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.


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

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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.




The Badass Buffalo Brothers: Bruno & Alfio Gritti Make Beautiful Buffalo Milk Cheese

baby buff cheesesBruno and Alfio Gritti grew up on a dairy farm—a cow dairy farm— near Bergamo, in northern Italy’s Lombardy region. It was their dad, Renato Gritti, who founded the dairy in 1968. In 2000, “we made a conscious decision to change something big,” said Bruno Gritti, who came to hang out with Murray’s on Bleecker Street and taste his buffalo milk beauties with us.

And so: water buffalo! The brothers bought 40 fine animals from a neighboring farm, and Caseificio Quattro Portoni as we know it today was born. The transition was a long, arduous process. “First we had to get to know the animal,” Bruno told us. Buffalos give six or seven liters of milk a day, in comparison to the cow’s 28. Buffalo is “a poor animal,” Bruno said. And yet buffalos live about twice as long as cows. “The buffalo is a work animal, a hearty animal, an animal that doesn’t require a lot.”


Today, the brothers’ herd numbers a thousand. For a time, Bruno and Alfio acquired more buffalo, but a thousand seemed to be the ideal number. “We rather keep the herd small, happier and healthier.” Caring for buffalo is a costly process. They eat a GMO and soy free diet, with lots of fresh hay and sorghum. The animals need a lot of TLC.

All the work is worth it. The herd’s milk is wildly sweet, rich, and delicate. There’s an abundance of casein, fat, and protein, and no carotene, so the color of the cheese is super white and nearly translucent.

In Southern Italy, fresh buffalo milk cheeses like mozzarella and stracciatella are ubiquitous and beloved. But in Lombardy, in the North, the cheese tradition is a vastly different animal (pun intended). Grana Padano, Gorgonzola, and Taleggio (cow’s milk, cow’s milk, and cow’s milk) hail from this region.

making buff milk cheeseNo one had ever thought of making aged cheese with buffalo milk before,” Bruno said. But the Gritti brothers thought of it, and we are thrilled that they did. They’ve harnessed the magical elixir that is their highest quality buffalo milk and turned it into nearly twenty gorgeous, unique cheeses, many inspired by the time-honored cheeses of their region. Behold, brilliant innovation meets tradition. The result: truly fantastic cheese. 

Sound easy? Not so much. Everything about making buffalo milk cheese is different than making cheese from cow’s milk: “different temperature, different rennet, different recipes.” It took the Grittis years and years of work, sweat and tears to land upon recipes and processes that produce incredible, original cheeses. And like all serious cheesemaking, crafting these goodies requires an epic amount of precision, dedication and effort.

brie_creamy_casatica_di_bufalaMaking cheese, like caring for buffalo “is all in the small details,” Bruno says. With an eye towards detail and deliciousness, they’ve created these life-changing treats:

Casatica di Bufala

This soft-ripened stracchino-style is a zaftig, custardy little beauty, barely restrained by its bloomy rind. Its rich and creamy, which means you want something bubbly & acidic. Prosecco fits the bill nicely.

stinky_quadrello_di_bufalaQuadrello di Bufala

The Gritti bro’s update on a classic Lombardian Taleggio recipe. It combines the borrowed recipe with something old and something new to create something distinctly buffalo. Creamy, sweet, and robustly pungent, after a round in our own caves there’s plenty of salt, mushroom funk and tang. A perfect match with a hefty Barbera. blue_blu_di_bufala


Blu di Bufala

Say ”Yes!” to decadence. This high-fat (like half-and-half), high-style (cube-shaped) cheese uses an ancient recipe that lends an ever-changing texture to their wheels, but their attention to detail consistently results in superbly aged cheeses. We age each wheel to buttery perfection and to punchy blueing that keeps us coming back for more. For snacking, salads and topping crostini. Perfect with Moscato d’Asti.