Making Barden Blue at Consider Bardwell Farm

This is the barn at Consider Bardwell Farm in West Pawlet, VT.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking

Wait. No. That is a shed outside of the guest house at Consider Bardwell Farm. This is the barn.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking

Still, the shed photo is instructive. Notice the color of the sky? It is very early in the morning. Certainly earlier than some of us who visited the farm a couple weeks ago are usually up and ambling at. Some of us are rather delicate. And though we aspire to be up with the sun, reading the paper and leisurely making breakfast in a skillet, and have even made several valiant attempts at realigning our circadian rhythms via sleep-tracking apps and tonal lighting around the house, some of us’s idiot bodies stubbornly refuse to cooperate with such well-intended actions. And so we remain delicate.

But it is also not every day that we are invited up to Vermont to make a batch of Murray’s very own Cavemaster Reserve Barden Blue cheese, so we gladly jump at the chance and wake up early with almost no complaining at all.

What is Barden Blue? It’s a natural-rind, raw milk blue cheese, the idea for which began several years ago as a collaboration between Murray’s and Consider Bardwell. That barn? That barn was long ago converted into a state-of-the-art creamery, and it is there that Barden Blue is made. Three weeks later, it comes down to New York City, where we age it in our cheese caves. The result is a buttery blue cheese with chocolaty depth, deep minerality, and the slightest edge of pepper. It looks like this.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking

But when we walk to the barn from the guest house, definitely not tripping twice on the way, it looks like this.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking milk vat

What happens in between those two photos, so that the latter becomes the former? Dear reader, we shall tell you now.

The first thing you need to know is that this is Leslie Goff.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking leslie goff cheesemaker tattoos

Leslie is the head cheesemaker at Consider Bardwell. She is 28-years-old. She began working at the farm when she was 14. That’s half a life ago. Also, her tattoos are very good.

There is a prevailing notion that cheesemakers are uniformly older dudes with beards. This notion is wrong. Almost the entire Consider Bardwell team is female. This includes all the cheesemakers, who are around the same age as Leslie.

So, here’s how Leslie & Co. do it. The morning’s milk is loaded into the vat, which is then heated to 70 degrees. In goes culture (a proprietary blend, which includes a heavy rotation of bluegrass music), which then gets stirred in as the temperature of the vat is increased to 90. This is when the rennet is stirred in, at which point the contents of the vat are left to coagulate.

Perhaps these sound like simple steps. Having been there to see the process in action, we can assure you: they are not. The work is intensely physical, with a million details and variables to get exactly right. In fact, it took two years of R&D to get Barden Blue to be the cheese it is today. Making cheese well is an exacting, meticulous process.

It also involves a lot of waiting, yet none of that is downtime. Example: you are about to see a photo of Leslie cutting the congealed contents of the vat, so as to separate the curd from the whey. The amount of time it takes from adding the rennet until that moment is one hour. One does not simply watch this happen. There are other vats in which others cheeses are being made, there is cleaning to do, there is highly-detailed documentation at every step. Leslie is not a bored person. Her time is consumed.

Now, here she is cutting the curd.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking leslie goff cheesemaker tattoos

It is a near-magical thing to watch a vat of milk transubstantiate into a jiggly mass like that. We recommend doing it sometime.

So, what happens next is that the vat is churned to get the curds into roughly this shape.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking cheese curd

At which point it is salted and drained. While being drained, Leslie’s team commences the step of the process known as hooping. Curds are gathered up by hand and formed into their molds. This is how a cheese gets its shape.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking cheese curd

Still, there is plenty of whey in the hoops. Here’s how to get it out. First: drain the hoops.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking

Then: press the hoops.

(As we said, there is a lot involved in the process. Capturing it all in one go is a legitimate challenge. Also, some of us were still a bit too bleary to be alert enough to document every step. But it’s a very cool process. Imagine the unavailable photo is this: the hoops are stacked one on top of the other in this contraption that has a big metal slab at the top which then pushes down on the hoops, expelling any excess moisture.)

For context: from the moment that the vat was first heated to the moment when the hoops are drained and pressed, it has been four hours. It is still not lunchtime, but some of us are very hungry.

To be a cheesemaker, do this every single day.

To be a cheese eater, celebrate the fact that, across the world, untold numbers of cheesemakers do this every single day.

And that, in short, is how Barden Blue is formed. Not how it is made, mind you—the cheese still needs to be pierced, transported to our caves, and aged. This is simply the first step of the process.

And Consider Bardwell was simply the first stop on this trip to Vermont. Stay tuned here on the blog, where we will be chronicling our time at Jasper Hill Farm, up in the northeast reaches of the state. They also get up very early. If that leads to more missing photographs, well, our apologies in advance.

