Rob Kaufelt Talks American Cheese

Late last week I had the chance to catch-up with Rob Kaufelt, the owner of Murray’s, to chat about the current state of the American cheese industry. Rob has had his fingers firmly at the pulse of the international, and American cheese market for the last 20 + years.Rob has seen American cheesemakers pop up across the country, and has played major  role in these small producers sucess on American cheese counters. He shared a few interesting words with me on the past, present, and future of what American cheese looks like. With October being American Cheese Month, his words seem especially important…

When I first judged at the annual American Cheese Society conference – I think it was 1990 – there were around 75 cheeses entered in the competition in all cheese categories. I’d say about a dozen were good. This year there were almost two thousand entries and my staff members that attended said maybe three dozen were notable.

The good news is we have seen the birth of the artisan cheese movement in America reach adolescence. The bad news is that, like many adolescents, the industry has a lot of growing up to do. We need to learn how to make good cheese consistently and safely. We need to market our cheeses better. We certainly need to educate our customers if we are to move them away from industrialized crap to the cheeses we love. And  we need better production methods and distribution to help bring costs down so more people can afford the good stuff.

The best news is that the word is spreading, and those of us that chose this rather strange career, whether as makers or mongers, have reason to be proud of what we’ve done, and to eagerly anticipate what we will do in the future.

In 2013, these words ring especially true. This year we have seen tighter FDA and USDA standards, and pressure on American cheese makers to adopted greater safety standards. Internally at Murray’s, food safty was a major buzzword this year. As we grow to become a national cheese retailer, understanding every possible thing we can do along the supply chain to insure the saftey of our product is viewed as critical.

Education is a major facet of the cheese industry, that starts at the retail level. And down at our flagship on Bleecker Street, we are taking big steps to expand our cheese education mission  by building a second classroom space! This will allow for a more diverse curriculum, and allow us to continue to educate American cheese lovers.

Over the next few years, we plan for Murray’s to fufill the mission Rob layed out 20 years ago. We want to be the household name in cheese. While doing so, we are excitied to continue selling and promoting the many American producers we have grown to love over the years, while picking up some new ones along the way.  October and American Cheese Month is the perfect time to reflect on how far American cheesemakers have come, and the exciting  future that is right around the corner.

Raves From The Caves: September 23, 2013

By:Tess McNamara

The crew in the caves have been working hard over the last few weeks to get our favorite fall friend, Little Big Apple back on the counter. Read on to check out how it, and a few more varieties are maturing in the caves!

Little Big Apple:  So what if we start our morning with a nip of apple brandy and a Champlain Valley Triple Crème?  Don’t judge.  As of late we’re pumping out, Little Big Apple, a fall special that begins with a triple crème from Vermont, that we then wrap tenderly in brandy soaked apple leaves plucked from the trees in Warwick, NY.  Many thanks to a team of leaf picking warriors from Murray’s that devoted an entire Saturday to the cause.  Get ready for this little bundle of butter and citrusy booze to knock you into fall.

Abbaye de Belloc:  Another Basque sheep’s milk cheese that lurks in the shadows of its counterparts in the Alpine cave, but we’re here to tell you it might be a little smaller in format, and look different with its rattlesnake skin grey/yellow/brown combination rind, but it’s really top notch in flavor.  Make a cut to discover a rich, creamy, grassy, butter laden paste.  The caramelized finish will keep you coming back for more.

Isle of Mull:  The finish line is in sight for this drum of clothbound cheddar from Scotland.  Get it before it doesn’t show up on our counters again for some time.  If you’re a fan of horseradish and bitter dandelion greens together with sour cream pockets, this is your animal.

Torus:   Softer and more doughy than usual, Torus is a little bit more delicate in texture but consistently bright, tangy, and yeasty in flavor.  Our favorite lemony ring, if you will.  Add some honey, or feel free to spread this temperamental donut on crostini with a savory counterpart to see what the runny creamline will do.

Start Spreading the News, Little Big Apple is Here TODAY

by: Cate Peebles

One bright and early Saturday morning (some might argue too early, too bright):

Four intrepid Murray’s apple-enthusiasts met up at 25-19 Borden Avenue in Long Island City, Queens, to begin a trek upstate to gather apple leaves for this year’s batch of Cavemaster Reserve Little Big Apple.Fueled by pumpkin doughnuts and taknards of iced coffee we started here:

good morning from Borden Ave

 And wound up here, give or take an hour or two and an episode of Car Talk:

Where we spent the morning surrounded by these: Skipping, Von Trapp-like, through lively, green, rolling hills–as demonstrated by Leo, here:

We also had to do a little quality control, sampling the Gala Apple wares that filled the air with their warm apple skin glow and sweet smell.

