Sorry for the absence of fresh cheese posts over the past few weeks. I've be so busy with the farm and life and everything else that I have not stopped by the cheesemonger in far too long. But yesterday I made up for the lack, picking up four new cheeses. I will post about each in turn, beginning with Moses Sleeper.
Holy frijoles. This is a good cheese. Really, really good. For those folks out there who enjoy Green Hill from Sweetgrass Dairy, think of that cheese on steroids. It has a seriously creamy, filling mouthfeel without being goupy. It has a very thick consistency, like custard, only quite sticky. The rind is soft and flavorful, not chewy, ammoniated, or bitter in the least. The rind just melts in with the rest of the cheese in the mouth. The flavors are delicate and yet distinctly complex: hard to pin down into distinct categories and yet satisfying and pleasing: sweet and lactic with melted butter, maybe even a hint of white chocolate mingled with a cashew-like meaty, umami flavor would be my best stab at describing it. I've got to give it a 6. I ate the little wedge at one sitting and I've sent Ross to the cheesemonger this week to come home with a whole wheel both for me and to share. I had tried Moses Sleeper before several months ago, but it had so many off flavors that, being a cheese from Jasper Hill, I knew clearly that it been damaged in shipping.
Jasper Hill. Let me say a few words about who they are and what they are up to. The farm and creamery are owned by two brothers, Mateo and Andy Kehler and is located in northern Vermont. They make rock-star cheese. Don't believe me? Do a search for "Constant Bliss." Chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Martha Stewart advocate for it and use it in their recipes. Not only do they make rock-star cheese, but they are also working hard to renew and regenerate Vermont's local dairy economy. Specifically, they have created The Cellars at Jasper Hill, a beautiful, huge facility built exclusively for affinage. The cellars are not only where Jasper Hill ages its cheese, but where cheesemakers all over Vermont come to partake of Mateo and Andy's facility and expertise. When we were last in Vermont, we met a pair of young cheesemakers just starting out. They had a very small facility and could not afford the equipment needed to create a good cheese cave. So, these two women age their cheese at The Cellars. When Ross and I were at VIAC over the summer, we had the oppertunity to meet Mateo and talk with him about the Cellars project. Mateo essentially said that the aging process is one of the most cost-prohibitive aspects of small-scale dairying, especially at start-up. His Cellars support the cheesemaking industry in Vermont by providing a common facility. The fine folks of Cheese By Hand did a wonderful interview with Jasper Hill, where you can learn loads about their awesome work.
Constant Bliss, Jasper Hill's most well-know cheese, just got a huge makeover in that Mateo has started to pasteurize it. It's a totally different cheese now, and one very much still in progress. The exterior mould is much "fluffier" now and the mouthfeel is out-of-this-world creamy. However, it's quite bitter at the moment. According to my cheesemonger, Mateo is having a "cheese ninja" from France come help sort out the bitter problem. The in-constance of Constant Bliss is really interesting to me. On the one hand, the goal of a good cheesemaker is to deliver a consistent product. On the other, cheesemakers are artists practicing a craft, working to find the cheese they want to make, and therefore altering make procedures and recipes. Now, there are always variations in hand-made cheese, just like anything else hand-made, but these are variances more than they are changes. However, Constant Bliss has made a series of changes since it was first made, this one being the most dramatic I have seen. Some might react to this process by saying "quit messing with a good thing," which I can get on board with to a degree, but at the same time, I can't begrudge a cheesemaker's desire to edit in pursuit of getting it just right. I look forward to watching the cheeses from Jasper Hill shift. They always start out so strong, it's amazing to think of how they can and will become even better.