Turophile Heaven: The Festival of Cheese

by Walshe Birney

 

The American Cheese Society’s 2014 conference in Sacramento was a whirlwind of fantastic panels, networking events, and, for some of us, the CCP exam, a difficult test of all that we’ve learned throughout our years in the cheese business. On the second to last day, these experiences culminated in the Awards Ceremony, where the best American cheesemakers were honored for their outstanding products. As exciting and emotional as the Ceremony was, the real fun occurred on the last day of the conference, the Festival of Cheese. Here, every entry to the Awards Ceremony was available to taste, not just those that won a ribbon.

Stretching as far as the eye can see, the conference hall was filled with towers of Alpine-style cheeses, smorgasbords of oozy bloomy-rinds and mountains of meaty, pungent washed rinds. Entire rows devoted just to flavored cheeses, smoked cheeses, hispanic-style cheeses; the Festival was truly a turophile’s heaven. As a buyer at Murray’s, I am lucky to have the opportunity everyday to try all manner of tremendous cheese from across the globe, but it’s staggering just how many fantastic new and established American cheeses were present, especially when seeing them all in one place. There is no doubt that our domestic industry is robust and healthy, and leading the way globally in innovation and quality.

 

After being presented with a plate and wine glass (everything one needs for a successful cheese tasting), our first stop took us to the Alpine-style table to taste the winner for best-in-show, Spring Brook Farm’s Tarentaise Reserve. Modelled after the Alpine cheeses of eastern France, such as Abondance and Beaufort, Tarentaise has long been a staple on Murray’s counter, and the 2-year extra-aged version is a thing of beauty: a pronounced and lingering sweetness, an underlying current of roasted hazelnuts and brown butter, and satisfying crystallization. Truly a world-class cheese, on par with the best extra-aged Comtes and Gruyeres. Look for a special Tarentaise aged in our caves to hit our counters at the end of August, with a profile between the reserve and the original, exclusive to Murray’s.

After refilling our glasses with some terrific dry cider from Oregon’s Aengus Ciderworks, we visited our own Murray’s award winners, Hudson Flower (our collaboration with Old Chatham Sheepherding Company) and Torus (our collaboration with Vermont Creamery). These cheeses mark our first ribbons at the festival, taking second place in their respective categories. While we’ve long been known for our cave-aging, this marks the first time that affinage-specific collaborations have been honored at the festival. These partnerships with some of our favorite creameries have been very successful, and we can’t wait to roll out more Cavemaster Reserve cheeses soon. And hopefully we’ll have wins for Greensward, our collaboration with Jasper Hill, and Barden Blue, our collaboration with Consider Bardwell, next year!

With the multitude of choices on offer, at this point we started bouncing around from table to table, trying whatever caught our eyes. Some of the best cheese new to me were the amazingly nuanced washed rind goat cheeses from Briar Rose Creamery, and Bleating Heart’s stunningly sheepy tommes and blues. We also had a chance to nibble on goodies from some of my favorite charcuterie purveyors, Olympic Provisions and Fra’mani, whose cured meats provided perfect counterpoints to mountains of dairy products filling the conference hall.

As our stomachs grew full and the conference wound down, I began to reflect on all the amazing experiences our team had at the conference this year. We had our wills and knowledge tested in the CCP exam, learned a tremendous amount from the stellar panels, and had a lot of fun relaxing and hanging out with our colleagues from around the country, but what will stick with me the most is the incredible talent, passion and love that American cheesemakers and retailers have for these amazing products, and the change they are affecting across the American culinary landscape. The Festival of Cheese was the perfect encapsulation of this, and a fitting end to an unbelievably successful American Cheese Society conference. I can’t wait for next year’s in Rhode Island!

 

 

 

Behind the Rinds: The Secrets of Little Big Apple

by Chris Roberts, photos: Paige Yim

 

There’s booze in there.

Little Big Apple!

