Socheese.fr has a great photo essay about a young couple, Eric and Sophie Gutknecht, who are making the famed AOC cheese Etivaz, one small, wood-fire heated, copper vat at a time:
Eric and Sophie, both 30, are part of a young generation of 70 Etivaz producers and spend 110 days a year in high mountain pasture. They have a well organised work schedule: two weeks in the lowest alpine hunt (1,530m), then two and a half weeks in the next (1,715m) and 6 weeks at the summit. Before going descending the mountain again, 10 days are spent in the alpine hut half way down and then another three weeks in the lowest hut. Then, it’s back to Moulin, near Château d’Œx, the couple’s ‘base camp’. All of the alpine huts are at least 200 years old, and have been extended and done up according to what work needed doing and how much money the couple had at the time.
The season for high mountain pasture, authorised for this prestigious AOC cheese, is from 10th May until 10th October, at a height of at least 1000m. With this time schedule, they are able to make 210 rounds of cheese (25kg each on average, 17kg the smallest, up to 36kg for the biggest). In winter, the milk is provided by the dairy in Moulin, which makes organic Gruyère.
Check out the full story here.
Ira Grable, Cheese Maker, also known as “The Big Cheese,” purchased Berkshire Blue four years ago from Michael Miller, who founded the company in 1998. Grable moved to the Berkshires and, after meeting Miller through a mutual friend, agreed to become the sole distributor for Berkshire Blue Cheese. One year later, with Miller deciding to “hang up the apron,” Grable bought Berkshire Blue. Miller stayed on for the first six months to teach and mentor Grable, and they continue to talk monthly.
Some welcome news for anyone who enjoys some cured meats on their cheese board:
After artisanal cheese, Vermont explores charcuterie
WAITSFIELD — Nearly 30 years ago, a handful of enterprising Vermonters realized they could do more with milk than just sell it. And with a little help from the state, they became pioneers in what quickly blossomed into the now behemoth artisanal cheese movement.
Now Vermont officials are exploring a new round of value added agriculture. Because why just raise livestock when instead you could be tapping into the burgeoning world of charcuterie?
“You can buy a pig for $3 a pound. You turn it into cuts and you’ll get $4, $5, $6 a pound. Turn it into bacon and you’re getting $8, maybe $9 a pound. Turn it into cured products, the world’s your oyster,” said Robin Morris, founder of the Mad River Food Hub, an incubator for new food businesses that is adding rooms to help producers dry cure meats such as salamis, prosciuttos and sopressatas.
It’s actually a pretty simple equation. Produce an agricultural commodity and sell it as a commodity and you get paid commodity prices. It’s a formula that requires high volume to be successful, by definition difficult for the sorts of small farmers that populate Vermont. But turn those commodities into sought-after artisanal food products and the game changes.
Read the full article here.
Spotted at the cheese counter of Artisanal Bistro: Cabricharme, a washed rind, raw goat’s milk cheese from La Fermiere de Méan in Maffe, in the Ardennes region of Belgium. Belgium has been woefully underrepresented in the American cheese case for a long time, but that’s changing now; in NYC, cheesemongers such as Artisanal and Bedford Cheese Shop in particular seem to be been making an effort to carry more cheeses from artisanal Belgian producers, judging from their cases. I even purchased a raw milk, Camembert-style, under-60-day Belgian cheese at one of the mongers in the city recently, although I’m not going to name where I found it (although it should be said that they were surprisingly cavalier in advertising the cheese’s black-market status).
One of the cheeses for which Belgium is best known is Chimay, a “Trappist” cow’s milk cheese washed in the Belgian beer of the same name. Cabricharme is essentially a Trappist washed rind cheese made with goat’s milk, and based on the same recipe used for Le Charmoix, another washed rind cheese developed by Fermiere de Méan.
The rind is rose-pink and sticky to the touch, with the gritty texture of a Trappist washed rind, a bit on the thicker side but not excessively so. Cabricharme has a wonderful pungency, yeasty from the beer washes, with beefy, mushroomy and musty qualities. The paste, bone white, is velvety, creamy and oozing, bulging and collapsing out of the rind as it warms. This cheese has a slightly unusual texture — that I’ve observed in other washed rind goat’s milk cheeses, particularly the Holzeme Geiss (Wooden Goat) from Willi Schmid — an almost marshmallow’y, borderline spongy texture that imparts a delightful, but unexpected, mouthfeel. In flavor the Cabricharme is buttery, with an unusual tangy quality, sweet, meaty, mushroomy and yeasty, with notes of hops and grass, but without any goaty bite.
If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of Belgian cheeses, the Cabricharme is an excellent place to start! (insert painful joke about it being “full of charm”)
Purchased at Artisanal.
