When the COVID-19 crisis hit New York, Saxelby Cheesemongers founder Anne Saxelby was asked to contribute to Eater’s Eater Voices series to talk about the virus’ impact on the artisan cheese world. Here’s a link to the full article.
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:
2 slices Barber wheat levain
Whole grain mustard
Green garlic puree
Speck or smoked country ham
Grilled, rough chopped ramp tops
- Toast the bread on one side until golden brown.
- Spread green garlic puree on the untoasted side of one slice of bread, and whole grain mustard on the other slice.
- Place a thin (but not too thin) slice of raclette cheese on top of the condiments and melt under a broiler until bubbly.
- Season the ramp tops with olive oil and salt, grill until lightly charred and wilted. Rough chop.
- 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.
- 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.
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
- Butter the outside of the slices of bread
- Place one piece of bread down and layer the cheese, cornichon, fresh and pickled ramps and bresaola
- Top with the other slice of buttered bread
- Wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for 30 minutes
- Cook sandwich in a pan until all the cheese has melted
Chef Cameron Ingle’s Grilled Cheese
2 slices of white bread
4 oz butter+ 1oz bacon fat
4 slices raclette
- Spread the butter and bacon fat on the slices of bread
- Put the cheese slices on the unbuttered sides of the slices
- Fry bread on medium heat cook until golden brown
- Remove from pan sprinkle with Maldon salt and enjoy
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.
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 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.
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.
If you’ve spent any time lingering around in cheese shops (and we suppose you have!) you’ve likely heard the term ‘Triple Cream Cheese’ tossed around by the cheesemongers behind the counter.
What makes a cheese qualify for Triple Cream status? It all starts with the milk. Triple Cream cheese is made from whole milk with cream added to it; the finished cheese must have a minimum of 75% butterfat in it. And before you clutch at your heart after hearing that number, take into account that the amount of butterfat in cheese is measured in the fat in dry matter (or FDM), which for young, creamy cheeses is lower than in hard aged cheeses. Most triple cream cheeses are about 50% dry matter and 50% water, so of the 50% that is ‘dry matter’ 75% of that is butterfat.
Triple Cream cheeses are luscious, spreadable, creamy, and buttery. Some famous European examples are St. Andre and Brillat Savarin. Notable American triple creams are Kunik from Nettle Meadow Farm, Nancy’s Camembert from Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. and Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery. Pair triple cream cheeses with champagne or other dry sparkling wines. The butterfat and bubbles work in perfect harmony… rich creamy cheese tempered by acidity and effervescence.
Burrata – it’s the stuff cheesy dreams are made of. We all know we love it, but what makes it so spectacular?
Burrata, literally ‘buttered’ in Italian, refers to fresh mozzarella curd that is stretched into a pouch-like formation and then stuffed full of stracciatella, or strings, of mozzarella that have been steeped in salted heavy cream.
The tradition of burrata making began in a town called Andria in the Apulia region of Italy. Everywhere across the Italian peninsula, people make ‘pasta filata’ cheeses. These ‘stretched curd’ cheeses take many forms… balls (mozzarella) braids, and knots (nodini). In Andria, the local pasta filata shape was nodini, however, in true Italian purist form, if the cheese was not sold the day it was made, it was no longer deemed fit for sale.
So what did these thrifty and enterprising Italians do? They pulled the knots apart into strings, soaked the strings of mozzarella in salted heavy cream, and stracciatella (strings) was born. Now they just needed a vehicle to get that glorious stracciatella into people’s bellies! Enter burrata… They reasoned that if they made a pouch of mozzarella curd, they could stuff it full of stracciatella and it would be amazing. And boy were they right!!!!
They say that necessity is the mother of all invention. In this case it’s also the mother of one of the best cheeses known to man!
This fall, we were tickled to be invited to compete in the annual FONDUEL competition hosted by the Barnyard Collective in Long Island City. Yes – this event is exactly what it sounds like – a bunch of cheese nerds facing off (in a very friendly way of course) to try and create a superlative fondue. And yes – it is open to the public too… 80 or so fondue-loving individuals attended the event and ranked each of the fondues on offer to determine a winner.
