Summertime: Make the Most of Your Mozz!

Sean Kelly is our all-star monger who will be competing at the Cheesemonger Invitational this Saturday! Don’t forget to VOTE FOR HIM on Facebook!

At Murray’s when we think of summer cheese we think FRESH! While we always love our stinky, nutty, firm and aged cheese friends, fresh cheeses go with warm weather picnics and sunlight like an oyster stout pairs with a strong washed rind. (Hint: that is an awesome pairing) But who is the undisputed king of the fresh cheeses? The noble mozzarella, of course.

Mozzarella is a proud member of the pasta filata, or “stretched curd”, family of cheeses, meaning that the curds are kneaded together, stretched, and re-kneaded repeatedly until the desired texture is achieved. It’s this process that is responsible for mozzarella’s stringy consistency and lively, bouncy texture. The stretched curd family of cheeses branches out into several other groups as well, and includes provolone and caciocavallo. But mozzarella will always be the cornerstone of the style, and now that summer is finally here mozzarella season is in full swing.

What better time to better know your mozz? Here are a few of our favorites for the season.

Maple Brook Burrata:

Meaning “buttered” in Italian, burrata is comprised of a thin sheet of mozzarella filled with fresh curds and cream. Burrata originated as a way for cheesemakers to utilize the leftover curds from the cheesemaking process and, like many foods with exceedingly practical origins, it has become one of the best options out there. Maple Brook Farm, who makes rich, fresh and traditional burrata, learned their technique from an Italian cheesemaker from Puglia, in the heart of mozzarella country. If you think the idea of a cream and curd-filled mozzarella pocket bears a striking resemblance to some sort of criminally decadent dessert, you’re not alone. We love serving these bundles of delight with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar for a savory sundae.

Buffalo Mozzaralla:

A far cry from the behemoths you may have seen on the back of a nickel, the Italian water buffalo is a dairy animal known for producing incredibly rich and flavorful milk perfect for cheesemaking. Buffalo milk is the traditional milk used for Italian mozzarella making, and Torre Lupara farm has been doing it since 1946 with a herd of 2,000 buffalo. Buffalo mozzarella provides an extra savory kick, tang and depth of flavor that makes it perfect for adding a layer of richness and moisture to just about anything. We love it in a BLT (a BBLT, if you will) instead of mayo. Or, if you have no sense of shame and love delicious things, just eat it whole, like an apple!

Lioni Mozzarella:

The classic standby for cooking and snacking, cow’s milk mozzarella has a very special place in America’s culinary heart, particularly here in New York City. Made fresh in Brooklyn by Lioni Latticini from whole cows’ milk, this mozzarella embodies traditional Italian flavor while maintaining a commitment to locally sourced ingredients and careful attention to detail. This cheese absolutely begs to be toasted atop a meatball hero or paired with paper thin prosciutto for a smooth and salty snack. If you’re tired of the same old-same old tomato/basil/mozzarella combo, try this fruity variation: mango/mint/mozzarella.

Azure Skies and Snowy-white Rinds

by Caitlin Griffith

At your next party – perhaps even celebrating the warm weather streak that we hope is here to stay – you absolutely need to serve a citrus-y Saison with a bloomy rind goat. Now, I am biased because farmhouse Saisons scream sunshine and warm weather to me. Give me a tangy straw-colored beauty any time of year and visions of verdant grass and azure skies swim before my eyes.

Before I become too mushy and emotional here, let’s revisit Saison history. In French, Saison means season, and originally the lightly hopped beer was brewed in the wintertime to be enjoyed during the late summer harvest. There was no refrigeration back in the day (cue entrance of cheese, which is milk’s leap toward immortality) and so the chilly winter months protected the bottle-conditioned brew from turning rancid. Perfect! This style is witnessing something of a revival right now and I, for one (if you couldn’t already tell) am psyched because of its excellence in pairing with food. Those French-speaking Belgian farmers were really on to something. Most Saisons boast a tartness and dry finish and many display citrus flavors, as well as a grassiness and biscuit-y yeast quality.

