Winter is Here to Stay – Stock Up on Winter Cheese

Punxsatawney Phil has spoken and it’s official: Winter is here to stay, at least for another six weeks. While we might not be stoked for the cold weather, there is a plus side to six more weeks of winter – more winter cheese! From our favorite fondue classics, to tangy, warming cheeses, there’s only a few weeks left before these delicious little guys are overshadowed (Groundhog Day joke!) by their fresh, Spring rivals. 

Comte Saint-Antoine

Alpine styles are a go-to for winter months. It’s not just because they are the best for melting into ooey-gooey fondue (even though they’re just the right texture and flavor for a nutty, savory pot). We get our Comte from France’s Jura Mountains, and while it may capture the raw, mountain-pasture fed cow’s milk, it features winter flavors. There’s the sweetness of cooked milk, a bit of stone fruit (like dried apricots that pair oh so nicely), and the quiet nuttiness of brown butter. If you’re not feeling fondue, just slice this Comte thin and melt over winter root vegetables. Comfort food to the max!

Bayley Hazen

One of the things we love about winter foods is the inclusion of chocolate. Dark chocolates, nutty caramels, they’re all delicious and simply perfect for the winter months. But what about a cheese to go along with these succulent sweets? Blue cheese is the way to go, and nothing is better than Bayley Hazen Blue. The paste is a bit drier and denser than your typical English Stilton, but it’s the bold flavors of cocoa, roasted hazelnuts, and licorice that shine in this blue cheese. Add a bar of dark chocolate, and you’ll have a wintery dessert you’ll be craving mid-summer.

Murray’s Camembert 

It’s not just that the downy, tender rind reminds us of a field of freshly fallen snow – it does, of course. But we’re more interested in the straw-colored paste within. Hints of buttered toast are the first thing to hit your palate, totally reminding us of the cold, crisp breakfasts of winter days. After the buttered toast melts away, it’s the bold and beautiful flavors of sauteed mushrooms that stand out on the palate. Maybe cozy up with this little wheel by the fire, with a big glass of bold Bordeaux.

Tumbleweed

There’s something kind of amazing about cheese that you can pair a toasty lager or rich stout with, especially during the winter. Tumbleweed is that cheese – a cross between cheddar and French Cantal, it is filled with brown butter flavors, with a hint of tartness and fruitiness. In the winter months, the toastiness combines with an earthy flavor, creating something warm and rustic, especially when paired with a beer. The perfect combo to ride out these short remaining chilly months, if we do say so ourselves.

Greensward

There honestly isn’t a comfier snack than a wheel of Murray’s own Greensward. Slice off the top rind, and the paste inside is creamy and beautiful – a fondue minus the heat. A scoop – either with a cracker, or a spoon if you’re feeling no-frills about it – tastes of a snowy winter forest populated by pines, and freshly fried bacon. The taste is oh so much bigger than this small wheel will imply, and will keep those memories of winter alive even as the weather starts to warm.

Summer at the Cellars at Jasper Hill

By: Summer Babiarz

While driving a van of Murray’s folks to Jasper Hill Cellars in Greensboro, Vermont I am keenly aware of how “New York “ we all sound as we gush over the vibrant green mountains. One thing is for sure, we all agree that THIS is where cheese should be made. As we drive by a little boy walking down a country road carrying a fishing pole, we begin to suspect that Vermont is staging postcard moments. This theory gets legs a half hour later when a baby black bear scampers across the road. It is finally confirmed as we pass a happy herd of cows chomping greedily on a field of wildflowers. However, our favorite sighting by far is the red barn with a mural of Bayley Hazen Blue cheese posing as the moon as we roll into the gravel driveway of Jasper Hill Farms.

The Cellars at Jasper Hill

Not everyone gets to tour the caves at Jasper Hill, which are not open to the public. As Vince Razionale meets us warmly and asks us to sani-suit up, we chat about how lucky we are to have been given an opportunity to see some of our absolute favorites in their aging environment. Jasper Hill has a stellar reputation for craftsmanship and artistry and picking a favorite is like picking your favorite song.

The first stop was the Bloomy cave. These stone caves are magnificently beautiful and have round ceilings to prevent raining. We see newly-formed Moses Sleeper and the dramatic transformation it makes into a cloud-like pillow in only six days. New Harbison wheels are deep cream colored and do not yet have their distinctive white speckled mold growing over its boiled Spruce-bark spine.

Alpha Tolman aging in the Cellars

The Alpha Tolman cave was next. Wheels of this Scharfe-Max-inspired-cheese are in neat rows up to the cave’s ceiling. Vince explains that Bloomy cheeses are a quick study due to their short life-cycle. In contrast, firm and larger format cheeses like Alpha Tolman could take years to develop fully. He cores Alpha Tolman wheels, and we all taste this cheese at different ages. Vince confesses that selling “age” is a little gimmicky and that he prefers to focus on the flavor profile.

The Cabot Clothbound Cheddar cave is so bountiful that the ammonia released during the aging process dries out your eyes as you enter. Vince explains the three benefits of lard coating these cheddars before they are bound in cloth:

Endless Cheddar!

1. It helps the cloth adhere to the wheel of cheese

2. It helps to develop the correct amount of mold growth

3. It helps to regulate the correct density and water weight.

The last stop is the Natural Rind cave where Bayley Hazen Blue is maturing before and after being pierced. It is especially cool to see these blues before their blue veining has developed. However, my favorite part about this cave was seeing that each rack is resting on a bed of small wet stones which helps to keep high humidity and cool temperature.

Cabot Clothbound

As we make our way back down to the city, freshly cut grass gives way to concrete. The rolling thunder clouds are into roaring subway cars, and the sound of crickets are silenced by honking horns on the dreaded BQE. That being said, whenever the city gets me cranky I need only nibble one of the treasures from the Cellars at Jasper Hill to remember a perfect July day in cheesenerd paradise.