PSA break – if you’re interested in doing a deep dive into cheese nerd-dom, follow The Cheesemonger Invitational (the same brains behind the Barnyard Collective) for some of the most incredibly cheesy events in the world!
Pictured from left to right – Anne Saxelby, Adam Moskowitz, and William Sido.
As first time participants, we were humbled and totally stoked to take home 1st place honors in this year’s FONDUEL!! Our fondue game was a simple one – no fuss, no frills, just great cheese and a shot of Kirsch (which as it turns out is a ringer ingredient in a great fondue!) We used a blend of Calderwood, our exclusive collaboration cheese made for us by Jasper Hill Farm, and Reading Raclette – a perfect melter from Spring Brook Farm in Vermont. The bold tropical fruit and toasted nut flavors of the Calderwood and the soft, buttery, and creamy flavors of the Reading Raclette made a perfect melty marriage. Here’s our recipe – try it out yourself and see what you think!
SAXELBY’S FONDUEL-WINNING FONDUE RECIPE – SERVES 4
1 clove garlic, halved crosswise
1 1/2 cups white wine
2 tsp Kirsch
10 (ish)* ounces Calderwood
20 (ish)* ounces Reading Raclette
(You basically need a two to one ratio of Reading Raclette to Calderwood, and you need about 8 ounces of cheese per person for fondue, so you can fudge the quantities up or down a bit depending on how many people you’re serving.)
freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground pepper
1 baguette (or your favorite bread!)
fruit and vegetables to pair (our favorites are cornichons, apples, pears, carrots, and cauliflower)
- Rub inside of a saucepan pot with garlic and then discard. Pour wine into pot and heat over med-low heat on the stove. When liquid starts to bubble, start adding cheese by the handful, stirring until melted and combined.
- Whisk continually to keep the cheese from separating. If it does, don’t freak out! Just add a bit more cheese to thicken the mixture a bit, or thin out with a bit more wine if it’s too thick.
- Add the Kirsch and continue stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbling slightly – about 5 minutes. Season with nutmeg and pepper.
- Transfer the mixture to fondue pot on the table and keep warm over the warmer. Serve with bread, fruits, and vegetables.
The solstice has come and gone, it’s officially summertime, and if you’ve ever driven through the countryside in June, you know that summer means fields of green hay swaying in the breeze. Or it should anyways. 2019 has been a challenging year for cropping in many parts of the country. We talked with some of our cheesemakers this year to see what the cropping season has looked like so far for them.
Hay might not be the first ingredient you think about when you think about cheese, but good quality hay is the foundation of great cheese. The old adage you are what you eat applies to cows as much as it does to us. The vitamins, minerals, sugars, and starches in hay all contribute to the cow’s health and well being, and ultimately to the flavors found in cheese.
Jasper Hill Farm:
The beginning of June brought the first four day window of consecutive sunshine to Vermont’s northeast kingdom in 200 days. The crew at Jasper Hill Farm worked around the clock to crop 600 acres of hayfields in a span of four days while the sun was shining. In order to make good dry hay (an essential ingredient for raw milk cheesemaking) the fields must be mown when the grass is dry, and it has to stay dry while it is rolled up into round bales.
Jasper Hill Farm invested in the first hay dryer in the United States, the Calderwood Cropping Center, which allows them to dry bales of hay in a matter of 5-6 hours versus leaving the hay to dry in the fields which takes 4-5 days. The hay dryer was running around the clock this year as the crew scrambled to get the first cut in. Since the first cut happened a few weeks later than usual, the quality of the hay will be slightly different. The stalks of grass become woodier and more fibrous as they grow, which leads to feed that is high in fiber for the cows but lower in nutrients. Regardless, Jasper Hill’s industriousness in ‘making hay while the sun shines’ has allowed them to get a good start on winter feed for their herd, and for the production of Calderwood, our exclusive hay-ripened cheese.
