Murray’s is Making Cheese! Introducing Ezra

Murray’s has always stood by our creed: We Know Cheese. We’ve embraced it – as purveyors of the world’s best cheeses, guardians of Gruyere, champions of Cheddar, defenders of Delice de Bourgogne, we’ve brought you only the best. But while we’ve cultivated other people’s cheeses, aged some of the greats in our Caves, Murray’s hasn’t developed a cheese from scratch – until today!

Meet Ezra; a Murray’s exclusive clothbound cheddar born and bred here in New York. After almost two years of R&D, Ezra is finally emerging from within our caves to make its first appearance in our shops. But let’s walk you through how Ezra came to be!

Our Cavemaster PJ Jenkelunas and Sr VP Steve Millard got into a discussion around the spotty availability of a monger favorite Gabietou, and the idea of recreating this French washed-rind cheese was born.

Matt Ranieri, who was consulting with Old Chatham Sheepherding Co.,and Dave Galton (who co-owns Old Chatham with his wife Sally) agreed to help Murray’s in their R&D of Gabietou and to help provide the milk. The cheese would be made at the dairy incubator at New York’s Cornell University. Over a long weekend, the Murray’s team made its way up to Cornell to start making cheese. The only problem? Gabietou (version 1.0, as our Cavemaster still wants to make one eventually) didn’t turn out so great. But, it gave birth to a new idea.

During a re-examination of what the cheese would be, Steve expressed the desire to make a truckle sized cheddar – inspired by England’s Lincolnshire Poacher instead of the sweet New York cheddars that existed. In July of 2015, they tried again, heading back up to Cornell and making their very first batch of cheddar. It took some experimentation, and plenty of time, but finally, this lemony, bright cheddar tastes of sour cream and baked potato – and it’s perfect.

Our cheese was dubbed Ezra – the first name of the founder of Cornell, the birthplace of Murray’s first cheddar. But what was behind the magic of making this fine little cheddar? We sat down with PJ and Steve to learn a bit more about the inspiration behind Murray’s first cheese.

  • After experimenting with the recipe, what was the goal for this cheese? Was there a certain flavor profile you were aiming for?

“At Murray’s we sell cheese really well, we do affinage really well, we merchandise cheese exceptionally and our training program is second to none but we never made cheese.  My desire was to have a cheese that we made. We experimented with Holstein versus Jersey milk and settled on Holstein as our milk of choice.  We have 6 or so batches of Jersey cheddar (still really great) and then will be back to 100% Holstein.” – Steve

“The product development process involved a lot of variables.  Steve mentioned that we were going back and forth between Holstein and Jersey milk.  We also tried many different culture combinations.  During the aging process, we sampled each test batch very regularly to see which combination of cultures fit our desired profile.  Since clothbound cheddar takes so long to age and develop its flavor, this process took a very long time.” – PJ

  • What makes this cheese unique? What does it have that our customers will find appealing?

“I think this cheese is incredible.  I am admittedly biased but think the combination of many factors is leading this cheese to fit into our set very nicely.  American cheddar tends to run down a sweet/sulfurous path.  This cheese very much decidedly goes in a different direction toward a wonderfully bright and acidic path with notes of lemon curd and a slight hint of sweet caramel.  Our natural rind cave has proven to be a wonderful component of this cheese and this cheese sings the notes of the microflora of this cave beautifully.” – Steve

” All the elements of this cheese hit upon a New York theme… we developed it at Cornell, we use New York state milk, we get our lard from the Meat Hook (and they use New York pigs), and obviously we age it in NYC.” – PJ

  • With this successful project completed, what can we expect to come out of Murray’s caves in the future?

“We are working on recreating Barden Blue and are very close to having a final recipe.  This will be a raw milk, natural rind blue made by Consider Bardwell Farm and aged in our caves in Long Island City.  The other big project we are working on is an ashed, domestic Camembert made by Jasper Hill and finished in our caves.

