‘Tis the Season for these One-of-a-Kind Holiday Cheeses

rush creekTwinkly lights. Christmas music. Cozy sweaters…CHEESE!! Nothing says holiday spirit–and flavor–like these super seasonal cheese favorites. These gorgeous wheels are at their peak now, and many are only available for a precariously short amount of time. The clock is ticking.

Plus, a spot-on holiday cheese plate is a guaranteed way to spread love and joy. Happy shopping, feasting, and celebrating to you and yours!

Rush Creek Reserve

Uplands Cheese Co., one of the most beloved cheesemakers in the United States makes this Vacherin Mont d’Or-inspired beauty, possibly the most sought-after cheese in the world (pictured above). This is big news. And it makes total sense – the raw winter milk from their pastured herd of cows is less plentiful and of a quality that’s better suited to a younger, softer cheese, so they’ve done exactly what the French & Swiss have been doing for centuries: binding small wheels in spruce bark and washing them for sixty days to produce an astoundingly unctuous, resiny, bacony delight. Best served warm, with a bottle of oxidized white wine, crusty bread, and potatoes.

This cheese has a very limited availability. (Last year, it wasn’t available at all!). Get it while you can, or spend 2016 in a cheesy shroud of regret. 

comteap32 Year Comte

Frankly, a fantastic cheese. Here at murray’s, we can’t get enough. Aged in the Fort Saint Antoine in Jura, this Comte is produced by one of 13 high altitude cooperatives (“Fruitiers”) approved by affineur Marcel Petite. This Comte is aged for 2 years, which is the longest the affineur will age any cheese. The enormous wheels of raw cows’ milk have a firm texture, leaving flavors that can range from dense, with hints of smoke and onions, to sweeter, with notes of chocolate and hazelnuts. A holiday cheese plate must, and major crowd-delighter.

stiltonColston Bassett Stilton 

How did Stilton become a Christmastime tradition? The most sky-high quality milk comes from cows grazing at the end of the summer, and Stilton is at its best after about three months of aging. Hence, the cream of the crop Stilton is ready just in time for the holidays! Plus, it’s fantastic after Christmas dinner, with some tawny port and shards of chocolate.

The term ”Royal Blue” must have come from the creation of Stilton. Invented by Elizabeth Scarbrow and first served in 1720 at the Bell Inn in Stilton, England fame was not far behind. Made with pasteurized cows’ milk, it is ripened 3-4 months under carefully controlled cool, humid conditions. These farmstead, rustic looking cylinders are made by Colston-Basset Dairy, for Neal’s Yard Dairy. What makes them unique is the use of traditional animal rennet, not to be found from any other Stilton maker. Each bite is exceptionally buttery in texture with a clean, mineral tang that you’ll never forget.

Vacherin Mont D’Or

vacherinVacherin Mont D’Or inspired mania and devotion, and rightly so. A thermalized cow’s milk cheese wrapped in spruce to contain the woodsy liquid interior that, with one taste, commands spontaneous exuberance. It tastes like the holidays.

Extremely rare and highly seasonal, Vacherin Mont d’Or hails from Switzerland on the border of France near the mountain D’Or. Traditionally made with the winter milk of the same cows that produce Gruyere in the summer, this cheese is only available from October until April, making it all the more precious. The cheese must be made from cows munching on straw and fodder; once outside to graze at pasture, their milk is used for larger alpine cheeses. Swiss regulations also dictate the cheese must be produced at elevations of 2,297 feet or higher. Not a dictate, but we highly recommend you enjoy this delectable cheese with a bottle of Gewurtztraminer.

Happy Thanksgiving! All-American Cheeses for your Holiday Table

american artisansWe’re grateful to live in the land of the free and the home of much awesome cheese. We hope you’re gearing up and settling in for a holiday full of good friends, family, and feasting.

What’s Thanksgiving without cheese? Here are some of our favorite beauties, all crafted in the incredible country we call home. Pair this American bounty with apple butter, ripe pears and crunchy pecans for a pitch perfect autumnal platter.

st mark'sSt Mark’s (Our brand new Murray’s exclusive cheese!) 

Guaranteed to make your guests love you! In the St. Mark’s (Street, ethos) spirit, we’ve taken a beloved traditional cheese and given it an avante garde spin. This complex, unctuous cheese is fragile—we keep it safe in a little red terra cotta crock. So cute. Plus, the crock helps St. Mark’s double as a perfect, personal fondue. Top with some fig jam and walnuts—or be a purist and leave it as is—and pop the cheese in the oven, or toaster oven, for a few minutes. It will get oozy, melty and glorious. Scoop up the creamy goodness with crusty bread for the perfect fall/winter treat. Pair with Beaujolais, or a crisp ale, and some Village swagger.

