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.

A Quick Butter Primer

Let’s face it. We all love butter. However, not all butters are created equal! The sourcing of the cream and the subsequent treatment of that cream make for some very different finished products. Here is some basic information on butter to help you select the right one.

Cultured Butter

Cultured butter is made from cream that has live cultures added to it. It’s a style that was more popular in Europe and less easy to find in the United States until recently when companies like Ploughgate Creamery started making their own domestic versions. Once the cream has been cultured for the right amount of time (which differs from producer to producer) the thickened cultured cream is churned into butter. Cultured butter is tangy and has a more lactic quality of flavor overall.

Cultured butter can also sometimes have a slightly ‘cheesy’ flavor profile. This is not desirable to some butter lovers, but some people do enjoy that more intense flavor. If cultured butter tastes cheesy it usually means that either the fat globules in the cream were slightly damaged before it was churned, or the butter has been aged for a while (intentionally or unintentionally!)

Sweet Cream Butter

Sweet Cream butter is made from fresh, sweet cream that has not been cultured. This style of butter has been the standard in America for the 20th and 21st centuries (though there might have been more variety in earlier times!) The cream for sweet cream butter is churned quickly after it is produced, resulting in a mild, sweet butter. Our favorite Sweet Cream butter comes from Cowbella, a seventh generation dairy located in Deansboro, NY.

Salt or No Salt?

Some butter is salted and some is unsalted. People have different preferences, and sometimes use different butter for different occasions. For example, most bakers use unsalted butter so that they can control the amount of salt in their finished product. Some people prefer salted butter to eat with bread, while others like unsalted best, and might add a pinch of their own favorite salt on top. The salt used in butter making varies. Most supermarket varieties will have a standard salt, but some specialty butters use sea salt of varying color, flake size, and intensity.

 

Saxelby Cheese / Blue Hill Grilled Cheese Recipes

To celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day, Saxelby Cheesemongers has joined forces with chef Dan Barber and his team at Blue Hill NYC and Blue Hill at Stone Barns to create a cadre of delicious grilled cheese recipes to warm your belly AND the bellies of New Yorkers in need.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Blue Hill launched resourcED, a program to keep their staff employed, bring the warmth of their restaurants into the homes of New Yorkers, and help feed our first responders.

Check out our featured recipes below from Blue Hill’s top chefs!

Chef Trevor Swope’s Grilled Cheese 

When I think of grilled cheese, the smell and flavor that always comes to mind is my mom toasting whole wheat bread in butter and spreading whole grain mustard on the toast and melting cheddar cheese… it is the flavor I always think of when I remember grilled cheese… this was mine:

Ingredients:

2 slices Barber wheat levain

Butter

Whole grain mustard

Green garlic puree

Speck or smoked country ham

Grilled, rough chopped ramp tops

Reading Raclette

How To:

  1. Toast the bread on one side until golden brown.
  2. Spread green garlic puree on the untoasted side of one slice of bread, and whole grain mustard on the other slice.
  3. Place a thin (but not too thin) slice of raclette cheese on top of the condiments and melt under a broiler until bubbly.
  4. Season the ramp tops with olive oil and salt, grill until lightly charred and wilted.  Rough chop.
  5. Sprinkle the chopped grilled ramp tops on top of the melted cheese of one of the slices, then layer the speck on top of that.  Turn the other slice of bread, cheese side down on top of the speck to make a sandwich.
  6. Cut in half and enjoy.

—————————

Chef Bastien Guillochon’s Grilled Cheese

I used to eat lots of Raclette when I was young and we would typically have it with potato, cornichon, onion and bresaola. That’s pretty classic. But because it’s a grilled cheese we used a 100% whole wheat loaf and the first ramps of the season. There’s some pickled ramp from last year in there too.

You know, my biggest issue with grilled cheese is that the ratio of bread to cheese is always off: I feel like cheese needs to be cut as thickly as the bread.

