Spring is in Full Bloom – and so are Our Cheeses!

It’s official: Spring has finally sprung. Sure, we might still be a little chilly, but we know that flowers are getting ready to bloom and little baby cows, goats, and sheep will soon be joining the world. Then suddenly, there will be bloomy cheese everywhere! We’re definitely not complaining – we love these young, soft cheeses made from milk that comes fresh from the pastures and goes straight into becoming cheese. They’re only aged for a month or so, allowing them to keep the grassy, fresh milkiness that we know and love them for. To celebrate spring, here’s a few of our favorite bloomy rinded, warm(ish) weather cheeses! 

Kunik

Out of the South Adirondacks, comes this triple threat. First, a layer of lemony goat’s milk is enriched with fatty Jersey cow cream, to create a mushroomy, intensely buttery flavor and the utmost decadent paste. Murray’s buys these cheeses as soon as they’re made, then let them spend a little time ripening in our Long Island City caves. The hints of minerals from the fresh pastures at the foot of the South Adirondacks are coaxed out during this time, and it makes it the best cheese to have with a sparkling, fruity rose.

Hudson Flower

Speaking of flowers blooming, our Hudson Flower is ready to grace your cheese plate. Young wheels of decadent sheep’s milk from the nearby Old Chatham Cheese Company are sent to our caves, where they then receive a fresh coat of rosemary, lemon thyme, marjoram, elderberries, and hop flowers, a flavorful blend based on the sheep’s springtime diet. These bright herbs impart a certain woodsy, floral aroma that always get us in a  springtime sort of mood and make an unforgettable flavor.

Up in Smoke

Every time we carefully pull back the edges of the maple leaves that wrap up this rindless chevre like a gift, we feel like we’re welcoming spring itself. The incredible balance of deep, smoky richness and clean minerality comes from the diet of the goats, who are set to pasture year round. But we love it best in the spring time, where the lemony, grassy goat’s milk is at its best. The little round is then smoked over alder and maplewood, then wrapped in leaves and misted with bourbon. These citrusy nuggets are the epitome of bright, crisp spring cheeses.

St. Stephen

These small, bloomy wheels come from the Hudson Valley creamery, Four Fat Fowl. A triple creme made with the cream from Jersey cows (arguably the best, creamiest milk there is), these little wheels are delicately buttery, with hints of sun-dried wheat, newly emerged grass, and sweet cream beneath the pillowy rind. If we’re talking about local terroir (that taste of place we love), you know we’re talking about St. Stephen. If you’re looking for even more of that fresh spring flavor, drizzle it with local wildflower honey, and find something bubbly to drink.

Coupole

The brainchild of one of America’s most innovative and groundbreaking cheese makers, Allison Hooper of Vermont Creamery, this beauty is made with fresh pasteurized goat’s milk that comes from family farms. Once those farms are teeming with baby goats is when this cheese really starts to shine. The fresh, grassy notes are brightened with the velvety paste and unctuous creamline. We want to celebrate this perfection (and the blooming of springtime) with a glass of something sparkling. Go classic with a French champagne or an American cider.

 

Victory Never Tasted So Cheesy!

It’s official! Murray’s cheeses are winners, simple as that. Murray’s, in collaboration with some of the country’s best cheese makers, is proud to take home even more recognition for our original creations! This week, four of our Cavemaster Reserve cheeses took home awards at the annual United States Championship Cheese Contest held in Green Bay, Wisconsin. While we know that our cheeses are delicious, it’s amazing to see our cheesy creations stack up with some of the best in the country!

Hudson Flower

A collaboration with Old Chatham Sheepherding Company of Old Chatham, NY, earned Best of Class honors in the Flavored Soft & Semi-Soft Sheep’s Milk Cheese category, and for good reason! An American twist on a Corsican classic, Hudson Flower is made by Old Chatham, then sent to NYC where it is dressed in a secret blend of rosemary, lemon, thyme, marjoram, elderberries, and hop flowers before taking a rest in Murray’s state-of-the-art caves. Celebrate Murray’s win with a glass of champagne, some dried apricots, and a wheel of this floral wonder.

Greensward

Created by Murray’s Cheese and Jasper Hill Farm of Greensboro, VT, Greensward earned the Second Award in the Smear Ripened Soft Cheese category. Greensward also was recognized as the #1 Soft-Ripened Washed Rind Cheese and 3rd overall Best of Show by the American Cheese Society in 2016 – meaning there were plenty of stinky cheese in attendance, but Greensward beat almost all! So this creamy, bacony stunner is clearly not a competitor to be overlooked. Recreate Greensward’s best moments with a few slices of speck and a jar of cornichons.

Barden Blue

Made with Consider Bardwell of Vermont, this big blue earned Third Award for Blue Veined Cheeses with Exterior Molding. This cow’s milk classic is mellow, grassy, and perfectly aged by our Caves team. Think of it like lying in a fresh green pasture in the middle of spring – it’s really that good. The judges saw Barden as that versatile blue you’ve been dying to try – you could have it with some robust, herbal pancetta or a bar of bitter, bold dark chocolate. Either way, you’re going to love it.

Cornelia

A natural-rind cheese developed by Point Reyes Farmstead Co., Cornelia was recognized Fourth Overall in the Smear Ripened Semi-Soft cheese category. Needless to say, we’re pretty proud of our girl! She boasts a sophisticated palate of roasted peanuts and fresh milk. She’s our favorite during the summertime, simultaneously reminding us of picnics in the park and baseball games with the family.

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

Featuring Our French Faves for Cheese Week!