Cremont

A fantastic little cheese from the chevre pioneers at the Vermont Creamery. This one combines high-quality pasteurized goat’s milk (from the twenty family farms supported by the creamery) with cow’s milk & cream (from a local co-op). A slow, lactic set and a delicate, crinkly rind make for a rich, mouth-coating, earthy, and satisfying cheese.

Cabot Clothbound Cheddar

Twice a year, we hand select Cabot’s English-inspired clothbound cheddar aged by the Cellars at Jasper Hill. Our preferred flavor profile: a delicate balance of sharpness, slight nuttiness, and a caramelized, nearly candied sweetness. Produced from the pasteurized milk from a single herd of Holstein cows, our wheels hover in the 12-14 month range.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve pleasant ridge

The talented cheesemaker Mike Gingrich makes this smooth, firm cheese from the raw milk of his 150-cow herd only during the summer months, when the cows can graze on the lush pastures and the cheese takes on a fruity, olive-y, addictive depth. Several months of aging intensify its flavors, especially the sweetness.

CaveMaster Reserve Greensward

Two years ago Murray’s and the Cellars at Jasper Hill embarked on a top secret mission to create an exclusive cheese for Eleven Madison Park’s Iconic New York menu.The result is a spectacular new pasteurized cow’s milk cheese…and Murray’s is the only place you can get it! Greensward will wow your guests. Promise. Perfect spoonable, silky texture. Perfect big, bacony flavor. Perfect notes of forest and resin from Greensward’s pretty spruce jacket.

rogue riverRogue Rover Blue

After decades of award winning production, the newest owners of Rogue –David Gremmels and Cary Bryant–decided to take it up a notch. For a special edition of the company’s classic ‘Oregon Blue Vein’ they start with pastured, raw summer milk. A fruity nuance is added to the dense, vegetal, smoky blue after several months of aging by wrapping the wheels with local pear “eau de vie” soaked grape leaves from a neighboring vineyard. Due to the highly seasonal milk supply and remarkable demand, availability is limited.

Boo! The Scariest Cheeses for Halloween

scary cheese

Scary gorgeous photo by Carey Nershi

Happy Halloween! It’s time for ghosts and goblins and other scary things. Cheese doesn’t have to be one of them, but it certainly can be. What better time than now for brainy rinds and sizable stink factor? There’s nothing to be afraid of. Promise.

Bonne BoucheBonne Bouche is the flagship of Vermont Creamery’s signature aged goat cheeses. Made with pasteurized goat’s milk, the curd is carefully hand-ladled into molds, lightly sprinkled with ash, and aged just long enough to develop a wrinkly, brain-like rind. Reminiscent of Loire Valley favorites like Selles Sur Cher, Bonne Bouche also pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc.Frighteningly good.

Murray’s CaveMaster Reserve Greensward: If giant, funky flavor and oozy goodness scare you, don’t read on. Creating a new cheese is hard work! After tons of experimentation, we’ve arrived at perfection. Perfect spoonable, silky texture. Perfect big, bacony flavor. Perfect notes of forest and resin from Greensward’s pretty spruce jacket. The perfect collaboration with Jasper Hill. For even more perfection, open a light Gamay, or bourbon, and dive into this beauty with pieces of crusty bread.

stinky_murrays_cave_aged_epoisseÉpoisses: Don’t be afraid of the stink! You may not know it, but Époisses is actually a French word meaning “completely worth the effort”—either that or “stinky but incredibly loveable” because the end result, a custardy bacon bomb, is oh-so-worth-it. One slurp of the intensely creamy paste of this French classic, and you’ll know why we go to such lengths to ensure that this unctuous pasteurized cow’s milk round, made in Burgundy, France, is so delightfully decadent. After near extinction in France during the World Wars, Époisses de Bourgogne was resurrected in the 1950s by our beloved M. Berthaut. After being carefully hand-ladled into forms and dry-salted, each wheel takes a turn in French cave. Tucked into a clever wooden box meant to ease transport to our fair shores, serving Époisses isn’t nearly as difficult as aging it—slice a crusty baguette and dunk away, adding a glass of Burgundian white for terroir-driven perfection.

Coupole: Another wrinkly beauty from Vermont Creamery. As it ages, the pristine, velvety edible rind softens the fresh chevre beneath to an unctuous creamline. The resulting two textures of its cross-section make for a stunning visual presentation; this is an ideal selection for a stand alone cheese or first position of a cheese plate. Pair with a dry, grassy white.

The Lunch Packer’s Guide to a Real Food Lunch, with Nina Planck

nina_kitchen_smile_carroll_20151-702x336Back to school time is either right around the corner or right now, depending on where you live. Lunch is officially on the to-do list.