Every year we roll out our Little Big Apple cheese and every year a group of dedicated Murray’s employees venture out to the Hudson Valley to visit the Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery. The task is to gather boxes and boxes of apple leaves, picked from their lush orchard, to  be boiled down and soaked in a local Apple Jack brandy. It was my first time going on this adventure and I was excited because my particular world of cheese so rarely expands beyond the walls of our Distribution Center in Long Island City, Queens. The Little Big Apple, for those who don’t know, takes the already delicious Champlain Valley Triple Cream (which we sell year-round) and adds a touch of Murray’s magic to it. We give it a bit more time in our specialized cheese caves to give it just the right amount of richness and then wrap in leaves to give it a touch of crisp sweetness.

My day in the orchard had a few more challenges than I was anticipating, but it certainly wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. Yes, the sun was especially aggressive that day and I simply wasn’t prepared for the sheer number of beetles that I would encounter but, for once, I had a small hand in the cheese making process. Our resident Cave Master, Brian Ralph, was leading the trip and gave us semi-specific instructions as to which leaves we were looking for, and while that caused some people on the trip to be overly cautious, I took a more liberal approach and tried to win the day with quantity.

 

After we finished up, we took lunch and enjoyed a more relaxed afternoon of exploration. There was a bit of shopping before we moved on to a tour of the distillery. The art of distillation is something I’m woefully ignorant about so it was exciting to learn the basic of basics and to obtain a an understanding of what goes into the process. We met many of the people who work at Warwick and they were happy to teach us about their craft. There was even a quick cider tasting squeezed in at the end of the day before we had to get back on the road. The trip back into the city was a quick one, as the sun had gotten the best of me, and I was forced to take a late afternoon nap—the true sign of a fruitful adventure.

The man. The myth. The Legend. Chris Roberts.

New Curds on the Block: Cloumage from Shy Brothers Farm

One Cheese. So Many Ways to Enjoy.

Let Us Introduce You to Cloumage®.

 by Shy Brothers Farm

 

Shy Brothers Farm is so excited to be introducing Cloumage® to the customers of Murray’s cheese shops in Kroger’s supermarkets and its NYC stores. Cloumage® is a versatile creamy fresh farmstead cheese, made with our own cow’s milk in scenic, coastal Westport, Massachusetts. Our cows have the luxury of enjoying acres of acres of lush grass seasoned by the sea air. The milk produced by these happy cows produces the unique flavor you’ll experience with Cloumage®. Creamy with a little tang.

 

What’s the best way to enjoy Cloumage®? That’s a difficult question because there are just SO many. Try “as is” with a little fig jam or herbs – it’s a nice way to start and truly enjoy the flavor and texture of the cheese. From there, sky’s the limit. Chefs have been using Cloumage® in both savory and sweet dishes, from pizza and salad toppings to cheesecakes and pies. Pastry chefs have been substituting half the butter in their recipes with Cloumage® with palette pleasing results.

 

Following are a few of our favorite recipes that are perfect for this time of year – Greek Tzatziki (condiment for burgers, chicken, dipping, etc), Cloumage® & Rosemary Stuffed Dates and Spaghetti Squash with Cloumage® Pesto. We’d love to hear how you enjoy Cloumage® and welcome your feedback!

 

For more recipes and to learn more about Shy Brothers Farm and Cloumage®, we invite you to visit our website.

 

 

Greek Tzatziki

 

Ingredients:

½ English cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise & seeds removed

1 clove garlic, minced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 cup of Cloumage®

juice of ½ lemon

1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

 

Puree cucumber in food processor

Add garlic, Cloumage®, dill and lemon juice and pulse until smooth

Season with salt and pepper to taste

 

Use as a condiment on burgers, with chicken, pork, lamb or as a dip for veggies or chips.

 

 

Cloumage® & Rosemary Stuffed Dates

 

Makes approximately 12 stuffed dates.

 

Ingredients:

12 dates (pits removed)

1/2 cup Cloumage®

1 tsp honey

1 tsp minced fresh rosemary

pinch of smoked paprika

12 walnut pieces

 

Mix Cloumage®, honey, rosemary & paprika in a bowl.

