For Your Consideration: A Cheese for Earth Day

Caitlin Griffith offers food for thought this Earth Day with her pick: Consider Bardwell Rupert.

What does Earth Day mean to you? To me it translates into the perfect opportunity to introduce you to some favorite cheeses, made in sustainable and earth-friendly ways. Take Consider Bardwell’s yellow-hued, whale stamped alpine tomme, Rupert, for example. This 25-pound beauty hails from the area straddling Vermont’s pristine Champlain Valley and New York state’s easternmost Washington County.  Originally a cheese-making co-op way back in the mid-1800’s, the Consider Bardwell Farm was neglected for years, but fortunately for us, a couple of cheese visionaries stepped in to revitalize its cheese-making history!

Rupert’s sweet, almond-nutty deliciousness starts in the field with all of the great grassy diversity inherent in local foraging and fresh pasture eating. Since Consider Bardwell Farm only raises goats on the property, the farm partners with three neighboring dairy farms to source their milk, effectively breathing economic vitality back into the struggling Vermont community. Previously, the dairies were non-working or raised their cows in the conventional way, but with the loving support of Consider Bardwell Farm, these dairies now pasture their animals in the summer, utilizing rotational grazing practices, and feed the cows dry hay from Consider Bardwell in the winters.

The farm also keeps its pastures pesticide and fertilizer free, and has recently joined the USDA Grassland Reserve Program, or GRP. According to the USDA, the GRP consists of voluntary conservation membership which emphasizes biodiversity of local flora and fauna, as well as protection of grassland. With all of this natural diversity in their diets, coupled with sunshine and fresh air, the happy cows who graciously provide their milk for Rupert stay healthy without the use of antibiotics and added hormones.

If you’re not already sold on this cheese just take a look at its trophy case! In both 2010 and 2011, Rupert was an American Cheese Society winner, and in 2011 it took home awards at the U.S. Cheese Championship . Try it! On its own this smooth, rich alpine beauty makes a phenomenal midday snack. It is equally delicious grated in a bright spring vegetable tart in place of Gruyere (the ramps have arrived!).  But since Earth Day is all about loving our planet, why not pack a picnic and get outside to enjoy the sunshine and nature that Consider Bardwell Farm is working to preserve!

How to Enjoy Winnimere to the Max

Beth Griffenhagen works in Marketing and Events at Murray’s Cheese. She doesn’t believe in rules for eating cheese, but does believe in the pursuit of max deliciousness.

First of all, if you are in possession of a wheel of Jasper Hill Farms Winnimere, be very excited. I’m not saying your life is about to change, but your life is about to change. Just look at that beautiful cheese!

What’s the Deal with this Cheese?

Winnimere is made of raw cow’s milk, so you get subtly nuanced flavors that sometimes get lost when milk is pasteurized.  Jasper Hill takes the notion of terroir (roughly translates “taste of the land”) a step further by washing each wheel in a local beer, which gives the cheese a creamy texture and a lightly funky flavor. Are you transported to the rustic landscape of rural Vermont yet? No? What if I told you that Winnimere is wrapped in locally harvested Spruce bark? It’s true, they wrap a strip of fragrant, woodsy bark around every wheel to impart that special, earthy flavor. The result is like nothing you’ve ever tasted. (Ok, it’s a little like Forsterkase if you’ve ever had that, but way better!)

Serving Tips: Sharing is Caring

Most wheels of Winnimere weigh a little over a pound, and this is the type of cheese that is really best to eat in one sitting, two at most. So either you commit to eating a pound of cheese, or you invite 4 to 6 friends over and tell them to bring the wine. The choice is yours! No judgment here!

All cheese should be served at room temperature, but this is especially true for a cheese like Winnimere. If it’s too cold it won’t be as gooey and scoopable, and the flavors will be muted. When you’re ready to serve it, slice off a portion of the top rind to make for easy scooping of the luscious, creamy inside!

Take it to the Next Level

They say “the cheese stands alone,” but the truth is, there are a few ways to make this cheese even more delicious.