Update: Courtesy of a NYC cheesemonger, a photo of the adorable label for the Cabricharme.
In It’s Not You, It’s Brie, cheese expert Kirstin Jackson tells the whole cheese story. Through fifty American cheese profiles, she takes us “backstage” into underground caves, into funky scents and traditions that link today’s cheese makers to American history. You’ll meet the people who dedicate their lives to artisan cheese—from those who run generations-old family farms to others who ditched their day job to start a dairy.
Jackson groups the cheeses into sixteen styles ranging from American Originals to Mixed Milk, explaining how each one’s unique flavors, appearance, and production practices have come to define its style. Featured cheeses include Queso Oaxaqueño, a Mexican-style cheese hand-stretched in California; Scholten Weybridge, a double-crème made in Vermont from the milk of a rare Dutch Belted cow; and River’s Edge Mayor of Nye Beach, a funky washed-rind goat’s milk that knocks its French rivals out of the water.
Beer, wine, and food pairing suggestions round out each profile, along with recipes that use every cheese style in refreshing new ways, from Gouda Almond Toffee to Landaff and Celery Root Beer Soup.
Order it now on Amazon, or check your local bookstores and cheese shops!
Over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution site, John Kessler looks into the renaissance in Southern cheesemaking, including established names like Sweetgrass Dairy and rising stars like Sequatchie Cove (makers of the ACS Conference sensation-cheese Dancing Fern, one of my American Cheese Month picks):
Sequatchie Cove Creamery is one of dozens of quality small farmstead creameries that have opened in the Southeast in recent years. Producers throughout the region — from the Appalachian Mountains to the coastal plain — are making quality small-batch cheeses from cows, goats and sheep raised on their own farms. Just a few years ago, the only cheese the South was known for was of the pimento variety, as Southern cheese production virtually ceased during the industrialization of the 1950s and 1960s. But all that has changed, and the region has a newfound cachet.
Amanda Parker of Murray’s Cheese Shop in New York says that her colleagues were blown away by some of the cheeses they tried at the Southern Artisan Cheese Festival in Nashville in early October. “There seems to be a lot more interest in the South, a lot more people being exposed to great cheeses.”
“The South is rising again in farmstead dairy,” said MaryAnne Drake, a professor of food science at North Carolina State University who’s a consultant for the many small dairies that have turned to cheese making in recent years.
In the 1980s and 1990s, a few pioneers such as Sweet Grass Dairy and Fromagerie Belle Chèvre of Elkmont, Ala., began making small-batch cheeses. They would win the occasional medal at a cheese competition but were treated as curios — good cheese from the Deep South.
read the full post here.
(Photos ©2012 AJC.com)
The last week has been a rough one for many New Yorkers and residents of the East Coast, and the NYC cheese world is no exception. A significant percentage of the cheese-related businesses in the city are in the Dark Zone, the area below 39th St that has now been without power for most of the week post-Sandy, and some were located in or very near the Zone A flood zones that saw the worst of the storm.
Today, while riding around Manhattan on my bike (my day job, located near Astor Place, has been closed as well due to the power outage), I stopped by multiple cheesemongers to see if they were open. As the pictures above show, the story was mostly one of shuttered gates and darkened windows, cheese which had to be emergency-transported to alternate locations or stock spoiled and thrown away. From Saxelby Cheesemongers to Bedford Cheese Shop, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese to Artisanal to Lucy’s Whey, the business of cheese, as with many other businesses, is on hold until the lights come back on. Some, like Saxelby’s, took a double hit, as their Essex St location and their Red Hook aging and storage facility were both within affected areas. Beecher’s had to empty their caves and move the stock to Brooklyn, where Food Matters Again stepped up and provided them with space to store their goods. Artisanal, Bedford, and Lucy”s Whey presumably had to move their stock in a hurry as well.
Only one location, Murray’s Cheese on Bleecker St, was open for business! Unfortunately, you probably won’t be won’t be able to get your cheese fix, as they only had a few chunks of Montenebro and Parmagiano available for sale. The entire contents of their caves had to be emptied out and transported to Long Island City; fortunately the cave saw minimal flooding so they should be back in business as soon as they have electricity. Despite the lack of cheese, they had many other provisions for sale, including some charcuterie, an excellent selection of beers, dips, condiments, breads, chocolates, and much more, so swing by and show them some love! They’ll be open until 5pm each day, which is roughly how long the day will light their work.
