Calderwood – A Behind The Scenes Tour

For Saxelby Cheesemongers, there is no greater honor than being able to create a brand new cheese! Calderwood, a raw milk, hay-ripened cheese is a labor of love conceived by Saxelby Cheesemongers for chef Dan Barber, and brought to life by Jasper Hill Farm. Calderwood is the embodiment of ‘You are what you eat.’ Or to take it one step further, ‘You are what you eat eats!’ As the first cuts of hay are being brought in by cheesemakers and dairy farmers across the country, we thought it was the perfect time to celebrate this singular grass-fed cheese!

Read on for an insider’s guide to the production of Calderwood, and try it as a standalone cheese, in our Grass Fed Goodness box, or as a part of a Cheesemonger’s Choice box.

It all comes back to grass! In the summer months, Jasper Hill’s cows graze copious acres around the farm. Simultaneously, their cropping team is working around the clock to harvest as much hay as they can to feed the cows during the winter.

Freshly mown hay is brought to the Calderwood Cropping Center, a state of the art hay dryer and the namesake of the cheese, that dries enormous (700lb) bales of hay in a matter of hours. Without the hay dryer, the cropping team would have to wait for a five day window of consecutive sunny days, NOT an easy ask for the weather gods in the cool rainy northeast kingdom of Vermont!

Drying the hay quickly ensures that all the nutrients are trapped inside, creating the best quality feed for the cows, and staying true to Jasper Hill’s mission of creating ‘A Taste of Place’.

Cows are true miracles of nature, powering their 1,000lb plus bodies via the magic of photosynthesis and grass! The grasses they eat influence the flavor and overall composition (fat, protein, and water) of the milk and keep their rumens (the first and most important of their four stomachs) happy!

Then it’s time to turn that milk into cheese! Jasper Hill’s team of seasoned cheesemakers monitors the milk daily for seasonal fluctuations and adjusts their make accordingly. Making cheese is a maddening science… winemakers make a vintage of wine every year, but cheesemakers create a new vintage every day!! And every day is different!

The young cheeses are then aged in the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm by master affineur Paul Moretti. The wheels are a washed a few times per week with ‘morge’, a liquid concoction teeming with good microbes comprised of salt brine and cheese rind scrapings. This wash develops the ruddy, rusty coloring on the rind and also helps imbue the cheese with nutty, slightly funky flavor.

The Saxelby cheese team visits the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm twice a year to taste and select batches of cheese to become Calderwood which is by far the BEST part of our jobs!! The wheels are tasted at about six months of age. We look for wheels with a long texture (pliant, elastic, and creamy) and a long flavor (fruity, meaty, and savory).

Wheels of Calderwood are then aged for another four to five months. The wheels are coated with the hay that has been dried at the Cropping Center. The hay is cut by hand into fine shreds and sterilized with heat, which gives it an earthy, toasted aroma.

Fully ripe Calderwood has a firm, yet melt-in-your mouth texture, and a roller coaster ride of flavors that will blow your mind! Tropical fruit (think pineapple and passionfruit), toasted nuts, and savory broth are just a few of the keynote flavors of Calderwood.

Calderwood3_7.28.17

Grass Fed Butter is Better!

cowbella butter on slate

Grass Fed Butter is simply better. If you’ve tried grass fed butter, you know the taste is heads and shoulders above its commodity counterparts. But taste aside, there are a lot of reasons to love this golden, spreadable delicacy! Our grass-fed butter comes from Cowbella Creamery, a seventh generation farm whose herd of cows graze the verdant pastures of upstate New York all summer long. Try some for yourself and see what the fuss is all about!

Why is grass fed butter yellow? Grass fed butter is yellow because grass and flowers that cows eat when they’re grazing contain lots of beta carotene, a yellow pigment that is stored in their fat and passed through to their milk. When the cream is skimmed and churned to make butter, the fat globules are ruptured, exposing the bright yellow pigment trapped inside. Cows that are fed a diet of grain or dry hay produce milk and cream that is paler in color. Consequently their cream (and the resulting butter) has a whitish coloring.

