As seen in the fall 2017 issue of New England Fine Living Magazine
Written by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier + Champagne Taster
Gathering around the large dining room table of your family home in New England, the sharing of good food and perfectly paired wine will be sure to create long-lasting memory. Like wine, cheese should be nurtured and matured under proper conditions in order for it to be at its best. Controlling the natural ripeness of cheese under proper conditions, such as airflow and humidity, to achieve complete fermented bliss is called “affinage.” While you may have your favorite go-to cheese, your cheese can be matched to your special occasion. A simple, easy cheese plate for afternoon entertaining, a pre-game gathering before hitting the town or perhaps a late-night snack after dancing the night away, see this tasty list of suggestions that would be a perfect pairing for your next beach day and beyond!
BEWARE OF CHEESE IMPOSTERS
The most famous goat cheese of the many varieties produced in the Loire Valley, Crottin de Chavignol is the claim to fame of this tiny village that has fewer inhabitants than you will find on a ferry traveling to Nantucket on a warm, sunny summer day. This small cylindrical goat cheese from the area around Chavignol has been produced for centuries. The word “Crot” describes a small oil lamp made from burned clay, which resembles the mould used to prepare the cheese. This cheese, produced from raw milk of the alpine goats, is protected by the French AOC Seal (appellation d’origine controlee) and has to meet stringent AOC production criteria in order to be called such.
This is one of those rarest of cheeses in that it can be eaten at various stages of its maturity. In its youth, the cheese is more solid and compact with a white rind. As it ripens, it takes on a stronger flavor that is subtle yet slightly nutty and develops a harder rind. At full maturity, the cheese becomes crumbly yet still has a smooth texture. The cheese is marketed and eaten at all three stages of maturity. It is delish when simply served with a green salad, as a component of a cheese board or baked as a starter. Beware of other non-AOC imitations with a similar name, but not the pedigree or designation status.
EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH CHEDDAR
In the old English Language, a Truckle means cylinder shape. Traditionally, Old World Cheddars are formed in truckles. The Flory Family of Jamesport, Missouri, has developed this distinctive aged clothbound cheddar, earning it its unique name. Instead of being made in the true form of a truckle, Missouri Truckle Cheddar is aged with the cheesecloth left on the outside, allowing the cheese to breathe and resulting in the appetizing dry, crumbly, crystalized texture. Made from cow’s milk, the cheese is allowed to dry for ten days and is then coated with lard to reduce mold. It is then tenderly loved and cared for over the next 9 – 12 months of aging so that the mold eats away at the lard layering. What comes to fruition is a cheddar with a perfect balance of sweet, salt and tart that tastes like no other white cheddar you have had before.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO MAKE THIS GREAT CHEESE
Consider Bardwell Farm which is located in western Vermont’s Rutland County, about an hour southwest of Killington and just near the New York’s state border. It was the first cheese-making co-op in Vermont, founded in 1864 by Consider Stebbins Bardwell himself. A century later, this farm was revitalized with the tradition of handcrafting each wheel. The raw Jersey cow milk is antibiotic and hormone free, delivered each morning to their historic barn-turned-cheese house. The cows practice rotational grazing on pesticide-free and fertilizer-free pastures which helps them to produce the sweetest milk, and hence the tastiest cheese.
Pawlet is one of their several cheeses produced that is named after a nearby town in Vermont. It is made in the style of an Italian Toma, which as soft or semi-hard makes it a versatile cheese, and aged for 4 – 6 months. It is great for a slice on a sandwich or as an appetizer that has a broad appeal for a discerning crowd. It tastes rich and buttery with a pale-yellow color, yet slightly sweet mild flavor that is full and nutty as the cheese ages.
SPREADING THE GOOD CHEESE NEWS
Like every good wine should have a perfect drinking vessel, your cheese experience should also be enlightened with the perfect accoutrement. The Cheese Shop, located in Wellesley, MA, and known to locals in the area as Wasik’s based on the family name of the owners, offers an incredible house-made spread that is a signature staple for them. While the recipe for the Wasik’s Curry Apricot Chutney Spread is a closely guarded family secret, the base of this delicious spread is cream cheese with curry powder and dried apricots. The end result of this sweet, yet savory spread would be a great addition to your finely aged cheese, fresh baked loaf of Something Natural bread or even on your leftover dinner from the night before.
Dip with: Care – it could be quickly gone before you know it!
One of the great things about cheese is that every one of them is unique, as is every wine. While there are numerous, classical cheese and wine pairings, the landscape and offering of both these categories is ever changing and sometimes daunting to keep up with all the new selections. Be sure to inquire with the Sommelier at your favorite local bottle shop for their best ideas and current cheese recommendations that you can purchase to take home and try tonight.
1 N Beach Street, Nantucket, MA