Here’s hoping the power comes back soon, so all of the city’s cheesemongers can reopen their counters and get back to caring for the cheeses in their caves. This is probably not how they were hoping to end American Cheese Month, needless to say, and they will all take a financial hit, so be sure to get out there and support them when they do finally get back. Rumor has it the power could be back Friday or Saturday.
In the end, though, the loss of cheese is minor compared to the ways Sandy has impacted, and will continue to impact, millions who live in the affected areas. There are many ways to help out, and seemingly hundreds of organizations accepting donations and volunteers, and it can be hard to know what’s legit and what’s a scam. Gothamist.com has a list of NYC-area organizations that’s a good start, and a quick google will direct you to similar lists for New Jersey and the other states and areas in need of assistance.
Just recieved in the mail: my copy of “Fromages Suisses” (originally published in French, German as “Schweizer Käse” and English as “Swiss Cheese: Origins, Traditional Cheese Varieties and New Creations”), which has quickly established itself as the definitive encyclopedia on Swiss cheese making, both in it’s most traditional forms and for the new generation of Swiss makers like Willi Schmid who are rediscovering old cheeses and inventing new ones.
“Swiss Cheese” as a label has unfortunately taken on rather bland connotations, as many people tend to associate it with the bland yellow blocks with the classic holes found in every deli case. But as Max McCalman has said, “there is no ‘Swiss Cheese’; there are ‘Swiss Cheeses’!” and this book certainly illustrates that, and does so in gorgeous detail and full color. Beyond the industrial cheeses which have long dominated the image that people have of Swiss cheese (in no small part due to aggressive marketing strategies and economic incentives practiced for decades by Swiss government and industry), there is a world of small-scale, high-quality cheeses in a multitude of styles; nowhere does the swiss trifecta of cultures — German, French and Italian — become more clear than in the cheese landscape. In fact, Switzerland has the highest prevalence of raw milk cheeses, in terms of its percentage of total cheese production; not even France produces as much. However, as Rolf Beeler writes in the introduction, raw milk cheeses are — in Switzerland as everywhere else — losing ground in the face of economic and governmental pressures, which only makes it more important to celebrate the makers who are dedicated to creating their cheeses from raw milks.
The book is not just tremendously informative but gorgeous to look at as well, with beautiful photography throughout by Zurich-based photographer Fabian Scheffold. the book explores the Swiss cheese landscape from one corner of the country to the other, trekking to secluded Alpine valleys and peaks to find the artisan cheese makers who are still crafting these glorious cheeses using the traditional methods such as copper vats over wood-burning fire pits, while also introducing us to the quality makers who have brought advantages of modernity to their operations with automated cheese-flipping machinery and other innovations. The book also offers a treasury of cheese history in the first part, and an exhaustive index in the back of cheeses by name, maker, type and other categories.
Published under the Slow Food imprint and Written by Dominick Flammer, an independent journalist specializing in economics, but with a passion for the history and culture of cuisine and the culinary arts. Since 2001, he has run a cooking school in Zurich, Shoppenkochen.
The english version is pretty tough to find, but it look like Quality Cheese might be carrying it. Otherwise you might want to check the French and German versions of Amazon or other book sites to find it.
Update: I spoke with Caroline Hostettler at Quality Cheese and she confirmed that they have the English version, you can order it here.
Via artisanalpremiumcheese, the legend of Camembert de Normandie:
According to legend, a farmhouse wife named Marie Harel invented and perfected the cheese that became famous as Camembert in 1791 during the French Revolution. Madame Harel is a national heroine. Her statue now stands in the village square of Camembert, Normandy, and her cheese is the biggest symbol of tradition and pride for the world’s greatest cheesemaking nation.
Since there aren’t a lot of verifiable historical facts about cheeses, the myths tend to take over. People’s beliefs about a cheese – the stories they pass down through the generations – outshine whatever bits of muddled trivia exist. The sociologist Pierre Boisard wrote a clever book-length study called Camembert: A National Myth, dissecting the legend of Marie Harel, tracing this cheese from its origins as a local village staple and examining its myth from every imaginable angle.
Some unembellished accounts simply state Madame Harel was the first person to make Brie – a cheese characterized by the gentle ladling of relatively unmanipulated curds – in the molds used for Livarot. This implies Camembert is nothing more than Brie from a nearby town made in a different shape. Others attribute the recipe to a young priest on the run from revolutionaries who were determined to chop off his head. According to this version, Madame Harel hid the priest in her farmhouse and he thanked her by giving her his cheese recipe. It ascends quickly to the level of archetype: A divine secret in the form of a cheesemaking recipe for the ages is revealed to a humble farmhouse wife because of her courageous act of kindness.
– from Mastering Cheese, by Max McCalman and David Gibbons
(photo ©2012 Artisanal Cheese)