Drinks: Off-dry Riesling and fruity reds (mountain-y stuff from Austria works) make great pairings. You can also enjoy with a beer – after all, it’s washed in beer from Hill Farmstead Brewery!

Spread on: Thinly sliced baguette or a hearty cracker is the way to go.

Eat with: I love serving Winnimere with Speck to play up the smoky flavors in the cheese.  (Speck is like bacon you don’t have to cook. Try it immediately.) You can also expand on the savory theme with olives, nuts, and pâté, or any other savory thing your heart desires.

BON APPETIT, you crazy cheese lovers!

Everyone’s A Winner At The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Stephanie Butler was the grand prize winner of our Facebook contest for a trip to Vermont to attend the VT Cheesemakers Festival. She was gracious enough to contribute this blog post about her experience on the trip. Thank you, Stephanie – we’re glad you had such a great time!

If you’ve never eaten a half-pound of cheese on a tour bus in a McDonald’s parking lot in Nowheresville, Massachusetts, then obviously you’ve never gone on a trip with the Murray’s Cheese crew. I was lucky enough to win two tickets to the Vermont Whey-cation, and my boyfriend and I spent a whirlwind 40 hours tasting cheese, smelling cheese – by Sunday night I think we were even exuding the stuff through our pores.

Aging facility at Spring Brook Farm

Our trip started with a tour of Spring Brook Farm’s Cheese House. Lead cheese maker Jeremy Stephenson took the time to guide us through each aspect of the 18-month-long process it takes to create one wheel of their tasty Tarentaise. Their cheese caves were something to see: twelve rows of wooden shelves with hundreds of cheeses waiting their turn to be washed and rotated. After the tour we got some time to sightsee around the beautiful grounds, where I met and fell in love with a sweet Jersey named Daisy.

Stephanie at the farm!

On to dinner at Bluebird Tavern, where we were treated to a feast of Vermont’s finest foods. Allison Hooper, the founder of the Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, joined us for the meal, where each dish included one of her cheeses as an ingredient. My favorite had to be the whole roast pig on grilled bread with baked goat cheese and pickled blueberries, but the heirloom tomatoes with basil and mascarpone were certainly a close second. I washed everything down with pints of Hill Farmstead Brewery’s Edward, an American Pale Ale I can’t wait to try to track down here in Brooklyn. Add some banana pudding with whipped goat cheese in individual jelly jars for dessert, and I slept that night like a bump on a Vermont log.

Approaching Shelbourne Farm

We awoke the next morning eager to truck off to our ultimate destination: the Vermont Cheesemakers’ Festival at Shelburne Farms. I expected the festival grounds to be gorgeous (it was originally a summer home for the Vanderbilts), but I really didn’t have any idea just how beautiful it would be. Right on the shores of Lake Champlain, with the hazy Adirondacks across the water, I was ready to make plans to move to Burlington right then and there. The festival more than lived up to the setting, with cheese makers sampling their wares next to truffle makers, beer brewers, picklers, and bakers. Non-cheese highlights for me were the Vermont Smoke and Cure booth,  which gave away generous samples of delicious pepperoni (available at Murray’s!), Red Hen Baking Company’s yummy wholegrain loaf (we bought the last one), and the kind ladies at the Vermont Maple Foundation booth who gave us tastes of maple cheesecake. As for cheeses, I loved the creamy ricotta from Narragansett Creamery, Vermont Shepherd’s rich and tangy sheep cheeses (ed. note: Vermont Shepherd cheeses will be available this fall), and just about everything from the Cellars at Jasper Hill.

So much cheese!

After taking in the festival barn, we adjoined to the huge waterfront lawn, where fellow picnickers had set up blankets, wine buckets, and hiking chairs. It was an idyllic scene, for sure, with barefoot children running around, 4-H teenagers showing off their baby goats, and a gentle breeze floating over our heads. I lunched on some Vermont pizza while my boyfriend chowed on a grass fed hamburger, and we toasted our sample wine glasses full of local rosé. “To the good life!” we said, and, for two days in Vermont, it certainly was.

Beth Ann from Murray’s Wholesale department makes friends with a goat.