Recipe: Bucatini with Chorizo, Feta, and Red Pepper

There’s just something undeniably romantic about a plate of red pasta. For reference, see Lady and the Tramp. When Hollywood chooses to anthropomorphize puppy love and decides that a plate of pasta is the way to do it, you know it’s a universal truth.

So since it’s America’s day of romance, we’re sharing our own just-for-humans pasta recipe. It’s bucatini with chorizo, feta, and red pepper, and it’s—if we may say so—completely lovely.

bucatini pasta with chorizo and feta cheese recipe

bucatini pasta with chorizo and feta cheese recipe

bucatini pasta with chorizo and feta cheese recipe

We know your time is precious, especially on a day as precious as this, and that’s why we’ve designed this recipe to be ready in under half an hour. That’s also why we’ll just get right to it. Here’s how you make the bucatini:

bucatini pasta with chorizo and feta cheese recipe

Super delicious and super simple. Happy eating!

A Valentine’s Day PSA from Murray’s Cheese

The throes of passion have a way of obscuring reason. And with America’s national day of romance swiftly approaching, it is imperative we all remain ever-vigilant, lest our critical faculties slip and we do something regrettable. To exercise wise decision-making this Valentine’s Day, just remember this simple, holiday-themed mnemonic device:

Roses are red
Cheese is not red
If your cheese is red
Do not eat that cheese

Red is nature’s danger sign. It does not belong on edible cheese. Should it appear, that is your cheese’s way of acting out after being ignored or neglected. How might a cheese turn red? You could leave a wheel out in the heat for a week to find out, but we don’t recommend doing so. Just, come on, don’t eat red cheese.

Perhaps you are wondering, “What about Red Wax Gouda?” What about it indeed, friend. Red Wax Gouda is not, in fact, red cheese. It is the wax that is red, not the cheese itself.

If you are more of a visual learner, we’ve prepared this infographic to explain things.

cheese that is wrapped in not cheese

So, remember: if your cheese is red, it pairs best with a garbage can. Do not eat that cheese. For that matter, don’t eat the garbage can either. But there are Valentine’s Day pairings you should eat. Like, for example, our French Kiss collection.

Valentine's Day Cheese Pairing Gift Guide Collection Ideas

That’s a wedge of Comte Saint Antoine and a lovely pop-top canister of Parisian chocolate-covered almonds. Paired together, they’ve got all the best qualities of a fresh chocolate chip cookie: toasty, sweet, chocolatey, and a touch salty.

But maybe you consider yourself less a cookie person than a cake addict. Well then, Paul Hollywood, we’ve got a no-bake version just for you. It’s called the Cheese Tower for Two.

Valentine's Day Cheese Pairing Gift Guide Collection Ideas

Consider it a monument to your love. That’s a metaphor. It’s also delicious. There’s Bijou from Vermont Creamery, Selles-Sur-Cher from France’s Loire Valley, and Cornelia from our very own caves. It also comes with a teak cutting board, which in this metaphor is, let’s say, a cake stand.

Okay, but what if you’re like, “It’s V-Day, pal—I’m looking to get hot and heavy.” Easy, Casanova, we’ve got you covered too. You’re going to want the Forbidden Love collection.

Valentine's Day Cheese Pairing Gift Guide Collection Ideas

Why’s it hot? Because Mike’s Hot Honey. Why’s it heavy? Because decadent St. Mark’s cheese. Also because it comes in a ramekin, which has a satisfying heft to it. Combined with Dardiman’s Mandarin Crisps, it all tastes like a pepped up orange Creamsicle.

And for those of you who are more sugar than spice, consider instead the Sweetest Thing.

Valentine's Day Cheese Pairing Gift Guide Collection Ideas

You’re looking at Four Fat Fowl’s St. Stephen and a jar of pistachio cream with a box of Rip Rap crackers. Put ‘em together and it’s like the Fairy Godmother bibbidi-bobbidi-boo’d a pistachio into a s’more.

So if you are thinking, “To theme my cheese for Valentine’s Day, I am going to leave some out until it turns red,” do not disembark your train of thought at that station. Ride it one more stop, to the part where you then say, “But no, that would be a bad idea. Instead I will select the well assembled, fairly priced Valentine’s Day collection from Murray’s that best suits the needs of me and my sweet lover.” You have now made a good decision and are free to let your passions run wild.