Is grass fed butter better for you? The scientists say yes! Grass fed butter is higher in healthier unsaturated fats and Omega 3 fatty acids which contribute positively to heart, brain, eye, and lung health, and may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Grass fed butter also contains lots of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which studies have shown to be useful in promoting fat loss, and have positive effects on cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammation, and immune response.

What about taste and texture? There is no argument that grass fed butter has a more complex, nuanced, and rich flavor. The old adage ‘you are what you eat’ applies just as much to cows as it does to people, and these cows healthy, diverse diets result in more flavorful butter! Because grass fed butter is higher in unsaturated fat (which has a lower melting point than saturated fat) it is smoother, creamier, and melts in your mouth-ier than butter from cows on commodity diets of grain.

If you’re looking to up your butter game, try our Artisan Butter Collection, Cowbella Butter, or Ploughgate Creamery Butter!

Find Your Perfect Pairing! Cheese and Wine Pairing Recommendations

In honor of National Wine and Cheese Day (or should we say Cheese and Wine Day?!) Saxelby Cheesemongers partnered with Hertelendy Vineyards in Napa, California to put together a cheese and wine tasting video showcasing four pairings of our cheeses and wines from Hertelendy’s 2015 vintage. Listen in as Anne Saxelby and Ralph Hertelendy discuss the ins and outs of creating a great pairing, Ralph’s personal mission to convert Merlot-haters into lovers, as well as some of the finer points of making wine and cheese!

Pairing cheese and wine is more about personal taste rather than hard science. The rule is that there are no ‘real’ rules… chances are if you love the wine and love the cheese, you’ll love them even more together. However, there are definitely some tried and true pairings that work beautifully. So, if you’re at a loss for where to begin, start with these and then branch out and experiment with your own wine and cheese combinations! There are a million cheese and wine pairing websites and articles out there, but we’ve found that Cards of Wine offers a succinct and unintimidating list of classic cheese and wine pairings that can put you on the right track!

Here are four of our favorite pairings of Saxelby Cheese and Hertelendy wine. If you can’t find these exact cheeses and wines, ask your local cheese or wine shop for something similar and they’ll guide you in the right direction! For more wine and cheese pairing advice, pre-order Anne Saxelby’s book The New Rules of Cheese, available from Ten Speed Press in October of 2020.

Chardonnay and Triple Cream Cheese like Kunik

A buttery triple cream cheese like Kunik is an ideal match for a structured, buttery yet complex Chardonnay. Kunik is made from a blend of two milks – the subtle musk of the goat milk is rounded out by the sweet butterfat of the cow cream. Pair with a bright, aromatic, and lightly oaked Chardonnay with good acidity.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Firm Nutty Cheese like Calderwood

To be honest, Calderwood will pair with any number of white and red wines, but it happens to be exceptional with Cabernet Sauvignon. Calderwood’s nutty, toasted, and tropical fruit flavors favor a deep, rich Cabernet with notes of roasted coffee, black cherry, sage, and forest floor.

Merlot and Firm Sheep’s Milk Cheese like Wischago

Wischago is young, tart, and fruity, but the sheep’s milk also lends a woolly, lanolin quality to the cheese. To meet that blend of fruit and barnyard, we opted to pair with a red blend dominated by Merlot, with four other red varietals. The juicy character, warm spice, and slight smokey qualities of this red were a perfect match.

Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon and Pungent Washed Rind Cheese like Hooligan

Hooligan brings the funk – it is rich, meaty, and salty with fruity and vegetal underpinnings. Paired with a bold, tannic red dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Merlot with notes of red cherry, black fruit, and dark roasted coffee it’s a win-win!

