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.

Vertical Pairings at the Vermont Cheesemaker Festival

Vertical Pairings at the Vermont Cheesemaker Festival

By Caitlin Bower

 

Let’s get vertical.

Vertical tasting explores the history of a cheese: how it starts (as milk, as curd, as a fresh cheese, as a toddler) to how it ends up in its final expression. It is the most immediate and accessible way to taste and understand affinage. By eating a cheese at different stages of its development, you taste the flavors that can develop with careful treatment, age and time. While attending July’s Vermont Cheesemaker Festival, I attended a seminar in which three featured cheesemakers chose a different way to explore this process, and with different milk types.

1. Fresh Curd vs. 1 year old (pasteurized and raw cow) – Plymouth Artisan Cheeses

Granular curd cheesemaking is the rare, work-intensive process that Plymouth Artisan Cheese owner, Jesse Werner, was able to showcase with his fresh curd and year-old Plymouth “The Original” side by side. From an 1890’s recipe, the curd was squeaky, delicious and a tiny bit tangy. The “Original” is made with those same curds and has a bright, acidic, cheddary flavor, much altered by age and process.

The Mozzarella Making class at Murray’s also offers the opportunity to taste both curd and cheese, with a fun, hands-on addition of making your own mozzarella in the classroom.

2. Young Bloomy vs Aged Alpine (sheep) – Woodcock Farm Cheese Co

This vertical pair explored the same milk type expressed in two styles: one younger and soft, one older and hard.

Summer Snow vs. the Wheston Wheel – you can even hear it in the name; the first cheese is a delicate, exuberant, young, soft cheese with a tender, slightly squeaky rind while the second is nuttier, sweeter, complex and more robust.

 

3. Fresh vs. Mold Ripened (goat) – Vermont Creamery

crottin, a super-fresh goat milk button

bijou is lightly aged, which gives it time to develop its silk rind

From fresh chèvre to brain like and acidic, the Crottin’s final form is the Bijou. The first cheese has a tiny amount of the geotrichum, which adds a slight yeasty flavor at a day old, develops into a full rind by the second week to become an entirely different cheese. This vertical pairing is a perfect example of how much a cheese can change in just two short weeks, and how both can be delicious in their own right.

 

 

 

 

 

Try out a vertical taste test on your own!

Cellars at Jasper Hill: Harbison vs. Cavemaster Reserve Greensward

1 year Comte vs. 2 or 3 year Comte

And for a triple-header, go for the Murray’s Cavemaster trio: Kinderhook Creek vs. Hudson Flower vs. C Local

 

Eat Cheese, Drink Summer Beers & Be Merry

By John David Ryan

 

I love beer. I drink it year ‘round. But it’s 90 degrees outside right now. I have a cabinet full of barrel-aged quads and stouts–and most of them will still be there when the leaves start to change. No one’s hammering a Founders KBS or Thirsty Dog Wulver right now. You’re drinking session ales. You’re drinking freshly hopped beer. You’re drinking plenty of pale.

But it’s prime time for cheese, too! Cows and sheep and goats across the world are eating plenty of lush, fresh, green grass. They’re turning it into creamy milk and cheese-makers are producing some of their finest products.

Let’s put the two together.

Go grab some Bijou from Vermont Creamery. Seriously. Do it right now. And while you’re out picking it up, grab a sixer of Bell’s Brewery’s Oberon. It’s the perfect summer wheat beer–not too sweet, not too spicy, and not too heavy. Or, if you want to keep it all in Vermont, maybe try some Otter Creek Fresh Slice. It complements the tangy, metallic flavors in Allison Hooper’s super creamy take on crottin. Bijou is a perfect little button of goat’s milk cheese.

Few things intimidate curd nerds like washed rind cheese. And even the most serious of hop heads can be turned off by a sour beer. Fret not! You can pair the two and simultaneously overcome your fears. Cato Corner Farm washes its Hooligan in brine until it reaches stinky orange perfection. Try it with Westbrook’s Gose or Evil Twin’s Nomader Weisse. The tart, acidic beer helps bring out the creaminess of the cheese.

Everyone loves cheddar. Everyone. If you don’t like cheddar, then you probably don’t like cute kittens, rainbows or laughing babies either. Seriously–what’s not to love about crumbly, intense cheddar? And if you want the best cheddar in the world, you’re probably going to grab Montgomery’s Clothbound English cheddar. And if you are going to pair it with beer, you’re probably going to get an IPA. And if you’re going to get an IPA, you want a hoppy, American beer. And that’s why you’re going to buy some Ithaca Flower Power or Founders’ All Day IPA.

Finally, we come to the easy drinkers. The pale ales. The pilsners. The lagers. Get you some Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale or Stillwater Classique or maybe a Pinkus Ur-Pils. Anyone can love a lighter beer, and they pair beautifully with tome-style cheeses. My current favorite is Margot. This fine Italian cheese is made by 4th generation cheese makers, and it’s washed in BEER! The hint of hops on the outside sets off the flavors of the fudgy interior.

Eat (cheese), drink and be merry.

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. 

Get Grillin!

Congratulations, you have made it. It’s officially grilling season, which means there are tons of new Murray’s products to try this Memorial Day and throughout the summer. Whether you’re grilling on your fire escape, in the park, or in your back yard, we’ve got the stuff you need.

What screams warm weather, relaxation, and the American dream better than the hot dog? While I admit to shoveling down a street dog on occasion, the folks at Brooklyn Hot Dog Company are whipping up some outer borough dogs that are out of this world. These dogs put the street vendors to shame. Deep flavor, super juicy and made from 100% beef – these franks are begging to be grilled! Not a fan of the dog? That’s OK, try some of Brooklyn Cured’s new sausages for the grill. With a wide variety of flavors including Andouille, Bratwurst and Chicken with Apple, these guys have all of the bases covered. Brooklyn is really reigning the grill market this year, but with products this good, its easy to see why.

Going the hamburger route? We’ve got you covered. Naturally, we love our cheeseburgers, and the options are endless. Right now, I have really been feeling the Alpine style of cheese on my burgers. These cheeses melt perfectly, and there are a wide variety of flavor profiles that can be achieved. Like caramelized onions? Scharfe Maxx, will add a distinct rich oniony flavor to your patty. Feeling a little bit funky? Try some of Meadow Creek’s Mountaineer, which will be sure to take your burgers to a new level.

And don’t forget the condiments for all your grilling needs. Sir Kensington makes some great small-batch ketchup that has a much deeper flavor than store-bought ketchups. Notes of onion, cayenne, honey, and coriander will have you scooping this stuff on by the spoonful.

McClure’s is yet another Brooklyn made product that really brings it this grilling season. Their line of spicy and garlic relish are mandatory at any cook out. They also have a great selection of pickles for munching on, and a Bloody Mary mix that will make you memorial day memorable (it’s also  been know to have the exact opposite effect).

If you don’t have time to shop in store, or live outside of the city you can purchase our Murray’s Griller Pack with everything you need online and get it delivered right to your door.  Whichever way you decide to go, grill hard and stay cool out there!