Diamonds are a Cheese’s Best Friend

Have you ever seen a piece of Parm, waiting in your local cheese shop, like a sparkling diamond? Wait, is it actually sparkling? You’re probably wondering what those little crystals, sprinkled over the paste of your cheese are. Or maybe you’ve bitten into a super aged cheddar, only to have a bit of crispy crunch break in. Maybe you love that little crunch – asking your monger for the “crunchies” whenever you visit the shop. Those little cheese diamonds, they’re a cheese lover’s best friend. They’re also known as tyrosine crystals. But how do they get there? Are they a flaw in the cheese or a sign of cheese mastery? We’ll lay it out for you.

The word tyrosine comes from the Greek word ‘tyros’, which, of course, means cheese. These crunchy clusters only appear on well-aged cheeses – that’s because they form over time, as cheese ages and the proteins start breaking down. If you want the more scientific answer, stay with us for a sec:

Cheese is made up of fats and proteins that are trapped in a matrix of proteins (think of it as a big spider web of protein molecules). As cheese ages, the chains of proteins break down, creating these small, crunchy amino acid clusters that are left behind. This shouldn’t be confused with the salty crunch left on the outside of washed rind cheeses – that’s residual salt left over from a brine wash. These tyrosine crystals stay on the paste, adding a delightful crunch to cheeses with a normally smooth paste.

Now, we’re talking about these little gemstones like they’re good things. But are they something cheesemakers are going for or are they a mistake in the process? Well, it depends on who you ask. For a long time, especially in the United States, these little crystals were seen as a defect – because of the appearance of tyrosine crystals, big cheese factories worried that the cheese would look moldy and get tossed in the trash. But nowadays, more people are seeing these cheese diamonds as the sign of a well-aged, delicious cheese that is full-flavored and complex. Our mongers hardly go a day without having someone ask for “crunchy cheese”.

From a delightful aged Gouda like Roomano, to the King of Cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, you’ll find crunchy crystallization of all kinds. Since Valentine’s Day is on the way, let’s forgo the diamonds and sub them out for cheese diamonds. Your cheeseloving lovers will go crazy for them.

 

Meet Our Makers: Vulto Creamery

It started with an apartment in Brooklyn. That, maybe, is not how you’d expect the story of a creamery to begin, but Jos Vulton is not exactly what you’d expect when you picture a cheesemaker. Following the siren call of the craft, he left his career as a metal worker and began making cheese in his kitchen. When faced with the task of aging that cheese, he turned to his only option in the wilds of Brooklyn – he aged them beneath the sidewalk outside. After a few years of testing and tasting, he opened a real-deal operation in New York’s western Catskill mountains, in a small little hamlet known as Walton. This has been the idyllic setup, far from the humble kitchens of his cheese’s youth – he sources milk from his neighbor’s herd of Holstein and Jersey cows, imparting his raw milk cheeses with the terroir of the Catskills. 

We at Murray’s are unbelievably thrilled every time we get to taste a bit of what Vulto has to offer (and since they’re always in our cases, that’s fairly often). Take a look at the sampling of Vulto Creamery’s delectable raw cow’s milk cheeses and feel free to indulge.

Hamden

Named for the town just a hop, skip, and a jump from Vulto Creamery, Hamden originated from its stinky sibling, Ouleout. Legend has it that Jos decided to let a few wheels just go wild, letting their earthy, crunchy rinds develop naturally. We like to think of it as Tomme de Savoie’s Hudson Valley soul sister – if features notes of fresh spring milk, freshly cut grass, and toasty hay. If you’re picking up a chunk in our store (and we think you definitely should), don’t forget to grab a loaf of crusty baguette, a few dried cherries, and maybe a couple of cans of a good farmhouse ale. You’ll thank us.

Ouleout

Say it with me: OOH-LEE-OUW. The name is actually a double-meaning. For one, it comes from the Algonquin word that means “a continuing voice” – and trust us, it comes with a flavor that definitely lasts. It’s also the name of a creek that flows through Delaware County, right past Vulto’s creamery. Ouleout is the perfect name, in our opinion, since this creamy raw milk beauty is washed to stinky perfection. Made in the same vein as Ardrahan and Munster, the smell of this guy certainly isn’t misleading – while the taste isn’t as pungent, it is definitely briny, with strong notes of roasted coffee. Not for the faint of heart, but we love all cheeses, stink and all.

Miranda

We love a sweet story when it comes to cheese (even though this definitely qualifies as ‘savory’). In a tribute to his wife, who always wanted to have a cheese named after her, Jos Vulto named Miranda after his late wife. Miranda reminds us of a classy lady, casually dining in a speakeasy. That fact has a lot to do with Miranda’s weekly wash in a locally produced Absinthe called Meadow of Love – the orange rind from this brings lush herbaceousness to the button-like wheel. The bright yellow, creamy interior is lightly bubbled, but imparts a big, meaty flavor that reminds us of a French Dip sandwich, au jus included. Pack on the meatiness with a few slices of speck and some tangy, garlicky pickles.

Cheese Gifts from the Heart

If you’re starting to get the feeling that Valentine’s Day managed to sneak up on you this year, don’t worry, we feel you. You can go with the classics + flowers, but there’s still time to come up with something that is unique to your loved one’s taste. Something that says “I love you, in all your cheeseloving glory”. We’ve got your back on this one, and have a few gifts that you can give that say, “I was thinking about you”. 

For Your World Traveler

If the love of your life loves puddle-jumping, spends their days browsing cheap flights to Europe and beyond, and dreams of vacays visiting Italy’s historic sites rather than the beaches of the Bahamas, this is the gift for them. La Dolce Vita (“The Sweet Life” for you non-native Italian speakers) transforms a cheese plate into a moving experience. This exquisite selection of salumi, formaggio, and snacks comes from a country where food is a deity and features classics like sheepy Pecorino Calabrese, silky Speck, and plump and briny Castelvetrano olives. Look, we know you couldn’t afford to get your boo those tickets to Milan – but this is way better, if you ask us.

For Your Partner Who’s Been Eyeing Those Tiffany Earrings

Forget diamonds, forget Rolex watches – this collection is more luxurious than the two of them combined. Designed to pair with a tall glass of bubbly, this collection was cooked up specifically for a romantic, memorable night in. Like champagne, the three cheeses from this collection will delight your senses and add a bit of excitement to date night – from the earthy Truffle Tremor, caramelly sweet Ewephoria, or velvety Hudson Valley Camembert, there’s nothing quite like cheeses and champagne. They’re a match made in heaven, just like you and your Valentine.

For Your Cheeselover with a Sweet Tooth

Cheese and crackers are nice, but you probably want a little bit of sweetness specially for Valentine’s Day. There’s nothing quite like an Effie’s biscuit and a dollop of creamy Delice de Bourgogne or a tangy sweet Chiroboga Blue. This selection tastes of home – it’ll remind you of breakfast at your mom’s house, or tea time at high noon. Whether you’re going for a fancy snack or a cozy treat, this collection is the perfect balance of both.

For Your Partner Who Wants to Spend Valentine’s Day Ordering In Pizza

You love them, you know you do, but maybe you don’t want Domino’s for your Valentine’s Day dinner. We get it, and we definitely believe in compromise when it comes to relationships. That’s why we propose The Cure to your ailments – a spread of glorious meat that no one can say no to. From the simple smoky Mosefund Mangalitsa Bacon to the rare and delightful Iberico de Bellota or creamy foie gras. Ditch the floppy, half-burnt pepperoni and break out the ultimate gift for the love of your life – it’ll give ‘meat lover’ a whole new meaning.