 

 

Ricotta Cheese Redux – Everything You Need To Know

Ricotta is one of the world’s favorite cooking cheeses, and for a good reason. Creamy, milky, and mild, it can easily blend into just about any dish adding richness and depth, or served simply with sweet or savory condiments as a breakfast, appetizer, or dessert. What is ricotta cheese, and what are the best ways to cook with it? Is all ricotta cheese created equal? Can I make ricotta cheese at home? (spoiler alert, yes!) Read on for great ricotta info, and a handy homemade ricotta cheese recipe!

Ricotta cheese can be made from any type of milk – cow, goat, sheep, or even water buffalo. In America, cow’s milk ricotta is the most ubiquitous. In Italy, depending on the region, ricotta is made from cow’s milk, sheep milk, or a mixture of both. There are two main varieties of ricotta – whey-based ricotta, and whole milk ricotta.

Whey-Based Ricotta Cheese:

This is the ‘true’ definition of ricotta. In Italian, the word ‘ricotta’ means to ‘re-cook’. Traditionally ricotta was made from re-cooking the whey after cheesemaking to eke more solid curd from the protein rich whey. By heating the whey, the proteins solidify, rise to the top, and are skimmed off by the cheesemaker. There are two main types of protein in milk – casein and albumen. Casein is the protein most associated with cheese. Most of the casein comes out during the initial cheesemaking process, leaving mostly albumen (yes, the same protein found in eggs) in the whey. As a result, whey-based ricotta is lighter and more custardy in texture – a totally different and delicious beast than what’s available in most supermarkets.

Whey-based ricotta can be whipped with sugar and baked to make a traditional Sicilian-style cheesecake, served ‘infornata’, or baked in the oven (it will hold its shape and brown on the outside) added to your meatball mixture it the place of eggs, or simply drizzled with honey or topped with fresh berries.

Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese:

99.9% of all ricotta cheese sold in the United States is made from whole milk. This type of ricotta also undergoes a cooking process, but would be more rightly called ‘cotta’ (Italian for cooked) because the milk is only cooked one time. To make whole milk ricotta, you simply heat whole milk to near boiling, add an acidifier (lemon juice or vinegar are the most common) wait for the curds to rise, skim them off into a colander lined with cheesecloth, and presto! Whole milk ricotta is creamier and more rich, and has a looser, wetter texture than whey-based ricotta.

Whole milk ricotta is an essential part of any lasagna worth it’s salt, makes a delicious appetizer when drizzled with good olive oil, salt and pepper and served with good bread, and is lovely when mixed into pancake batter with lemon zest.

 

Anne Saxelby’s Fresh Ricotta

Excerpt from ‘The New Rules of Cheese’ – available for sale in October from Ten Speed Press. Pre-order today!

Fresh ricotta is definitely one of the easiest, and most instantly gratifying, cheeses to make. All you need is milk, lemon juice, salt, and some cheesecloth (which you can buy at most grocery stores). When shopping for this recipe, seek out the highest-quality milk and cream you can find—ideally, a fresh batch from a local farm. If you can find it, use non-homogenized milk or milk that has not been ultra pasteurized.

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:

1 gallon whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)

Steps:

Pour the milk, cream, and salt into a large stainless steel or ceramic pot. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the milk to 190°F. Stir often to keep the milk from scorching.

Once the milk reaches temperature, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice. Stir slowly until curds and whey—clumps of cheese and a semi-clear yellowish liquid—begin to form. This should happen almost immediately. Remove the pot from the heat and let the pot of curds rest for 5 minutes.

Line a colander with cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds drain for at least 1 hour. Reserve the whey (the liquid collected at the bottom of the bowl) for poaching vegetables or adding to cold, tangy soups like borscht or cucumber soup.

Fresh ricotta is best consumed warm and as fresh as possible but will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. I like to drizzle it with either good olive oil or honey and flaky sea salt (depending on whether I’m feeling savory or sweet) and serve schmeared atop good bread.