Cheesemaker Andy Hatch was lamenting the cold, wet spring in southern Wisconsin this year. In the late spring there were tremendous rains when the ground was still frozen, leading the rain to run off the ground and flood low lying areas – including large swaths of Nebraska and Iowa. The rain continued through May, and regular agricultural milestones got shifted back to later dates than usual. In Wisconsin, corn is usually in the ground by Mother’s Day and the first crop of hay is usually cut by Memorial Day. This year, everything was a few weeks behind, and the first cut of hay did not happen until June 10th. When they did get it cut, the quality of the hay was not great as it had already gone to seed. For seasonal cheesemakers like Uplands, who only make cheese when their cows are out on pasture, it’s not such a big deal. This hay is only fed to the cows in the wintertime when cheese is not being made. But for cheesemakers who rely on this hay to make cheese with, it can have adverse effects on cheese quality.
On the bright side, the pastures are growing slowly and consistently, which is great for Uplands’ rotational grazing practices. The cows also love the cooler weather, and will make more milk when they are not too hot and not stressed.
Meadow Creek Dairy:
The Meadow Creek crew mowed their first hay on June 14th. They look at hay slightly differently as they use it as a tool to harvest surplus pasture and improve pasture quality for the next grazing round. The pasture is the most important thing to Meadow Creek so they don’t milk off hay but use it to feed the cattle during the dry period when they are not producing milk.
That said, so far this year the weather in southwestern Virginia has been pretty good weather for hay. Their first cut happened in mid-May, which was earlier than usual, as they had a run of hot weather with not a lot of rain. In June there has been more rain so they started making hay again, though they did lose three to four acres of hay to rain, as happens every year, but is not a make or break situation. Since purchasing a second farm a few years back Meadow Creek has been able to produce enough hay (700-800 round bales at 750lbs each) to feed their cows year round without buying in anything extra from the outside!
It goes without saying that cheese and honey go together – like pancakes and maple syrup, like peanut butter and jelly, or like two strips of velcro. The flavors found in one harmonize with the other to create a perfect, complex mouthful comprising the best mother nature has to offer.
As cheese nerds, we’re deep into the science of what makes cheese delicious. From just four humble ingredients – milk, cultures, rennet, and salt, we’re able to coax millions of flavors and textures of cheese.
Honey isn’t so different. Bees forage nectar and pollen from a multitude of flowers and plants and convert it into honey – a super concentrated, super sugary, superfood that can sustain a hive for years. Bees typically forage within a five mile radius of the hive, and their sources of food change over the course of the year with the seasons. Incredibly efficient and incredibly strong, bees are able to carry their own weight in nectar when they fly. Protein-rich pollen gets stuck to the small hairs on their body and is transported back to the hive where it is processed and stored for food.
Once the bee returns to the hive, the nectar is passed from bee to bee, concentrating and evaporating as it goes, until it loses enough moisture to become honey. It is then sealed in the comb with a cap of wax until it is needed by the colony, or by the beekeeper for spinning into honey.
Claire Marin, founder of Catskill Provisions in Long Eddy, New York, believes that happy bees make better honey. She started off as a hobbyist beekeeper, and now tends over 300 beehives in Delaware, Sullivan, and Madison counties. Catskill Provisions honey is raw, meaning that it is not heated for processing, leaving all the inherent goodness of the honey intact. The pollen, propolis, and beeswax found in her raw honey has many health benefits for humans as well as bees! Claire takes care to always leave enough honey inside the hive for the bees to not become stressed, part of her commitment to keeping the bees happy.
So why do cheese and honey go so well together? It is a fact that for a good pairing, whether we’re talking wine, cheese, honey, or any combination of ingredients in a recipe, you need to strike a balance between sweetness, acidity, salt, and fat. Cheese is fermented, meaning the milk is soured in the process, and has varying degrees of acidity depending on the style. Milk, the most important ingredient in cheese, is made from ruminants – i.e. animals that eat grass and convert that grass into energy. The types of grasses that the animals eat have a direct impact on the flavor of the finished cheese. These flavor notes (grassy, floral, herbaceous, nutty) harmonize extremely well with all the subtle flavors found in honey. Finally, cheese is rich, salty, and high in fat, so it can always benefit from something sweet to round out the complex flavors.
The next time you’re planning a cheese plate – be it for a dinner party or just for you, be sure to include some raw honey and experiment with different styles of cheese to find your own perfect pairing!