At Murray’s, we have three main principles that guide our pairings: Opposites Attract, Like with Like, and What Grows Together Goes Together. The first two are strictly about flavor and texture principles: if things tastes similarly (like a butterscotchy Gouda with actual butterscotch), or quite differently (say, fatty foie gras pate with zingy dried orange slices), they’ll most likely work together. When it comes to Cider and Cheese pairings, however, we like to look towards the third principle, which centers around Terroir.
When we say, “What Grows Together Goes Together”, we’re talking about pairing two products from the same geographic area. These pairings work because, whether it’s cheese, cider, or jam, all the products are in some way a reflection of the land they come from. For cheese, this means the milk will taste a certain way, and result in a certain flavor in the cheese, because the cow’s are eating a unique mixture of flowers, herbs, and grasses grown only in the area they live. Cider’s connection to the land is a little more straightforward — unique characteristics in the cider are directly contributed by the climate, soils and aspect of the orchard in which its apples were grown.
Collaboration has long been a part of the craft beer scene. Breweries partner to create exciting and new concoctions for the world to imbibe. The idea began in 2006 when the revered Russian River Brewing Company partnered with Avery Brewing to make a beer called Collaboration Not Litigation. Today, almost every brewery in the US has worked on a collaboration project of some sort. Collaboration between brewers and cheesemakers in pursuit of creating delicious cheese, however, has a much older provenance and dates back centuries. In fact, beer is at the heart of the creation myth for an entire category of cheeses – the wonderfully funky washed rinds.
We’re right around the corner from Halloween, which means it’s officially chocolate season. As we tend to do at Murray’s, our mind goes to our favorite chocolate and cheese pairings! That’s right — cheese and chocolate make a great match, and pairing the two is a uniquely American idea, let us explain:
Editor’s Note: This article is from guest writer Peter Henry, the Northeast Regional Sales Manager at Consider Bardwell Farm. We invited Peter to give us a more in-depth view on one of the more successful farmstead cheesemaking operations in the country, not to mention the makers of some very good cheeses in a multitude of styles and a longtime fixture in our case.
Consider Bardwell Farm is 300 acres of woodland and pasture in southeast Vermont, overlapping the NY state border. We were one of the first farms in the region to designate our land as certified organic, federally-protected grassland. It will only ever be pasture for cows and goats, cared for by those animals, and let grow wild with indigenous grasses.
The milk for all of our cheeses comes from one herd of goats and two herds of cows, all bred and raised by farmers that know their names. Small scale dairy makes sense in Southwest Vermont. The growing season is short. Mountains, lakes, slate and marble quarries carve out pockets of stone-pocked fields, perfect for agile and picky goats and cows.
Our herd of 120 milking goats graze on rotational patterns– never eating the same patch of grass for more than 12 hours before moving on to feed and fertilize another spot. One of the two 30-head cow herds we bring in milk from shares pasture with the goats– grazing deeper on different grasses and leaving their own special brand of fertilizer. Our farmers take pride in the nutrition in the hay, the health of the animals, and the fat and protein content of the milk.
Our cheesemakers see the changes in the milk from day to day and season to season. Because our milk is raw, and the cows and goats eat whichever grass they want, or whichever hay was cut that day, every milk vat is different. Our cheesemakers can tell which of the two cow herds the milk came from just by color, look and smell, and how to adjust that day’s recipe for success.
When winter comes, the cheeses change slightly, as the animals move from fresh grass to hay.
The cheesemakers then take that milk knowledge further, using it to assess when a few wheels need a little more care in the caves, and make sure quality is up to standard by tasting every batch throughout its life. The same cheese made at a different farm, in our corner of Vermont or anywhere else in the world, would be nothing alike. Every batch is an affirmation of the nuance of terroir. When you say “Barnyardy”, we say “Which barnyard? Which season?”
When we started in the early 2000s, Murray’s Cheese was one of our first and most vocal supporters. The people behind the counter aren’t just good at telling our story, they’re a part of it. We think anyone who blindly tries our cheese would love it, but we love to hear the different bits that people remember–about the land, about Leslie, our head cheesemaker, about the milk, even about the name (more on that later).
Our mantra, a take on Michael Pollan’s wisdom: “Eat Cheese. Not too much. Mostly Pawlet.” Our collaboration with Kroger has given us the demand to make more Pawlet more consistently and deliciously than ever before. Some of our cheeses could never be available at every store in the country, and that’s fine with us. Kroger’s support of Pawlet is a foundation that lets us make every cheese without compromise, lets our farmers never compromise, and makes us hope to bring more dairy farms back to our valley.
Murray’s does its part when they get more people to eat our cheese and go home happy. But the story still matters–the next fanatic, maybe even the next shop owner, dairy farmer or cheesemaker is out there. We know our cheese will do its job, we hope our story can do even more.
And a little about our name: a blacksmith named Consider Bardwell started Vermont’s first dairy coop in 1864, right where we make cheese today. He raised his own herd, gathered milk from neighbors in the valley, and turned into cheese. The old Delaware & Hudson railway ran right through the fields, taking that cheese down to New York City and beyond.
We hope to continue the tradition, making incredible cheeses while supporting small dairy farms raising their animals the right way.
