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!

Murray’s Takes a Field Trip: Twin Maple Farm

Elizabeth Chubbuck is the Associate Director of Wholesale at Murray’s Cheese. If you’ve eaten a delicious cheese at a restaurant, chances are she had a hand in getting it on your plate. Her passion for all things cheesy is rivaled only by her near encyclopedic knowledge of the same. She recently visited Twin Maple Farm and learned the fascinating story behind the cheese we love so much.

A photo of Twin Maple Farm should be printed in the dictionary next to “bucolic.”  The land, continuously farmed since 1801, is rolling, green and tucked away on a narrow, winding road in New York’s Hudson Valley.  The old farmhouse still stands upright and resolute, and the hills are dotted with Jersey Cows. It’s also where Hudson Red, one of our favorite cave aged cheeses, is made. We’ll get to that later… first, a story!

Two years ago, childhood friends Matt Scott and Dan Berman bought Twin Maple farm and retrofitted the original red dairy barn to accommodate cheese production and aging. Not content to sit back and enjoy the view, they embarked on a larger project to help rebuild the rural landscape and economy of the Hudson Valley.  Armed with a vision of supporting family farms, they created The Pampered Cow, a company dedicated to providing sales and distribution solutions for farms throughout the region.

Sales and distribution solutions, you say?  Sure, it might sound a bit city-slicker when paired with the rural beauty of the land, but for small-scale, family-owned dairies outside marketing and distribution solutions can allow them to focus energy on creating better cheeses, slowly increasing production, and eventually moving from Farmer’s Market-only sales into a slightly larger arena where more people can enjoy their cheese.

Increased production also means more jobs in rural communities where opportunities can be scarce.  It means that more cows are out to pasture, which means more fields are green with grass and hay farmers stay in business. Starting to get the picture? With time, cheesemakers no longer have to work around the clock, 7 days a week, just to scrape by. It’s still hard work, but their lives become more balanced and sustainable, their cheese more delicious and reliable.

So, where does that delicious Hudson Red fit into all of this? About a year after the Pampered Cow started working to improve the lifestyle of local farmers, Hudson Red came into existence.  Their original cheese maker spent time in Italy working with Italian producers before returning to the Hudson Valley to make cheese at Twin Maple.  Inspired by Italian Taleggio and Alsatian Munster, Hudson Red is a funky, washed-rind, raw cow’s milk cheese.  The dense, fudgy paste becomes silken and pudding-like with careful washing and aging in our caves. The funky, wild flavor that develops echoes the rugged, rural landscapes that inspired it. Wash it down with a glass of New York Riesling for the Empire State’s quintessential terroir-based pairing. You’ll make Matt Scott – and a lot of local farmers – proud!

Who You Callin’ A Hooligan?

by Anuradha Jayakrishnan, Head Cheesemonger at Murray’s Cheese in Grand Central Terminal

Have you ever wanted to get your hands on a Hooligan? No, I don’t mean one of us cheesemongers behind the counter, I mean a REAL Hooligan, like the ones we made at Cato Corner Farm on a recent Thursday.  If you love cheese as much as we do at Murray’s, you’ve got to know a cheese’s ins and outs, its story, it’s SOURCE. So, sinking our hands right into the cheesemaking process was, in fact, wonderfully appropriate.

The Murray’s crew and I departed Bleecker Street and headed across state lines to farm country, also known as Connecticut. We arrived at Cato Corner Farm just after noon that Bloomsday and a small gang of friendly but boisterous dogs heralded our arrival. As we poured out of the mini-van, the smell of hay, barn and warm sunshine welcomed us without words; it was going to be a good day.

The cows at Cato Corner gave a warm welcome.

Liz, owner of the farm, greeted us with a grin, and a laugh, “You must be from Murray’s.” I was sure my Ray Bans, beat-up Beatles t-shirt, and red cut-offs would make me look farm chic, but alas, I fear my oversized flower tote containing bronzer and sunscreen gave me away. We freshened up and then met Mark, Liz’s son who oversees the farm’s cheesemaking. He took us underground to see affinage at work in their aging facility, which was not unlike the cheese caves beneath our Bleecker Street store. I was amazed by the sheer number of cheeses being aged at one time in the small farm’s complex. Shelves of old and young wheels formed passageways that towered over us like halls of an antique library (and the smell wasn’t that dissimilar either). Incredibly enough, the thick, dull brown rinds on the large wheels and the (almost cute) furry blue and grey rinds on the smaller wheels were derived from ambient molds that occur naturally in the caves themselves (local mold makes local gold! Ha!).

Yours truly, in good company!

Next up on the docket was cheesemaking. Now, if you’re as big of a cheese nerd as I am, you’d understand why I was giggling through the whole sanitizing process. There I was, every appendage covered in plastic yet I couldn’t help but clap with joy in a ruffled frenzy at the thought of molding curd with my own fingers. We surrounded the enormous bath tub (at least it look like one) filled half way with what looked like an untouched layer of plain yogurt. Having added the rennet an hour before, Mark said, the milk  should be firm enough to cut by now – and with that, he pierced the creamy film, and to my amazement, it didn’t blob into a soft creamy mess, but yielded to the knife like a limber slice of tofu. The curd was ready. He began slicing the curd into half inch pieces using a large wire cutter. Then we took turns dipping our hands into the vat and milling the curds into finer, more even bits. The curd itself tasted like sweet, warm milk Jell-o, but in the best way. After draining the whey, we scooped the curds into baskets, piling the milled bits into heaping snow cone-esque forms for further drainage and shaping. Minutes later, we popped the curds out of the molds and voila – curds in their perfect form, ready to join their comrades in the aging room, but with the added touch of Murray’s handiwork; hooligans indeed.