Rebekah embraces apple trees the way she embraces cheese and life

 However, we did add a little muscle, having promised Brian, the Cavemaster, that we’d fill several boxes with perfect, cheese-wrapping-sized leaves, like these:

After several hours of plucking, munching and view-intaking:

 We decided to celebrate our yeild and join the growing crowd down the hill for a little post-picking-picnicing, a fall tradition here at the Warwick Valley Winery:

 Meanwhile, back in the caves,these little guys had no idea what was coming their way:

 Stay tuned for: The Making of Little Big Apple

Raves From the Caves: September 11, 2013

By:Tess McNamara

Lots of great stuff   making it’s way out of the caves this week, and with Greensward recently being featured in the Wall Street Journal we have really stepped up production.  Ready to go? Let’s get spelunking!

Greensward:  We’re happy and our wrists and forearms are tired.  Why you ask?  Well, we have not just one, but three tall racks teeming with Greensward at various stages of its bath cycle.  It takes a lot of time to scrub and wash these babies, thus our well developed forearm muscles.  You could bake your favorite savory quiche over spruce branches from a freshly axed Christmas tree, or you could spoon Greensward into your mouth for the same effect.  It’s your choice.  We’re just sayin’, they’re here in mass quantities and they glow like the sky at dusk and taste like brothy, woodsy butter.

Truffle Tremor:  Sniff out this truffle laden cakey goat cheese from California’s Humbolt County and dig in.  You may moan a little over the first herbal, cream of mushroom, earthy bite.  Once cut into, this bloomy rind drum reveals a cookies ’n cream-esque paste rimmed by a custardy, opaque creamline.  Those darker specs are the truffles themselves so rest assured this is no faux dinner party surprise.  Bring salami, too.

Amarelo da Beira Baixa (translation: “yellow cheese from the lower border”) is a mixed goat’s and sheep’s milk, semi-soft cheese from Portugal, currently making us do handstands.  Tart, yeasty, zippy flavors are balanced by earthy, meaty, herbal notes.  Eat the rind and mean it if you like the idea of transforming to a Portuguese barnyard.

Angel Food:  This little angel hails from Illinois where the prairie rolls on endlessly and the wind whips across rich, grassy terrain.  The thin bloomy rind on this number covers a creamy, barny, sour cream and chive flavored paste.  We think you should do yourself a favor and make some toast and start spreading Angel Food atop.

Raves From the Caves: August 27, 2013

By:Tess McNamara

Ahh the Murray’s cheese caves! The best place in New York City for cheese to take some time to age and really up the funk. We consider the caves a sort of day spa for cheese. They get the care they need to be all that they can be! “Raves from the caves” is a new, weekly post that will feature what is ripe and ready on the cheese counter, and what good stuff is in the pipeline. 

C-Local:  We’re working our way through a fresh batch with a bright, tacky rind and young, but daring cream line.  The aroma is dank and the flavor full.  Expect more grilled lamb and savory notes to trump those bushels mixed berries.  At least for now.

Greensward:  The batch released last week is still exquisite and a new tower of nearly 300 has been through its first wash.  The rind on the oldest batch is darker orange with pockets of woodsy brown near the spruce bark; the paste luscious and creamy, tasting like herb butter, roasted veggies, and the wind swirling through a forest canyon.


Hudson Flower

Hudson Flower: Hudson Flower for everyone! As the fall breezes creep in, everyone should be psyched to bring home a delicious round of fall foliage in the form of orange and yellow mold adorning most rinds of Hudson Flower. Cold storage continues to hold the cream line in check.  Count on gamey, earthy notes teamed with buttery, tangy pockets.

Torus:   Our little doughman is firmer and more dapper this week, having benefitted from a slightly altered aging cycle.  We plated torus and let the batch experience the tender awakening of the drying room, followed by an indulgent slumber in the bloomy rind cave, and finally some tough, better-shape-up love from the mini-cold storage unit.  The creamline is thin, yet decadent and even, and the paste yeasty, zippy, and bright.  At room temperature the geotrichum rind – now sturdy and taunt – will relax into a velvety coat.

ChevrotThis pocket sized brainy drum is with us in abundant quantities, ready to surprise goat cheese lovers all over with its lemony, cakey, zippy profile.  Consider mini Chevrot a filler for the office donut run.  Why grab one when you can take a dozen to the office and smother them in honey and jam? 

Roquefort:  Oh Roquefort, oh Roquefort, oh how I love your deep blue pockets and your gritty butter laden paste.  Come home with me and make my nostrils flare and the back of my throat tingle.  You are classically radiant.