Producer Spotlight: Quicke’s Farm

Tom Chatfield grew up on seventy acres in southwest England, the son of a first-generation sheep farmer who drove trucks at night to fund his pasture. Tom loved the land, but he did his best to avoid, as he puts it, “learning to drive tractors and pull lambs out of sheep.” His father grew up similarly disinterested in the range life—Tom’s grandparents had ascribed to their son that he would be a farmer, and he scoffed at the idea of his life’s work being dictated to him. But despite his stated disinterest, Tom’s father eventually felt the call of the land. And despite his stated disinterest, the same happened to Tom.

Tom doesn’t live far from where he grew up, though the farm he is on is certainly much larger: 1,500 acres in the Devon countryside. This land is the home of Quicke’s Farm, which produces one of the world’s greatest cheddars. The Quickes have tended this land since it was allotted to them by Henry VIII. Yes, really. That was in the 1500s. It’s a rather old farm. “Twice as old as America,” Mary Quicke, who runs the farm, likes to quip.

Mary is a hardcore surfer, and that’s how she met Tom—he is surf buddies with her son. One day, when they were all on a surf trip together, Mary asked Tom if he was interested in working on the farm. There would be no tractor driving, she told him. No pulling lambs from sheep. Rather, he’d be working with cheese, supporting the values he grew up on, supporting people who do the kind of work his father does. And he’d get to surf on work trips. That all sounded pretty good.

Today, Tom is the head of sales and marketing at Quicke’s, in charge of communicating the farm’s values to the world. Perhaps the most foundational value—the one all the others are built upon—is stewardship, the idea that land doesn’t truly belong to anyone, but that if you provide for it, it will provide back. It’s an idea that Quicke’s articulates quite well, as is evidenced by this footage from their farm:

Mary’s mission with her cheese is to create joy and pleasure. It’s a simple notion, but if you don’t mind us getting a bit romantic for a moment, we’d like to suggest that it’s quite a beautiful one as well. Not just the idea of spreading cheer. That’s easy. Rather, the manner in which she does it, through stewardship of the land. Food is ephemeral by its nature. It is created to be consumed, and that’s about where the experience ends. But it comes from the land—the soil, the grass, the terroir—and that is eternal. What’s beautiful about Mary’s mission is that her cheese is an expression of the land, an experience of something eternal. And, as her cheese demonstrates, the eternal is rather delicious.

Exhibit A: Mrs. Quicke’s Goat Cheddar. It is cut, pressed, drained, and clothbound by hand, then aged on the farm for six months. During that time, it develops flavors of toasted almond and whipped butter. As Tom says, “People who think they don’t like goat’s milk almost can’t believe it.” It so confounds the pre-conceived notions of a goat’s milk cheese that one of Tom’s colleagues likes to have people taste it without telling them what it is. This ensures they are tasting the cheese itself, not any baggage they may or may not associate with the type of milk it’s made with.

mrs. quicke's goat cheddar cheese england terroir

In addition to just being flat out tasty, it’s a terrifically versatile cheese, as good for bringing silky texture to a dish like pea risotto as it is paired with a bottle of red wine on the beach. Like everything that comes from Quicke’s, it is a result of the farm’s devotion to stewarding the land. So, if you’re looking for joy, if you’re looking for pleasure, look no further. Grab yourself a wedge of goat cheddar and a bottle of wine. You’ll be eternally glad you did.

Recipe: Mediterranean Chickpea and Couscous Bowl with Yogurt Dressing

All through the season, we’re featuring Winter White cheeses—those wedges, wheels, and blocks that are bright as snow and keep you cozy in the cold. To celebrate these cheeses, we are sharing some of our private recipes, prepared by Murray’s head chef David Elkins. This week’s spotlight is a grain bowl from the new Made By Murray’s menu that he dreamed up for our store in the West Village. It’s called the Israeli Chickpea Bowl with Yogurt Dressing, and it looks like this:

Mediterranean chickpea couscous salad yogurt dressing recipe

Mediterranean chickpea couscous salad yogurt dressing recipe

The Mediterranean vibes are strong with this one, as is often the case when you’ve got feta and olive oil in the same place. You can buy each of those ingredients individually, but we recommend a jar of Meredith Dairy Marinated Feta, one of our all-around favorite cheeses. It comes bathed in premium olive oil , with sprigs of herbs right there in the jar to infuse even more flavor.

meredith dairy marinated feta cheese with olive oil and herbs

The recipe for this dish is super simple. Here’s how to make it:

Mediterranean chickpea couscous salad yogurt dressing recipe

If you’re using Meredith Dairy Feta, simply measure out your olive oil directly from the jar when preparing the dressing. This is one Winter White recipe that’ll have you feeling like it’s summer by the sea.

Mediterranean chickpea couscous salad yogurt dressing recipe

Mediterranean chickpea couscous salad yogurt dressing recipe

Mediterranean chickpea couscous salad yogurt dressing recipe