Stirring the curd that will later be molded into Hooligan.

We concluded our cheese-making escapade with a picnic lunch outside where we all enjoyed sandwiches, charcuterie, pickles, farm fresh fruits and veggies, and of course, cheese. We tried a very special cheese only available at the farm, the 1 year aged Anniversary Bloomsday, made a year ago to the day! It was nutty and sharp with crystalline pops of sweetness and a pale, custard yellow paste that sang of summer sun and happy cows.  Naturally, we also sampled Hooligan, a large muffin shaped cheese with a dense, flaky center and mildly pungent rind. We finished with Misty Morning, a creamy, earthy blue that was lovely with bites of freshly picked strawberries.

The finished product, after aging: Funky funky hooligan

After touring the farm and thanking the cows for their generous bounties, we climbed back into the mini-van, ripe Hooligans in tow (think ripe plus hot cramped car… serious funky town), and headed back to the West Village. Great cheese and great people; I could not have asked for a better Bloomsday.

New Cheese! Bossa from Green Dirt Farm

By James Fairbrother

James is a summer intern at Murray’s who’ll be regularly entertaining you with cheesy tidbits all summer long. When he’s not tasting new cheeses, he is getting ready for his senior year at Cornell, where he is studying Food Science and Italian.

Having just started working at Murray’s, I couldn’t believe that on my first day I already had the chance to taste one of our newest cheeses. What was even more exciting was finding out that this particular cheese, Bossa, happens to be a rare all-sheep’s milk cheese produced within the United States at the women-owned Green Dirt Farm in Weston, Missouri. The farm prides itself on its sustainable and humane practices, allowing the sheep to roam and pasture freely in the hilly area above the Missouri River Valley, and has earned the distinction as an Animal Welfare Approved organization. This pasteurized cheese is produced in limited quantities, and we are ecstatic to be the first to introduce it to New York City.

I took a small piece home with me on Wednesday, eager to taste my first cheese from Murray’s. Unwrapping the piece of the small wheel I had procured, the first aspect that struck me was the vibrant orange color that results from the brine-washed rind during the 6-week aging process. The inside is milky-white and slightly springy, but still soft, with a funky aroma to match its taste. Cutting a small piece to finally taste it, I immediately noticed the creamy texture. The mouth feel was incredibly smooth, covering the entire palate, and so rich that I don’t think it would have been possible to eat the entire sample. Good thing I have a family that loves cheese. Bossa is funky, strong, and a little bit nutty, with a slightly smoky aftertaste.

I thought it would go well with a firm, sweet fruit, so I cut up an apple and tasted the Bossa again on top of a thin slice. If you manage to get your hands on a wheel or two, serve it this way. The light fruity flavor perfectly contrasted with the cream of the cheese, and would certainly allow you to eat even more of it! The two friends I was with loved it (and my new job, considering how much they’re going to be fed). It could be compared to Tomme du Berger, which means it would pair well with a slightly sweeter wine, such as an off-dry Reisling. Bossa is proof that happy sheep means better cheese, and a happy cheese eater.

Murray’s Cheese currently has Bossa in limited quantities in our New York City stores, check back soon to find it online.

This March we’re mad for…Oma

By Liz Thorpe

In the summer of 2009 I finally found Waitsfield, Vermont and the meandering driveway that led to the Von Trapp dairy farm. That was after the GPS sent me down a logging trail, a bee got stuck in my tank top, stung me, and I nearly hit a tree. Few cheeses are worth that kind of drama, but I was delighted to find (and still am) that Sebastian and Dan’s cheese, Oma, is one. Although they make only two batches of cheese every other week from the thick, golden, unpasteurized milk of the family’s predominantly Jersey cow herd, we’re lucky enough to sell it at Murray’s.

It’s a brilliant collaboration, the effort of two third generation dairy farmers to improve upon their parents’ organic model by making a singular cheese that is aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill. When you hear about seasonal cheese it immedaitely seems fleeting–rare, precious, and necessary to taste NOW. But all cheeses, even those like Oma that are made year-round, have moments where you can feel and taste the unique conditions of their making. And right now this cheese is exceptional.

Why? Because Von Trapp cows are processing a late winter diet of organic hay studded with fat clover buds and all that fodder (and not much walking through snowy hills) is giving an especially thick, rich, fat-and-protein laden milk. To ensure that the wheels this March are the absolute best I dragged a group of devout cheese proselytizers from the Murray’s ranks into our classroom to blind taste 6 different batches of Oma.

Breaking through the nectarine-colored crust of each wheel, we found interior pastes ranging from custardy to springy, and a windfall of flavors reminiscent of eggy French Reblochon to decidedly bacony quiche. All 6 were lovely, but we chose those with a stickier, more elastic texture and balanced, savory. No bitter bite that can happen with this style.

It’s hard work, but someone has to do it, and we want you to get the best.

PS: Yes, they’re the same family as the singing Von Trapps but the focus these days is on the music of milk.