Fill dates with Cloumage mixture.

Top each with a walnut piece

Sprinkle a little more smoked paprika on top.

 

 

Spaghetti Squash with Cloumage® Pesto

 

Serves 4

 

Ingredients:

2 spaghetti squashes (or 1 lb pasta)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 cup fresh pesto

1 tub of Cloumage® (15 oz)

salt and pepper to taste

peas (optional)

 

For Spaghetti Squash:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Slice spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and put halves on cookie cheese cut side up

Roast for 45 minutes or until you can easily pierce the flesh with a knife

Discard seeds and remove “spaghetti” with a fork

 

For Sauce:

Add olive oil to sauté pan over medium heat

Sauté garlic just until you can smell the garlic aroma

Warm pesto in the pan then whisk in Cloumage®

Add salt and pepper to taste

Toss spaghetti squash with sauce and peas and serve

The Milking: Straight Outta Comté, Part 2

By: Amanda Parker

The Montbéliarde is an elegant, pampered cow.  Covered in wide swaths of dappled chestnut brown and cream, she is the foundation of Comté, the source of the raw material that will, when transformed, become cheese.   She is cared for, fed, by farmers across this countryside, making her way gracefully through the bright landscape of the Jura Massif. 

The first step in the three-part chain of Comté, the dairy farm is crucial for the production of the best quality raw milk.  Under the set of regulations for the cheese’s Protected Designation of Origin that maintains the tradition and quality of the cheese—known here as the cahier des charges—a farm must provide an animal with the right environment that will make the best milk to be made into cheese.  In the Jura, this means that Montbéliarde cows, required by law to constitute 95% of the milk used for Comté, must have their own grazing area—1 hectare, to be precise, made up of the plants that make this region so full of biodiversity.  Under the cahier des charges, these lucky ladies can graze on pastures filled with grasses and flowers native to these high hills, part of the terroir that speaks itself in floral pops and verdant flavors of a wheel of Comté.

In the winter, and during especially dry summers, the cows will eat hay, dried from the spring and summer before and stacked high in bales in the barn.  Jean-François, our farmer friend at Villette-les-Dole, is especially proud of his hay.  He encourages us to climb a ladder and see!  See how the air circulates, the hay dries, la griffe (a large, scary-looking claw-like machine whose name seems to escape us all in English) distributes to the Montbéliardes, who graze now in the hot summer sun but line up in our imaginations during the chilly months, always choosing the same spot in the barn.  He grabs big handfuls of le foin and le regain, the first and second cuttings of grass for hay, and waves them under our noses, explaining the concentration of tall, waving stalks of grain in the first and the lower, buzz-cut of grasses and flowers in the second.  Jean-Francois’ son, Max, steps up and quietly, romantically, tell us that when they are cutting hay, the village smells of it, this foin and regain, and if you sleep with the windows open, you will dream of hay that night. 

High up in the Jura Mountains, now in the Doubs region—next to the Jura, and included in the designated area of Comté production—this landscape of dusty yellows and flat plains gives way to a second plateau.  Moving our way higher in altitude, the temperature has dropped and a new microclimate is immediately evident—broad pines surrounding wide, sloping fields brimming with some of the 576 grasses and wildflowers so engrained in the sense of this region’s terroir.  After a lunch of Comté fondue—more on that later!—and potato rösti, influenced by the Swiss border just a minute or two away, we walk the property of a classic chalet.  No cows are milked here, but Norbert practices the ancient art of shepherding—he is a berger, here in these hills to take care of a 60-head herd of local farms’ heifers between a year and a year and a half.   We tramp through hip-high waving grains and stop every few minutes to identify flowers in some pidgin French-English-botanical Latin language—gentian, whose roots Norbert carves into small, bitter bites for us to taste, the basis of the local liqueur,  daisies, local native orchids, clovers of all colors, small buttercups, native herbs.   