Annelies started as a small R&D project with 2 wheels aging for 12 months in our caves and now we have 360 wheels of this incredible cheese aging in our alpine cave. We strive to have several small R&D projects going, from each one we learn a tremendous amount about cheese making, affinage and what we like. ” – Steve

Serve cheese like a pro at your holiday party

It’s true: The easiest, tastiest way to host your friends and family for the holidays is with a fantastic cheese spread.  Whether you’re a cheese newbie or a fromage fanatic, this season’s latest and greatest party cheeses will help you plan your most delicious gathering.  So sit back, let your mind drift to the gooey, the crumbly, the yummiest cheeses of the season.

Getting started: A great party spread has up to 6 cheeses of all different styles and milk types.  We suggest delighting your guests with a mix of buttery, grassy, pungent or caramelly tastes.

More than just cheese: When picking accompaniments, from wine to nuts, pick a pairing principle:

  • Choose items that are complementary – pair similar flavors together, like a flavorful cheddar with a bold wine;
  • That old adage is true with cheese, too:  opposites attract.  Don’t be shy about mixing sweet with salty;
  • What grows together goes together – you can’t go wrong with cheese and pairings from the same neck of the woods.

Not sure how much to buy?  Our rule of thumb is 1-2 oz per cheese, per person for a party or an appetizer spread before dinner. (most of our assortments serve up to10)

Serving Sense: Cheese tastes better at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge one hour before serving.  For a party, set out on a board with one knife per cheese – start cutting into each piece to get it started, then let your guests go to town.

Sommelier for a day:  Want to impress by pairing cheese with wine or beer like an expert?  Click here to view our full beverage pairing guide.

Learn even more by going reading our Cheese Basics.

New assortment for the holiday season: Cheeselovers Anonymous

Cheeselovers Anonymous (pictured above) features a complete tasting through all of the cheese styles – we couldn’t have dreamed up a more perfect party package!

Planning a party? Easy cheesy entertaining tips

 
 
by Deena Siegelbaum
Want to mix up your cheese board at your next party?  Here are a few tried-and-true tricks for a crowd-pleasing spread.  Like the looks of what we’ve created here?  This snacky board is sure to get you through the Final Four or impress your next dinner guests.

Pick a theme: The board pictured here is…you guessed it, Italian.  We began with our new fave salamis and speck from Olli Salumeria, then picked Italian or Italian-style faves to complete the mix.  Theme by country…like the classic Spanish manchego, quince paste and Marcona almond combo; stinky (and fabulous) French cheeses and fresh baguettes; or artisan picks from the good ol’ USA with fresh fruit or veggies from the farmers market.  Whatever you choose, make sure to include a variety of styles (hard and soft cheeses) and different milk types (cow, goat, sheep).   

Think of crowd-pleasing favorites, then raise the bar:  Help your friends try new cheeses they’re guaranteed to love.  Most people stick to old faithfuls like Parmigiano and Cheddar.  Try alternatives to Parm like Piave or Stravecchio, or a superbly savory Cheddar like Bleu Mont Bandaged or Mrs. Quicke’s.  Don’t play it too safe, though – mix in some new finds!  Goat cheese and blue cheese are two types people think they don’t like – but I’ve found that starting with approachable cheeses like Aged Goat Gouda or creamy Black River Blue, you may just win them over.  

Mix in the meat: My most recent dinner guests are still talking about the cheese and bresaola board I laid out a few weeks ago – it was so ample, we followed it with a very light dinner.  The center of my wood board was piled high with bresaola and surrounded by various hard and soft cheeses, plus my favorite Marcona almonds and Spanish figs.  On another board I had fresh bread and a small bowl of olive oil for dipping.  We tried multiple pairings and all worked!   

Throw in unexpected accompaniments:  Honeys and chutneys, preserved walnuts, and pickled figs are known to get squeals at cocktail parties.  Mustard goes great with salami, of course – my new favorite is My Friend’s Brown Ale Mustard (made by a cool chick in Brooklyn).  Speck is traditionally served with creamy cheeses, pickled and bread that’s been lightly toasted.  Play around – put it on bruschetta for your guests, or in a bread salad.     

Portion “control”:  Figure 1-2 ounces per person per item.  Having 6 people over?  Aim for 1/3-1/2 LB. of each cheese, meat and condiment, plus ample crackers or bread.