Hanukkah Cheesin': The Forgotten Story of Curd and the Festival of Lights

Ed note: Loyal blog readers may remember this story from Hanukkah 2013. We’re republishing it this year because…well, because it’s an amazing story of how cheese saved the day, and we can’t get enough of those.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the “Festival of Lights” better than a big old wedge of curd. Every year, I make the schlep down to south Florida where the whole family gathers to enjoy a week of family time and fried food. And every year I brave the death-stares of fellow travels as I stink up the 3 hour flight with an insane amount of cheese stashed in my carry on. Although in my house I can’t guarantee that these treats will make it 8 days…48 hours would be a real miracle.

Until recently, I didn’t know that cheese, at one time, was part of traditional Hanukkah food celebrations. And just like any food tradition in the Jewish faith, there is a neat little story that will help us rationalize 8 days of gorging ourselves on some fantastic fromage. While this part of the Hanukkah story has become mostly forgotten in modern culture, it’s a great tale of heroism and the perfect excuse to munch on some curd, or gift a little wedge. It goes something like this:

Judith decapitating her enemy

Judith was a strikingly beautiful widow from the town of Bethulia in sixth century BC Israel. Her community came under siege, and annihilation looked inevitable. That is, until Judith came to the rescue. She put together a spread of wine and cheese and entered the enemy camp. The leader, Holofernes, was so smitten by her beauty, he couldn’t resist her offering of ripe cheese and intoxicating wine. He got bombed. I mean really, really drunk, like me at any Bar Mitzvah I have attended in the last 6 years. He was so wasted that Judith reacted in the most natural of ways: she stole his sword and cut of his head.

Jewish heroines really know how to bring the badass.

While this story takes place centuries after the Maccabees and their “Miracle of Light”, for many years it was incorporated into the Hanukkah celebration. Judith’s heroism was celebrated along with the Maccabees victory as an example of the perseverance of the Jewish people. But stories and cultures are not static, and this exciting tale has slowly been abandoned for the the modern Hanukkah story and celebration.

Torus

So, now that you know that it is not only acceptable, but encouraged that you get some cheese for Hanukkah, you might want a few suggestions for the platz-worthy wedge. The time and location that Judith’s story takes place would undoubtedly be a land full of goat and sheep milk cheeses. Allison Hooper, from Vermont Creamery, is what many consider the heroin of American goat cheese. She has helped to create the American market for goat cheese, and explored techniques and methods that have helped shaped a quality driven landscape of cheesemakers across the United States. Try some velvety and tangy Coupole or some fudgy and lemony Torus (and a dollop of their Crème Fraîche is a wonderful substitute for sour cream with your latkes). Nutty and grassy Ossau Iraty with a schmear of Seashore Honey will drive your great-aunts taste buds mashugganah, and a beautiful wheel of Cavemaster Reserve Hudson Flower will insure your eternal reputation as a real mensch.

One final piece of interesting cheese and Hanukkah knowledge. You know those potato latkes that Bubbie spends all day frying up? Potatoes were not brought over to Europe until the colonization of the American continent, but Jews had been making fried latkes for centuries. Guess what the original  latke was made of? You guessed it…CHEESE!

Regardless how you celebrate Hanukkah this year, Murray’s hopes it is a fun and full of friends and family. Here is to the festival of lights, and really good cheese! L’chaim, y’all!

8 Cheesy Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas from the Murray’s Staff

ManThatsGood

What to do with leftover turkey? We asked our Murray’s team for their favorite next-day turkey dishes.

Brett – Assistant Retail Manager “If there is any white meat left, I thinly slice it and layer with cranberry chutney and Chiriboga Blue. The tart cranberry and rich buttery blue is a perfect pairing.”

Dan – Education Manager “A turkey panini! I go for the rich dark meat, on a nutty whole grain bread with Consider Bardwell Rupert, grilled for maximum flavor. If I’m really indulging, I’ll dip the crusty sandwich in warm gravy. Oh yea, that’s good!”

Sarah – Catering Associate “Brie Fermier with cranberry sauce and herb-roasted turkey on a crusty ciabatta, so perfect! No gravy for me, as that will overwhelm the delicate creaminess of the brie, but I would definitely enjoy a porter alongside this sandwich.”

Alberto – Cheesemonger “Often I just go for a good smear of mayo, but I think the Tomme Chevre Aydius, with its firm paste and salty finish would be perfect with my mom’s white-wine basted turkey and stuffing on toasted sourdough pullman.”

