most complimentary way!)

Marieke Gouda Cows EatingBROWN SWISS
Shelburne Cheddar

The Brown Swiss cow is one of the oldest dairying breeds in the world (some historians claim they date back to 4,000 BC!) and originally hail from the mountains and valleys of Switzerland. Brown Swiss cows are large in stature but sweet in temperament, making them ideal cows for milking. In fact, the folks at Shelburne Farms say that they can shave about a quarter of the time it would normally take to milk a herd of their size off just due to the fact that the cows are so darn cooperative. The Brown Swiss breed is known for being hardy, able to produce great quality milk from a diverse source of forage (the pastures of the Champlain Valley are a piece of cake to graze compared to the Swiss Alps!), as well as for their longevity. The registered herd at Shelburne Farms now numbers 120, and was started by Derick Webb in the 1950’s.

jasper hill Cows1_DennisCurranSMAYRSHIRE
Bayley Hazen Blue

The Ayrshire cow is a Scottish breed known for its red and white spotted coat and also for the unique fat composition of its milk. While most dairy cows produce milk with large globules of fat (making it easy to skim off cream and make butter) the Ayrshire cow’s milk is almost naturally homogenized, meaning that the fat globules are smaller and the milk does not separate quite so easily into cream and skim. To call the Ayrshire tough and sturdy would be an understatement. In 1929 two Ayrshire cows were walked from the Breed headquarters in Brandon, Vermont to St Louis Missouri for an agricultural show. Not only did both cows survive the trip, they went on to have healthy calves and reach record milk production! Mateo and Andy Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm were drawn to the Ayrshire cow because of the smaller fat globules in their milk and their ability to hang even through the harshest of Vermont winters!

Rolf and Marieke with calfHOLSTIEN
Marieke Truffle Gouda

The Holstein cow is the quintessential black and white spotted dairy cow, but it wasn’t always so! The Holstein (or Holstein-Friesian if you want to be super nerdy about it) rose to prominence in America in the 20th century due to its ability (through lots of selective breeding) to produce literally TONS of milk. Holsteins are the preferred breed of cow for farmers producing fluid milk because they are paid by the pound. A Holstein cow can make upwards of 70 pounds of milk per day – That’s a whopping 8.5 gallons per cow!! The breed was originally developed in Holland, and as Rolf and Marieke Penterman are of Dutch descent (and now natives of Wisconsin – a land well known for its black and white cows) it only seemed right to have Holsteins on the farm!

Bone Char Pearl – Exclusive Limited Edition Cheese Release!

170527_BoneCharPearlSaxelby Cheesemongers is thrilled to announce the arrival of Bone Char Pearl – a brand new cheese that is the fruit of a collaboration between our friends at Blue Hill Stone Barns, Seal Cove Farm, and Crown Finish Caves! Bone Char Pearl is a mixed milk cheese (fifty percent cow and fifty percent goat) from Seal Cove Farm in Maine. The young cheeses 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.

Bone Char Pearl will be released in limited edition micro-batches – Be sure to get yours today!

Saxelby Cheesemongers is thrilled to announce the arrival of Bone Char Pearl – a brand new cheese that is the fruit of a collaboration between our friends at Blue Hill Stone Barns, Seal Cove Farm, and Crown Finish Caves! Prior to this launch, the only way to savor this cheese was to dine at Stone Barns and hope that it made its way into your tasting menu rotation of farm-fresh delights. Now for the first time ever, you can purchase this cheese directly from Saxelby Cheesemongers and enjoy it in your own home!

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.

Bone Char Pearl is a cheese conceived by chef Dan Barber and his team up at Blue Hill Stone Barns as a part of their crusade to cook the most delicious food imaginable using the most sustainable means of farming, production, and harvest possible. One of their imperatives is to not waste anything that comes out of their kitchen – vegetable scraps are thrown into a compost pile that in turn sous-vide cooks signature dishes, bones left over from stock-making are carbonized in a special high-heat, low-oxygen environment and then used as charcoal that imparts a smokier, fattier, gamier flavor to anything cooked on the grill.

Chef Barber wanted to see if the ash from the ground up bone charcoal could be applied to the surface of the cheese, like the famed ashed goat cheeses of the Loire Valley, and if so, what flavors would it impart? Enter Saxelby Cheesemongers, Seal Cove, and Crown Finish Caves. Saxelby Cheesemongers is Blue Hill’s trusted partner in crime when it comes to their cheese selection. We tested out a few different cheeses for this project, and landed on the Pearl because of it’s crisp, tart-yet-buttery, and slightly yeasty flavor profile.

Crown Finish Caves completes the final, and most crucial part of the puzzle for this fabulously unique cheese. Their temperature and humidity controlled caves – old lagering tunnels located deep beneath the streets of Brooklyn – provide the ideal environment for these little cheeses to mature and develop flavor. The Pearls arrive at Crown Finish Caves when they are one week old – fresh, young, and rindless. The cheeses are then dried in a special ‘sechoir’ or drying fridge, to prime the surface of the cheese to grow the right kind of rind. The cheeses are then dusted with the bone ash and moved into the caves to grow their supple bloomy rinds.

The finished product is a thing of beauty – both in looks and flavor! Bone Char Pearl is one of the tastiest morsels of culinary innovation we’ve ever laid our hands on, and we can’t wait for you to try one for yourself!

Shop Bone Char Pearl Now!

Flavor and Species: Delving into Milk Chemistry!!