I tasted the Saison Dupont, arguably the world’s most famous and unmatched expression of a Saison, with hints of lemon, cardamom, clove, and pear, with one of my favorite goat’s milk cheeses, the Haystack Peak from Colorado. This pasteurized bloomy-rind goat is based on the pyramid-shaped goats from the Loire Valley in France but with an American spin. The snowy-white exterior hints at its milky, harmonious flavor. Its brightness is well-balanced by three distinct textures (thanks to time spent aging in Murray’s caves): a velvety rind, followed up by a delightful whisper of a creamline, and a pasty interior. The Saison Dupont and Haystack Peak danced all over my tongue in a sprightly tango that will light up the life of anyone interested in cheese and/or beer in the least bit.

Let’s not further complicate things here and say more than is necessary, as we already possess a flawless pairing, but throw in some nice crusty bread, whole grain mustard, and a log of the classic French Saucisson Sec and call it a day. Happy Spring!

Meet A Monger Monday: Cate!

I spent several years as an editorial assistant, buried under unpublished manuscripts, with dreams of running away to a dairy farm upstate. I took Cheese 101 in the Murray’s classroom, where a one ounce piece of gooey, bacon-y Epoisses exploded my mind and abducted my heart.

The class instructor directed me to the Cave Internship program at Murray’s, where I would spend many meditative hours patting and flipping Selles-sur-Cher and Brillat Savarin. This led to a year as a cheesemonger at the Grand Central Station store, and then to a position as an Associate in the ecommerce department, assisting cheese lovers across the nation.

No matter how many cheeses I try, my all-time-when-in-doubt-go-to-favorite is a baguette with Gruyere, Jambon Royal, and a liberal dose of spicy Dijon. Classic and freaking amazing, it’s particularly perfect before or after running a marathon.

 

Cate Peebles is a cheesemonger for Murray’s By Mail. When she’s not taking an order on the phone or taping boxes shut to ship cheesy goodness all over the USA, you can find her running marathons and making the rest of us look lazy.

 

Jasper Hill Harbison: So Earth-Friendly the Tree Hugs the CHEESE

Cheesemonger Sean Kelly gives us the scoop (pun intended) on this gooey Earth Day pick.

We really never hear about cheese when talking about Earth Day. It sounds like a bit of a stretch to discuss cheese on a day that’s supposed to be focused on environmental conservation, awareness and activism.  But why not? Really, it makes perfect sense for cheese and cheese farming to enter into the topics of discussion for Earth Day. When done right and responsibly, cheese can represent a certain closeness to our food sources. Cheese comes from milk, milk comes from cows, cows eat plants; how many things does the average American consume on a daily basis that can have their genealogy traced so clearly and with so few steps? Indeed, it seems as if the best cheese almost always comes from the smallest, most traditional and most natural sources.

A perfect (and delicious) example of just how well cheese can fit in on Earth Day is Jasper Hill Farms’ compact and beautiful creation, Harbison. Harbison, in production, flavor, and concept, is the definition of terroir and brings a true taste of place to anyone fortunate enough to dive into its creamy and buttery paste. The cheese, named for Greensboro resident Anne Harbison, is produced at Jasper Hill Farms from their small herd of Ayrshire cattle. The farm itself is a picture of sustainability, maintaining a small herd and closely monitoring the health and well -being of the animals, as well as finishing up a project that will recycle manure solids from the cows and wastewater and whey from the cheesemaking process to help power their facilities. Once this project is completed, the farm will produce almost zero waste.

Harbison sets itself apart from its other bloomy-rinded cousins not just by way of its noble upbringing, but also by its outfit choice. The small wheels each come wrapped in a small girdle of spruce bark obtained from trees on the farm, which are naturally composted to enrich the soil after the bark has been harvested. The bark wrapping affects the flavor of the cheese in an interesting way; the flavors that shine through in a wheel of Harbison don’t simply remind one of the plants and scents of the woods, but rather are evocative of the forest as a whole. Herbal flavor notes (mustard, fennel, and tarragon, to name a few) dominate the start, while the finish highlights the buttery and rich milk produced by the Ayrshire cows. These flavors yearn to be paired with a crisp sparkling white, or a bright, hoppy IPA to match the powerful herbal notes. Cured meats and dry salamis are enlivened by the creamy spoonable wonder and bring a new depth of flavor to a ripe Harbison.

So, this Earth Day, show your love for Mother Nature by enjoying cheese the way nature intended. Grab a wheel of Harbison, peel off the delicate top rind and let your cheese plate proclaim your love for the Earth.