Conner – Wholesale “I keep it simple and go for a quick turkey salad. It’s as easy as mixing my leftover bird with SIr Kinskington mayo, cranberry relish, apples, parsley and candied walnuts. A crusty baguette and some Prairie Breeze Cheddar… that’s all there is to it!

Lizzie – Wholesale ” Tacos, of-course! I use avocado, chimichurri, black beans, cilantro lime, and one of the all-time best melting cheeses Reading. Perfect for a day of laying around and recovering from a crazy turkey day!

Amanda – Nationwide “When I wake up the day after thanksgiving, there’s only one thing that I want to eat. I take my leftover stuffing, melt some nutty 2 year Comte over it, and fry and egg. BAM! Easy Black Friday breakfast

Andy maybe the best idea we have heard so far…

Sabrina – Nationwide “Thanksgiving Poutine! It’s pretty darn easy, and outrageously delicious. Take your leftover potatoes and make potato pancakes. top them with some leftover dressing and cheese curds!”

The Murray’s Catering Team Guide to an Easy Thanksgiving

We all know the stress of preparing a perfect Thanksgiving meal. This year, try a different approach. Instead of offering to prepare the stuffing or cranberry sauce, offer to bring everyone’s favorite dish: CATERING! If you’re in New York City, be sure to check out Murray’s Catering offerings and talk to our Catering team (Leigh, Sarah, and Beau), who can hook you up with everything but the bird.

All American Labels

Our go-to platter: cheese! The best part about bring cheese to your Thanksgiving gathering is the Murray’s Catering team who can help you assemble the perfect cheese board that will have all of your guests forgetting that turkey is even a thing. The “All American” spread pictured above celebrates American cheese, and includes 5 of our all-time favorites: Humboldt Fog, Green Hill, Solo Gran Queso, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, and Black River Blue. Serve these with honey, Marcona almonds, and dried fruit for something to be truly thankful for!

crudite_2 (2)Looking for something a little lighter to nibble before the big event? The catering team is also well versed in the world of small bites. Their beautiful Crudite platter features their famously addictive garlic-herb spread made with bright and tangy fromage blanc.

Overwhelmed by rich desserts? After the turkey, sides, and all the trimmings, a slice of pie might set you back another belt loop. Instead, take a break from the table, and set out a tray of bite-sized desserts and chocolates for your guests on your coffee table. Full of flavor and the perfect size to nibble on while lingering over coffee. Offer an assortment of mini tartlets, mini brownies, petits fours, and caramels, and let people help themselves to the bounty!

Want more info on Murray’s Catering? Shoot them an email at catering [at] murrayscheese [dot] com, or give them a call at 212-243-3289.

Hello Cornelia! A New Cavemaster Reserve Cheese

We are so proud to finally roll out our latest “Cavemaster Reserve” cheese, and already people are buzzing about it. After months of testing, cavemaster Brian is ready to start selling our new one-of-a-kind Cornelia. Named for our original location at Cornelia Street and Bleecker Street in New York’s West Village, these adorable tiny toma-style wheels were made in partnership with Point Reyes Farmstead, who make several wonderful cheeses out in California.

cornilla

We receive the wheels at just a few days old, and they are immediately moved to our washed-rind cave where we give them lots of love, and several washings. After they’ve developed a nice orange-colored rind, they’re moved to the natural-rind cave, where they’re allowed to develop further. The final result is a beautiful natural-rind, similar to the rinds found on Tomme de Savoie and Toma Walser.

Our friends over at Cheese Notes had these astute tasting notes on Cornelia:

The rind is orangey-pink, with a frosting of white mold, and a light layer of crystalline accretions from the washings. The paste is smooth and rich, with a scattering of eyes, lightly bulging and oozing as it warms. The aroma is a bit musty, carrying over from the aging caves; the flavor is beautifully buttery, with a silky, melting mouthfeel (reminiscent of a higher-fat sheep’s milk cheese even though it’s made from cows milk), with notes of roasted peanut and buttered toast, earthy and a bit brothy once it comes to room temperature. This is an easy-eating cheese, and I wouldn’t expect too many Cornelia’s halves to make it back into the fridge once they’ve been put out on the board.

You can read the whole write up here, or try the cheese for yourself at both of our New York retail location—and of course you can always order it online.