From Haystack Mountain in Colorado comes Red Cloud. The presence of “Red” in the name of a cheese is usually a reliable indicator that you’re dealing with a washed rind cheese (eg Hudson Red, Anton’s Red Love, etc), due to the distinctive reddish color given to the cheese by the Brevibacterium Linens, the bacterial culture that is added to the cheese and encouraged through repeated washings with brines, beers, spirits or other liquids depending on the recipe.
Washed rinds are the cheeses that put the stink in “stinky cheese”, and Red Cloud is no slouch in this department. Made from raw goat’s milk, it packs a double punch, the B.Linens funk combining with a goaty kick to make for an assertive cheese. The red rind is sticky to the touch and slightly gritty, opening up to reveal a firm, smooth, ivory paste with a creamy texture and nice mouthfeel. The flavor of the paste itself is meaty, nutty and complex, while the rind packs the stinky punch, bringing barnyard, wet grass and musty notes to the table, all of which blends beautiful and lingers on the palette for a while. All in all a beautiful wheel, although for some it might be classified as a “challenging” cheese.
This wheel was definitely on the more pungent side; if you were to buy a younger one it would be milder and less gooey on the outside. Luckily, I like ‘em stinky, so it was a win to find it in this state, which is close to washed rind perfection.
Purchased at Olde Hudson in Hudson, NY.
While researching this cheese, I also discovered an interesting backstory to Haystack’s milk supply:
The men wearing green uniforms and tall rubber boots spread out across the compound, herding goats into pens, pouring grain into feeding troughs and serving as nursemaids to those giving birth.
Many of these guys, all prisoners at the Skyline Correctional Center in Cañon City, had never touched a goat or heard one bleat before becoming involved with Colorado Correctional Industries, a division of the state Department of Corrections. It’s likely, too, that few of the prisoners had ever tasted goat cheese.
But that’s what happens to nearly every drop of milk the prisoners draw from the animals, most of which goes to Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy in Longmont. Cheesemakers there transform thousands of gallons of milk from the Cañon City goats into chevre logs, cubes of feta, pungent rounds of raw milk cheese and more.
At the East Canon Correctional Complex in Canon City inmates from the Skyline facility tend to the dairy goats on Wednesday, June 17, 2009. The inmates milk the goats twice a day.
And then a shopper at a Costco in Littleton, or a cheese connoisseur at a gourmet boutique in Philadelphia, or a diner at a fancy restaurant in San Diego will buy the cheese. The diner will chew the slice of Red Cloud and marvel over its evocative flavor.
How does milk from a prison complex in remote Colorado end up on the fork of a debutante? It begins in the pen.