Ingredients:

2 slices of bread, cut to approx 1 cm thick

1 slice Raclette cut to approx 1cm

4-6 ramps, cleaned and sauteed in some butter

3-4 cornichon, sliced

3-4 pickled ramp bulb sliced

3-4 slices of bresaola

How To:

  1. Butter the outside of the slices of bread
  2. Place one piece of bread down and layer the cheese, cornichon, fresh and pickled ramps and bresaola
  3. Top with the other slice of buttered bread
  4. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for 30 minutes
  5. Cook sandwich in a pan until all the cheese has melted

—————————

Chef Cameron Ingle’s Grilled Cheese

Ingredients:

2 slices of white bread

4 oz butter+ 1oz bacon fat

4 slices raclette

Maldon salt

How To:

  1. Spread the butter and bacon fat on the slices of bread
  2. Put the cheese slices on the unbuttered sides of the slices
  3. Fry bread on medium heat cook until golden brown
  4. Remove from pan sprinkle with Maldon salt and enjoy

—————————

 

 

 

 

Pasta Filata Cheese

Pasta Filata cheeses are among the world’s favorite cheeses – mozzarella, burrata, and provolone are just a few. This unique family of cheeses rose to prominence in Italy and have been winning over hearts and bellies for centuries.

Pasta filata means ‘stretched curd’ in Italian, which is the feature that makes these cheeses so special. Somewhere along the line, cheesemakers discovered that if they worked the curd within a certain narrow ph range (5.1-5.4), the casein, or milk proteins, present in the curd would elongate drastically, allowing the curd to be stretched.

Pulling-mozzarella

Typically hot water is poured over the curds, which are then pulled and stretched to give the cheese it’s signature texture. Once the curd is stretched, it can be formed into any style of pasta filata cheese and sold fresh or aged. Here are just a few varieties of  pasta filata cheese:

Mozzarella – from the Italian ‘mozzare’ or ‘to cut’ these ball shaped cheeses are cut and squeezed from larger masses of curd. There is also Ciliegine (cherry-sized balls) Ovoline (egg-sized balls) and Perline (tiny pearl-sized balls).

Stracciatella – strings of mozzarella that are soaked in heavy cream.

Burrata – a purse-shaped shell of fresh mozzarella stuffed full of stracciatella.

Provola – a salted, aged pasta filata cheese that can be aged anywhere from a few weeks to a few years!

Scamorza – slightly aged mozzarella that dries out and forms a firmer crust and chewy interior.

Pasta filata cheeses are incredibly versatile in the kitchen, so grate, slice, and melt away!

Cheddar – It’s a Noun, a Verb, and The World’s Favorite Cheese!

Cheddar originated in the town of Cheddar, in the county of Somerset, England, and is now one of the world’s most revered cheeses!

The word cheddar refers to the cheese itself, but it also refers to what’s done to the curds during the cheesemaking process. To ‘cheddar’ curds, the curds are left to sit at the bottom of the cheese vat so that they mat together and form slabs. Those slabs are then stacked on top of one another, flipped, and re-stacked over the course of a few hours in order to build acidity. This acidity is what translates into sharpness the longer the cheese is aged. The slabs are then milled into smaller pieces (that’s what fresh cheese curds or squeaky cheese is!), sprinkled with salt, and then those pieces are packed into larger blocks or wheels, pressed, and aged.

GraftonCheese_Cheddaring2
Slabs of cheddar curd being flipped.

Due to the fact that cheddar is so high in acid and so low in moisture, it was an ideal cheese to transport from rural areas to urban centers in the days before refrigeration. Cheddar was also the first cheese to be mechanized in production… the first cheddar factory opened in Rome, New York, in 1851. From there, production of cheddar in the U.S and beyond skyrocketed, making it the behemoth of the cheese world we know today.

There are many different varieties and designations of cheddar – extra sharp, cave-aged, clothbound, smoked, and on and on! No matter what variety you get your hands on, if you can find a farmhouse, artisan, or farmstead cheddar, you’ll be rewarded with more flavor and nuance than the commodity fare found in most supermarkets.