We wouldn’t be much of a cheese shop if we didn’t have an undying love for French cheeses. This week is Cheese Week, so of course we turned to our favorite cheeses to highlight during the festivities. The French have given us so much when it comes to cheese – and it’s not just the humble Brie. France has given us cheeses that run the gamut – creamy Camemberts, herbal chevres, nutty sheep’s milks, and minerally blues. We”d love to tell you about our favorite Frenchies, just in time to inspire your own Cheese Week celebrations!

Murray’s Camembert

We know your first thought when we talk about French cheese is Brie – but instead, why not try a little wheel of Camembert? Historically inspired by the Brie recipe (it was said to be passed down by a priest who had come from the province of Brie, but the recipe was corrupted in the telling), Camembert is creamier, more mushroomy, and has an earthiness that really tastes as though you’re enjoying it in the fields of France.

Murray’s Delice

If you’re looking for creamy, buttery sweet cheese, look no further than the land of Burgundy. Not only do they have delectable wine, but their cheese cannot be beat – Delice de Bourgogne is full of fresh milk flavors, with hints of sweet cream and clean hay. You can start your day with Delice paired with apricots and drizzled with honey as a tasty breakfast – or dessert if you add a glass of champagne on the side.

Valencay

The Loire Valley has created oh so many chevre cheeses, but Valencay stands out. Stories say that it was originally shaped like a pyramid, but when Napoleon returned from his military failings in Egypt, he demanded the pointed tops be removed, even going so far as to slice them off himself with his sword. While we’re not sure how true that is, the stunted pyramid shape remains, and the minerally, piquant goat’s milk is still one of our faves.

Ossau Iraty

If you’re looking for ancient traditions, you’ve found it. It’s said that Ossau Iraty is one of the first cheeses ever produced, and it’s only gotten better with age. Warm, buttery sheep’s milk curds are heated and pressed – think rich, toasty wheat aromas, and nutty, grassy-sweet flavors that make it that sort of cheese that stands up against anything – bold reds, toasty brown ales, whatever you’d like to pair it with.

Fourme d’Ambert

A blue developed so early on that the Druids and Gauls were said to have worked together to create it (read: a veryyyyy long time ago). It’s even said to go back to the Roman occupation of France nearly 1,000 years ago! They obviously perfected the recipe over the years, because we love nothing more than the earthy, mushroomy cheese with hints of sweetness and an amazing velvety texture. Even the staunchest blue hater will fall in love with this Frenchie.

To celebrate Cheese Week, we’ve got some great discounts on some of our French Faves! Check it out! 

Notes from our Jasper Hill Cheese Camp Correspondent

Last week, we sent some of our mongers on a journey into chilly Greensboro, Vermont to attend Cheese Camp at Jasper Hill Farm. This long weekend intensive is an amazing opportunity for mongers to see the cheese making and aging process first hand from the knowledgeable staff at one of America’s most dynamic and successful cheese operations. Ian Pearson, Head Monger at Murray’s Cheese Bar, was part of the Murray’s group who attended Cheese Camp. He snapped some photos throughout the weekend and wrote about the experience.

Snowy and chilled on the outside, but filled with warming, delicious cheese on the inside. This is how I spent most of Cheese Camp at Jasper Hill Farm. There were a dozen of us, cheesemongers from all over, braving Vermont’s biggest snowstorm in years to learn what we could from this cutting-edge American creamery. The experience was admittedly nerdy, but the kind of nerdiness you should expect from your cheesemonger— a voracious appetite for not only the crème de la crème of cultured curd, but also the knowledge of how it’s made.

Needless to say, like the protein clumping in a cheese’s make, instant bonds were formed. Over morning cups of coffee and evening beers, as we shoveled each other’s cars out, before shuffling into Jasper Hill’s classroom, where conversations about cheese flowed over one another.  They seemed to only ever abide when one of our instructors spoke.

Most mornings, Zoe Brickley, Jasper Hill’s Education Wizard (title mine), loaded us with awe-inspiring presentations— spanning everywhere from milk theory and herd management to successful pairing, with large doses of microbiology and good practices thrown in for measure. She readily answered our most obtuse questions: like how the enzymatic make-up of various types of rennet could potentially alter flavor (quite a bit) or where a specific species’ identifiable flavor comes from (it’s in the fat). I told you this got nerdy.

For the cheesemaking itself, we ambled on down to the Vermont Food Venture Center, where Matt Spiegler and his crew were whipping up a beautiful batch of Harbison. Unfortunately, cameras weren’t allowed here or in the caves for safety reasons, but believe you me, as vats of fresh-cut curd were poured into their molds and the whey expelled, there wasn’t a mouth in the room that wasn’t salivating. Matt thankfully recognized this and handed out milky-sweet bits for us to taste.

The caves, seven of them jutting into the namesake hill from the creamery’s central axis, are a place of cheese worship. Affineur Adam Smith ushered us through each one, where rows of Moses Sleeper are doted on and countless wheels of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar age into the best versions of themselves, as music is piped in from mobile soundsystems to encourage happy ripening.  This is where I belong, I thought to myself, and I quietly cried a little with joy.

On our final day, after waving goodbye to the cows and whispering promises to one-day return, we made our way to Vermont Creamery. There, Sam Hooper, son of co-founder Allison, led us through the sprawling facilities that continue to grow since their inception in 1984, remaining true to the mission of providing gorgeous dairy products and supporting local family farms. We filled up on cultured buttered and chevre to sustain us through the journey home, with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the cheese and makers that continue to inspire us everyday.

To shop through our selection of Jasper Hill cheeses follow this link, and find all our favorite Vermont Creamery treats here! Also, stop by Murray’s Cheese Bar in the West Village sometime to experience Ian’s cheese plate mastery.