To stay up to date on the latest news from Murray’s Cheese and hear about contests like the Vermont Wheycation Giveaway that Stephanie won, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!


baby cow!

What’s in a Name? Pawlet from Consider Bardwell

By Robert S

 

 

Photo from Consider Bardwell Farm

Rupert isn’t the only cheese from Consider Bardwell that’s creating buzz around Murray’s.  The recent arrival of Pawlet has our mongers going crazy!  Named for its hometown in Vermont, Pawlet is a raw Jersey cow’s milk treasure, one of a handful of cheeses made at the farm.  Originally founded in 1864 by Consider Stebbins Bardwell, it was the first cheesemaking co-op in the state.  Little more than ten years ago, new owners Russell Glover and Angela Miller began to revitalize the traditional farm, spanning 300 acres from Vermont’s Champlain Valley all the way to Washington County, New York.  With 100 Oberhasli goats, and using cow’s milk from a neighbor’s herd, their handmade cheeses are all named after local towns and mountains.

So what’s got us so jazzed about Pawlet? Quite simply, I think it’s a perfect cheese to eat right now because it works well for all of my summer eating:  sandwiches, snacking and BBQing.  This 4th of July I’m going to shred it over grilled local vegetables from my farmers market.  I’ve already paired it with a red ale while snacking, and I know it’ll be amazing with any crisp wine – try a robust Sauvignon Blanc.  Creamy, nutty and rich, you’re going to love how Pawlet melts – either over a burger or on a grilled cheese.  It’s as versatile as the town of Pawlet itself, which the cheesemakers tell us is home to syrup, timber and slate!

NEW CHEESE ON THE BLOCK: RUPERT!

by Sydney Willcox, head monger at Murray’s Cheese West Village

Everyone is talking about Rupert! Rupert has just arrived at our shop and is causing a lot of excitement behind the counter.  Rupert is a raw Jersey cow’s milk cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm in West Pawlet, VT and is named after Rupert, Vermont, one of the state’s oldest towns.  The aged cheese is formatted in large wheels, around 25 pounds, which sport a super cute whale carved into the top.  It’s an alpine style cheese, meaning it’s based on the big guys coming from the Alpine mountains of France and Switzerland like Comte, Gruyere, or Beaufort.  This also means you’ll find the same kind of firm but easy-to-melt texture and similar sharp and nutty flavors in Rupert as you do in those classic cheeses.  I find an added level of complexity in this cheese- sometimes I can taste strong berry notes, other times I taste buttered toast.  Despite the range of flavors this guy tends to be loved by all – nuanced enough for the connoisseur, but never too overwhelming for the more timid cheese lover.   The American Cheese Society agrees – they awarded Rupert 3rd place in the 2009 Best In Show category!

As for the best way to enjoy this award-winning cheese, let me count the ways… Rupert is an outstanding snacking cheese, delicious all on its own, but for those looking to take it to the NEXT LEVEL I have more than a few recommendations.  Alpine style cheeses make perfect melters; one of my favorite ways to eat Rupert is on a classic grilled cheese.  I find the cheese stands out perfectly on its own, sandwiched between two golden brown and completely buttered pieces of sourdough.  If you want to get a little wild go ahead and throw on some bacon or Surryano ham – the smokiness perfectly complements the apricot-like sweetness and cuts through the heavy mouthfeel from the fat.  When I’m trying to go for a lighter route I use grilled vegetables as my vehicle instead of bread- rupert is perfect for grating over charred asparagus and zucchini: it adds a touch of saltiness and a nice gooey layer over the crispy veggies.  If it’s too hot to think about melted cheese, slather on some sweet fruit paste, like membrillo or a tangy plum mostarda.

Rupert’s stand-alone tastiness and versatility makes it one of the best new additions to our cheese case, hands down. Inspired by well-known cheeses, it seems comfortingly familiar, but there’s also something refreshing and unexpected about it – just the sort of thing people look for when they come to Murray’s. It’s the kind of cheese that’s just different and exciting enough to bring out enthusiasm from those who never knew they were cheese lovers.  What are you waiting for? Give it a try!