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!

The Family that Milks Together: A West Coast Farmstead Cheese Plate

By Robin Minkoff
The Family that Milks Together

The popularity of artisan cheeses has helped many Americans create thriving dairy businesses – taste some of our favorites from the West, where Old World techniques and New World innovation gave rise to some of the most heralded and successful cheesemaking families. Mary Keehn began milking goats at home in Humboldt County to provide her family with healthy milk. The heralded result of her experimentation, Humboldt Fog continues to win acclaim and devotees. The story of Ancient Heritage Dairy begins similarly; Paul and Kathy Obringer began raising sheep to provide their children with an alternative to cow’s milk, eventually churning their herd’s output into artisanal cheeses.

Likewise, Cindy Callahan and her son Liam built their prolific sheep creamery, Bellwether Farms, from a small herd intended only for grazing.  Another prodigal West Coast cheese family, Bob and Dean Giacomini, founded Point Reyes Farmstead to make a traditional blue cheese, pulling their four daughters into the business.  Organize a family reunion and taste the terroir of the Pacific coast – from the misty cliffs of Point Reyes to the snow-capped peaks of the Cascades.

Begin with the fresh, tangy notes of Humboldt Fog. Each layer – rind, creamline, and paste each present unique earthy, floral flavors representative of the goats grazing in dewy mountain forests.
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How Do You Like Them Apple Ciders? Your Guide to Pairing Cider & Cheese

By John David Ryan

It’s October in New York which means people are wearing scarves, putting pumpkin in everything, talking about how they wish they were in Vermont, and drinking hard cider. It’s a Northeastern US thing. Or maybe it’s a “we try to be chic like the French” thing. Either way: few things inspire the foodie palate like cider in the fall. But when it comes to pairing hard cider, you might find the task a bit more challenging. There are more obvious differences between a German pilsner and a roasty coffee stout ale than there is between a Normandy brut and Asturian cider. But fear not! Pairing cider and cheese might be easier than you think.

If it grows together, it goes together. In other words: if there’s a region famous for a specific cider and it also makes specific types of cheese, give them a whirl.

Monte Enebro

Let’s start with the classic: a dry, Basque-inspired cider. Millstone’s Farmgate is a traditional, oak barrel fermented cider. This Maryland cidery’s heirloom apples produce a complex juice that is slightly tart and with a floral kick. Pair it with Monte Enebro, a Spanish goat’s milk cheese that’s rubbed in ash and mold giving it a salty exterior punch. (Yes. I just used two fighting metaphors for this pairing.) The inside is firm, acidic, goaty goodness.
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What’s In Your Lunchbox? 4 Easy Lunchin’ Ideas

It’s time to go back to school, which means another year of crumpled brown bags full of same-old-same-old… just enough to make it through the day. Whether you’re packing up lunch for your kids, or you’re just a kid a heart, we have a few ideas to make your mid-day meal something to look forward to.

Want more lunch ideas? More importanly, do you want to win some free cheese? Need we even ask?! Check out our “What’s in Your Lunchbox?” Pintrest contest to find new ideas, and share your own. You can also enter to win a $100 Murray’s Gift Card!

1. Ham Sandwich, The “Do Over”

Just say “NO” to those nasty ham sandwiches. There’s nothing worse than finally sitting down to lunch and biting into a flavorless, floppy sandwich. At Murray’s, we reject the idea that the old brown bag classic has to be so darn dull. Jazz it up with the king of deli meats Mortadella, smear on some sinfully spicy Lusty Monk mustard and then bring it all together with a few crisp Rick’s Picks Pickles.

2.Mac and Cheese, PLEASE

Got a little more time on your hands? Pick up a Murray’s Mac & Cheese kit to do something extra special for that lunch break. Everything’s included to help you make a bangin’ mac, but if you’re looking for an easy way out, we’ve also got it pre-made for you. Just heat and serve!

3. Snack Emergency

EMERGENCY! It’s 2:30 and I’m HANGRY!! Chill out, sit back, and tear into the Murray’s “Emergency Snack Supply.” Full of filling munchies that will ward of the mid-afternoon pangs, this collection is there when you need a little bit of brain food, or a sweet treat to make it through the day!

4.Sweet tooth

Got a sweet tooth, but looking for something a little bit different than your average Oreo? Try Murray’s classic sweet treat – grab a wedge of an alpine cheese, Comte or Challerhocker work great, and your favorite Bee Raw honey and get dippin’. You can also try something a little bit nontraditional with Bayley Hazen Blue and a piece of Mast Brothers chocolate. While it sounds odd, the deep creamy nuttiness of the blue pairs perfectly with this dark, rich chocolate!

Don’t Forget! Find more great lunchbox ideas, and enter to win a $100 Murray’s gift card right here!

We DO Know Cheese: Murray’s Associates Pass Exam with Flying Curds

Kroger and Murray’s Cheese Associates Named Certified Cheese Professionals

CINCINNATI, September 3, 2014 – The Kroger Company announced today that 13 Kroger associates and 4 Murray’s Cheese associates have been named Certified Cheese Professionals™ by the American Cheese Society.

These Kroger associates have joined the ranks of an elite group of individuals who have passed the Certified Cheese Professional™ Exam. The exam was created by the American Cheese Society to promote the large and comprehensive world of cheeses and encourage food industry professionals to master the knowledge.  Before taking the exam in Sacramento this summer, the associates participated in a rigorous 3-month training course led by Amanda Parker, Director of Kroger Programs at Murray’s Cheese.  Parker has also been tapped to co-chair the American Cheese Society’s annual conference in 2015.

“This is only the third year of this certification program, but it is already bringing the cheese profession to a whole new level,” said Rob Kaufelt, owner and President of Murray’s Cheese.  “After studying everything from milk chemistry to aging techniques to pairing and serving cheeses, these mongers are now even better equipped to educate and delight our customers.”

“We are proud of our associates for working so hard to earn this important recognition, which reflects their commitment to gourmet cheese craft,” said Margaret McClure, Kroger’s vice president of deli/bakery. “Kroger’s unique partnership with Murray’s Cheese continues to inspire our associates to share their passion for cheese with our customers every day.”

Through an exclusive partnership with New York City’s Murray’s Cheese, the Kroger family of stores features more than 140 Murray’s counters in stores from coast-to-coast.  Featuring more than 175 cheeses and specialty goods from all over the world, the Murray’s counters are staffed by associates who have been trained by the Murray’s experts in New York.  For a list of Murray’s in Kroger locations, please visit www.murrayscheese.com/locations.

For more information about ACS CCPs™, please visit www.cheesesociety.org.

 

  • Alicia Ball – Seattle, WA QFC
  • Walshe Birney – New York City Murray’s Cheese
  • Adam Burstein – Scottsdale, AZ Fry’s
  • Iris Busjahn – Seattle, WA QFC
  • Elizabeth Chubbuck – New York City Murray’s Cheese
  • James Danforth – Denver, CO King Soopers
  • Jill Davis – Atlanta, GA Kroger
  • Jeff Johnson – Denver, CO King Soopers
  • Sue Kargl – Louisville, KY Kroger
  • Lauren Lafontaine – Denver, CO King Soopers
  • Tess McNamara – New York City Murray’s Cheese
  • Beth Peterson – Portland, OR Fred Meyer
  • Jessica Reichert – Denver, CO King Soopers
  • Laurel Ross – Seattle, WA Fred Meyer
  • James Stahl – New York City Murray’s Cheese
  • Shannon Strom – Seattle, WA Fred Meyer
  • Kate True – Cincinnati, OH Kroger