If you’re anything like us, you really (really! really!) care about food. But, your’e also too busy to spend gobs of time slaving over a hot lunchbox. Skip the same ol’ sandwiches and upgrade to these simple, nourishing, day-making delicacies.

real food cookbookNina Planck wrote the book on Real Food. Literally. Nina is a farmer’s daughter, food writer and advocate for traditional food. (Oh, and did we mention she is the wonderful wife of Murray’s Big Cheese, Rob Kaufelt?) Plus, she lives what she writes–a life of real and wonderful food. Here’s what she’s packing in her three kids’ lunch boxes this fall:

Kids need protein. Nina and Rob’s kids eat Prosciutto di Parma, made in essentially the same way since the Romans: by massaging the hind legs of whey-fed hogs (leftover from the production of Parmigiano Reggiano) with salt, washing, then dry-aging the meat for 10-12 months, and sometimes even longer. The flavor is perfumy and sweet, beloved by kids and adults alike. We’re all about serving it for lunch with chunks of Pamigiano Reggiano, or pressed into panini. More of Nina’s protein-rich picks: boiled eggs and chef Amy’s egg salad, available at the Bleecker Street store.

blue_jasper_hill_bayley_hazenKids need calcium and high quality butterfat for vitamins A and D. Nina packs Swiss cheese and good Irish cheddar, Wisconsin cheese curds and Cambozola Blue or Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen with honey.

Kids need fresh fruit and veggies. Plus all this calls for a little crunch, so they eat pickles. We love Crisp and Co. pickles, which are snappy, friendly and complex enough for kids and grown-ups. Founder Thomas Peter of Hockessin, DE, uses his background — a master’s degree in biomedical engineering, a former career as a cancer researcher and passion for molecular gastronomy — to create pickle perfection.

Welcome back to fall, a new school year, and lots of real and delicious food to fuel your full and amazing life…and your kids’ minds, bodies and tummies.

For more real food inspiration, head to Nina’s site. Or better yet, read her books!

Congratulations to our New Certified Cheese Professionals + Why the Cheese Test Is A Big Deal

photo 1 (1)

Wine has sommeliers, beer has cicerones, and now…cheese has Certified Cheese Professionals (CCPs). Today we’re congratulating eight Murray’s cheese whizzes and 20 Kroger Red Jacket team members for becoming CCPs and achieving the ultimate in cheese recognition. They join four Murray’s folks and 20 Kroger employees who hold this distinguished standing…for a total of 52 CCPs in our Murray’s community.

“The opportunity to work with and learn from who I consider to be the best minds in cheese today has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me,” says Connor Pelcher, who works in our Wholesale department and just got the news of his CCP status. (Congrats, Connor!).

The exam was first given in 2012, and it reflects a recent groundswell of professionalism in our world – cheese land. According to a 2012 report from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, cheese is the largest specialty food category in the US. Murray’s is at the forefront of establishing, growing and supporting a career path (a multitude of career paths!) in cheese.

“The ACS CCP Certification is a mark of excellence and achievement that reflects a commitment to the best possible care for cheese and service to those that love it,” says the American Cheese Society. Passing the American Cheese Society’s CCP exam is no small feat. Before being allowed to sit for the exam, cheese people must have 4,000 hours of work and/or formal education in the cheese-field under their belt.

ACS_CCPE-logo_Final_smallThen, they’re tested for three hours on the ins and outs of all things cheese: chesemaking and aging, storage and handling, nutrition, history, distribution, categorization…whew. It’s a rigorous test of cheese knowledge across all areas of our field. This is the very highest standard for cheese professionals.

“When I started on the counter at Murray’s 25 years ago, the job of cheesemonger didn’t formally exist,” says Rob Kaufelt, Murray’s Owner and President. “And if it did, it was certainly not at the level of a butcher, let alone a chef or sommelier. That is, we were not a profession at all back then. Now I’m proud to say that Murray’s, with the help of the ACS and Kroger supermarkets, is well on its way to establishing a proud, new, traditional line of work in the food industry. We are leading the country toward a new and respected profession with a formal certificate of recognition.”

I feel connected to a larger community of cheese nerds like myself,” says Summer Babiarz, one of Murray’s wonderful trainers and part of the newest class of designated CCPs. “Plus, it’s fun to learn things you don’t know.”

“It will be nice for people to have a more systemized way to learn their industry, rather than getting their info from word of mouth,” Summer says. We’re proud of instructing and empowering passionate, knowledgeable and inspiring cheese professionals – by the end of this year, we will have 3,000 Red Jackets in 250 stores around the country. We’re deeply committed to spreading the curd, and supporting and training those who make it their life’s work to do so.

“I truly hope that I am able to pass down what I’ve learned to our next generation of CCPs with as much grace and passion as my peers have shown me,” Connor says. Congratulations to the new CCPs, and best of luck to our many, many future cheese stars.