If this level of specificity seems, well, specific, it is.  Consider the result—raw milk, as it must be raw milk, held no more than 24 hours between milking and cheesemaking, teeming with microflora that will contribute to the vast array of flavors and aromas in a wheel of Comté.  Jean-Francois, clucking at our American pasteurization, explains “le Comté, il est fabriqué avec lait qui vit;”  Comté is made with living milk.  The French—and this story takes place, ironically, less than a kilometer away from the birthplace of Louis Pasteur—carry with them their microbial convictions, believing that the bacteria in the air, in the land, on the udders of the cows being milked, are the living, breathing foundation of great cheese.  A ladle of this morning’s raw milk makes us believers—a little sweet, like a wheat field in the sun, the dried grassiness of hay, and just a touch of clean animal—it’s the pure illustration of the land we walked and cows we (I) bumped heads with.  A drizzle of raw cream over a fruit tart is just insane.  Ridiculously indulgent, rich, so thick it seems almost cultured, like liquid crème fraiche.

From these hills and plains, cows and the people who tend them, comes milk, complex and ready for the next step in its journey to becoming a wheel of Comté—onward to the cheesemakers, the fruitieres that take this primordial liquid and transform it, into cheese. 

Meet the Meats: La Quercia

Shop Murray’s Cheese for La Quercia Artisan Meats Now!

How did a family in Norwalk, Iowa come to produce some of the best cured meats in the world? It started with tradition: After three and a half years in Parma, Italy, Herb and Kathy Eckhouse brought classic techniques back home to create their signature salumi, something they say “expresses our appreciation for the beauty and bounty of Iowa”. Adding responsible sourcing and sustainability to the recipe means that their products don’t just taste great, they’re also produced with the highest standards and best quality ingredients around.

 

With the demand for awesome American meat constantly growing, Murray’s and La Quercia are now teaming up to help more people get a bite of the good stuff. We will now be stocking even more of their products, and helping Herb distribute his goods to more people. Here are some new products that you have to taste:

Tamworth Bacon - This is the “end all, be all” Bacon. Produced from the belly of the Tamworth pig, this Bacon is full of well-balanced smoky and fatty flavors. Tamworth pigs snack on acorn for a few months which leaves a smooth, lingering nutty flavor on your tongue after the fat melts away.

Pancetta - This pancetta is the perfect balance of herbaceous and fatty sweetness. Perfect for flavoring a dish, bright notes of Juniper and Bay leaf will immediately stand out. Making pasta for dinner? Throw in a bit of Pancetta to bring it to the next level.

Prosciutto – Finding a cured ham that can compete with the Europeans can be tricky, but La Quercia gives even the Italians a run for their money. Nutty, fruity, and slightly sweet, this prosciutto will easily convert the most devoted Italophile.

Lomo Americano – Unlike most cured meats, Lomo is produced from pork tenderloin. This makes Lomo slightly less fatty than some other cuts, but it sure doesn’t lack in flavor. Rubbed with pimento and cocoa, slightly spicy and has incredible depth. This guy is the perfect prosciutto substitute, and plays well with wine.

Speck - Some hams are smoked, others cured. Speck has the distinct honor of receiving both treatments. The smokiness and saltiness combined perfectly to create a meat that is made for pairing. From dense aged cheeses, to bright, tangy, fresh ones; speck can easily transition into many roles.

Iowa White Spread – Like Buttered bread? Yea, me too. But when I tried a schmear of this stuff on a toasted baguette, my world changed. White Spread is basically prosciutto fat that has been cured, and then ground leaving it smooth like velvet. Think porky butter.

Guanciale – Meaning check in Italian, this cured pork jowl is anything but cheeky. The jowl holds some of the pigs most highly concentrated flavors, making Guanciale perfect for cooking with.

 

– LEO RUBIN

When Leo is not mongering behind the counter at Grand Central he is pursuing his Food Studies degree at the New School or interning in the Murray’s Marketing Department or developing new recipes for the store or managing an event or eating cheese.