On the surface, there are few things more boring than a plain old glass of milk. But of course, being cheese people, we see nothing but a world of potential there. While what milk eventually becomes is the object of our affection, milk in its liquid state tells a story all its own and reveals how our favorite cheeses get to be themselves and develop their own unique character.

In order to understand how differences in milk equate to differences in cheeses, outlining how the milks of different species are unique from one another provides a great  jumping off point.

Milk is, essentially, a whole bunch of solid nutrients packaged into a convenient delivery system: water. Liquid milk is about 90% water by weight, which enables it to be ingested easily by a newborn animal and also provides them with the hydration that they need. The other 10% is where the nutrition lives, and as cheese folks this is the part that we’re most concerned with. That 10% consists of proteins, fats, minerals and sugars, all of which have their own unique role to play when milk gets turned into cheese.

Arguably the most important component at play here is the protein. Protein is what makes up the physical structure of the cheese and, when it is broken down by enzymes during aging, contributes the most distinctive flavors to the cheese. The main protein in milk, known as casein, exists as tight bundles of smaller protein particles (called micelles) held together with calcium. These micelles can be pictured as a sort of koosh-ball shape: a single particle surrounded by tons of tiny filaments. All of these projections on the outside are known as kappa caseins, and carry a negative charge, which causes them to repel one another when they collide. This is what enables the solids in milk to be suspended evenly throughout the liquid component, giving milk its opaque appearance. When a cheesemaker makes cheese, they are essentially working to undo this negative charge on the micelles in order to cause the proteins to stick together, forming a curd and pushing out water (aka whey) in the process.

In addition to the proteins, milk contains an abundance of fat, which is of the utmost importance to the cheesemaking process. The fats in milk are referred to as butterfats, which consist of a specific type of fat called triglycerides. These molecules, called globules, are made up of several smaller fatty acids (basically just chains of carbon atoms) stuck together and (continuing with the toy comparisons) are shaped like tiny beach balls, with a thin negatively charged membrane surrounding the outside. When curd is formed, the globules are swept up into the coagulating proteins and trapped within the curd structure, trapped in a sort of protein net.

The rest of the solids in milk consist of minerals (most of which is the calcium holding those protein micelles together) and lactose, the sugar component of the milk. Lactose provides much needed energy that the newborn animal will use to grow rapidly, but in the cheesemaking process lactose is important mostly in that it is turned into lactic acid by starter culture bacteria, which prepares the milk to be curdled.

So, with the basics in mind, how does cow’s milk differ from goat’s milk, and how do these differ from sheep’s milk?

Since humans settled down and started farming, cows have been selectively bred to be the most efficient and productive milk machines that they can be. Cows are able to produce up to 5 gallons of milk per day, and are able to be milked about 300 days out of the year.

The milk that they produce is very balanced, with solids making up about 12.7% of the overall volume of their milk, and with fat and protein taking up 3.7% and 3.4%, respectively. The consistency of their milk, combined with the sheer volume that they can produce throughout the year, makes cows the animal of choice for most cheesemakers looking to produce cheese on a larger scale year-round.

Sheep, on the other hand, represent the opposite extreme. Their milk is far and away the the richest in solids, with proteins, fats and other solids making up 19.3% of the overall volume of the milk (with a whopping 7.4% being pure fat). This translates to a much higher cheese yield from the milk, meaning that, say, 10 gallons of sheep’s milk will make more cheese than 10 gallons of cow’s milk.

While this might make the humble sheep sound like quite the efficient cheese machine, a ewe will produce far less milk per milking that a cow or a goat. In fact, over their entire lactation cycle (meaning the amount of days per year that the animal is producing milk), a sheep will only give about 12% of the milk that a cow would over the same amount of time. This, combined with the fact that, like goats, sheep are seasonal breeders and can only be milked for about 180 days per year, means that a sheep produces a comparatively tiny amount of milk. And while the milk that they do produce makes quite a bit of cheese, a farmer raising sheep will still end up with only a fraction of the cheese yield at the end of the day than they would if they were milking cows.

Right in the middle of the road we find our friends the goats. Goats’ milk is very similar in composition to cow’s milk, with 12.4% overall solids and comparable amounts of fats and proteins. However, like sheep, goats are also finicky seasonal breeders and only produce milk for about 8 months out of the year. During those 8 months, goats produce quite a bit more milk than sheep do per milking, meaning the overall volume of milk produced during their lactation cycle will be more than a sheep but less than a cow.

With all of these differences in mind, there is of course the questions of just why cheese made from each species milk taste different from one another. While the base ingredients are all the same (protein, fat, minerals), the makeup of each of these components varies greatly between types of animals. For instance, sheep’s milk contains fat globules that are massive compared to the size of the fats in goats milk. When cheese is made from sheep’s milk, this will lead to the fats dominating the flavor more, giving a stronger herbal, earthy and peppery flavor once these break down during aging.

Similarly, the chemical makeup of these elements (not just the size) can determine differences in flavor as well. Goat’s milk, for example, contains a higher proportion of a particular type of fatty acid in its fat globules that is quite volatile and breaks down very quickly and easily during aging. This leads to the distinctively “goaty” aroma that is so familiar in an aged goat cheese, and explains why that particular flavor can’t be found elsewhere.
Finally, even within species, the milk composition (and therefore the flavor of the cheese) can differ greatly between breeds. Holstein cows (the ubiquitous black and white cows that dot the highways of the USA) produce a relatively mild milk due to the balanced nature of the nutrients, while Jersey cows (a breed developed in the British Isles for buttermaking) produce a milk much higher in butterfat, making for a more aggressively and distinctively flavored cheese.