Three Consider Bardwell Cheeses Murray’s Mongers Love
Murray’s Take: Pawlet’s a town that brings Americans slate, syrup and timber and– even better– Pawlet’s a cheese that delivers just as eclectic and delightful a mix. The cheese tastes of grassy barnyard, cultured butter, and fresh-from-the-oven 7-grain bread loaves. Yielding, creamy, and nutty on the palate, Consider Bardwell has earned numerous awards at American Cheese Society and the World Cheese Championships, and we certainly agree- mushroomy, meaty Pawlet deserves every accolade we can bestow.
Peter’s Take: This cheese is bright, savory and grassy. The One True Cheese. A cheese to come home to. The Murray’s profile is a perfect balance of umami savory notes and a bright, crisp finish.
Murray’s Take: A slice of Barden Blue is everything we imagine a perfect day at Vermont’s picturesque Consider Bardwell Farm to be: mellow, grassy, and pleasantly full, with a sunshiney brightness. The carefully controlled bluing, which lends the cheese its ever-so-slight peppery edge, comes about as a result of the cheesemaker’s attention to quality and detail, as well as the combined dedication of Murray’s and Consider Bardwell to exceptional aging conditions, first in the aging caves on Consider Bardwell’s 19th-century farm before being finished by our cave team, coaxing a deep minerality and chocolately depth from the gently pressed curds. Pair with an understated saison for pastoral perfection.
Peter’s Take: Barden Blue is Floral, peppery with dark chocolate richness. Delicate and approachable. Barden is a Murray’s exclusive, and is the result of what our farm is and what Murray’s loves about our farm.
Murray’s Take: Rupert may sound like the name of the nerdy guy in your AP physics class, and this is one serious cheese, but the name comes from one of VT’s oldest towns. Aged for at least 6 months, this raw cow, golden-hued beaut’ is chock full of huge Alpine flavor: deep, sweet, and butterscotchy, but leavened with lovely tropical fruit flavors.
Peter’s Take: Rupert is mellow and rich, nutty but bright. Like pineapple basted in browned butter. The Murray’s profile is more intense, well rounded and robust.
Blue cheese is undoubtedly the most divisive type of cheese on the market. There. We said it. Ask “Are you a blue cheese person?” and you’re bound to hear some strong feelings. Some people hate the intense spicyness (which many in the blue cheese world call “Piquancy”), the strong flavors of the mold, and well, the blueness of blue cheese. For others, that is precisely the draw — blues are intensely flavored in ways that few other cheeses are, and for those who love that experience, little else compares.
But we’re here to tell you not all blue cheeses are the same, and that there is, in fact, an entire spectrum of blue cheese. You may have sworn off the blue stuff for being too pungent or salty, but maybe a more relaxed blue is the cheese you’ve been waiting to love all along. We like to say there’s a spectrum for all cheese, but especially for blue cheese: From Mild to Wild. So what’s the perfect blue for you? Check out our guide below, which starts with the least intense blues to the most intense and includes our favorites at each level.
For those who want to dip their toe into the blue cheese world, we suggest starting with Dunbarton Blue. Fourth generation cheesemaker Chris Roelli committed the equivalent of blue cheese heresy by piercing his cheese and then pressing it to inhibit the mold growth. The result is Dunbarton Blue, a sort of blue-veined cheddar that’s mildly potent yet approachable. Chris presses the cheese to inhibit blue mold growth, and what develops is earthy and Cheddary in texture, with a sharpness that one would expect from this combination. We like to think of it as “Blue Cheese Light”, and it’s a real crowd pleaser.
Ready to go a little further into the funk? We like nutty, slightly meaty Bleu Du Bocage. From the Loire Region of France, this goat’s milk blue’s paste mellows to a bacony, toastiness while the blue veining provides some piquancy. It’s a spicy but lightly sweet and acidic blue that is buttery and delicately smooth in texture. Each bite melts on the tongue like butter, leaving a taste of roasted pork and roasted walnuts lingering on the palate.
Now we’re getting serious about blue: the multi-award winning Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. Named for a Revolutionary War road in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, this raw milk, farmhouse blue is ready for conquest. Thanks to its determined creators, the Kehler brothers, this Stilton-esque cylinder fulfills its duties. Expect a dry yet dense paste, and full of balanced chocolate, hazelnut, and licorice flavors. This cheese is definitely blue, with pleasant pepperiness and complexity, but it’s smooth paste mellows it considerably. One taste and you’ll know why it’s considered one of the best blues in America.
For the deep end of the spectrum, we look to the most classic, old world blue: Roquefort. From the caves of Combalou in southern France, Roquefort, arguably the worlds greatest blue, has had its name and methods protected since 1411! Roquefort’s heavenly flavor is reminiscent of the cavern air where the cheese ripens and the mold naturally grows, transforming the Lacaune ewe’s milk it’s made of. This variety is round, deep, and perfectly balanced: big, creamy chunks of the paste dissolve on the palate like sharp, soothing milky lozenges. Sweet and fudgy, its linger is peppery and sometimes quite spicy. For serious blue cheese lovers, there’s no substitute.
There you have it, the definitive Murray’s guide to Blue Cheese. Whether you’re just looking to try a blue that you won’t hate, or you’re a passionate blue cheese lover who’s interested in expanding your blue horizons, we hope you’ve found some inspiration. As with any cheese family, the only way to know what you do or do not like is to taste, taste, taste. Now go out and get some blues!