Meet the newest member of the Cavemaster Labs family: Normandy Hill! A blend of old world traditions and modern cheesemaking, Normandy Hill begins as a green (unaged) cow’s milk button from the Cellars at Jasper Hill, and embarks on a journey through our Caves where it’s washed with a solution of water and Calvados brandy for a few weeks, which gives the rind a soft orange coloring and infuses the cheese with mild, subtle savor and just a hint of smoke. We sat down with Cavemaster Josh Windsor to get his thoughts on this latest creation.
What exactly is the green (unaged) cheese used as the base here?
For the base we used a green (unaged) bloomy cheese from Jasper Hill. They age this out as a Camembert-style cheese called Lil Hosmer. It is the same cheese we use as the starting point for Lait Bloomer. The wash uses a traditional Calvados from Normandy (an oak-aged brandy distilled from apples).
Alcohol is used pretty commonly in the brines for washed rind cheeses, does brandy affect the cheese differently than say beer or wine?
The most common alcohol used in brines is beer, with wine being a close second. High proof spirits are not as common, as the concentration of alcohol can kill off all the great microflora we are hoping will age the cheese. In France there are a few cheeses that use brandy in the brine. Most notably is Epoisses that is washed in a Marc de Bourgogne which is an eau-de-vie distilled from the pomace of grapes grown in Burgundy. Several Langres producers also wash their cheeses in a Marc de Champagne which is a similar spirit but uses grape pomace from Champagne.
Normandy Hill is a play on these traditions. The trick to using a brandy is to dilute it enough that it helps promote the rind growth without being so diluted that it’s flavor is completely absent from the cheese. As with any brine washed cheese the aroma is a bit funky, and the cheese should become quite roasty and savory. Our hope with the Calvados is that it lends a subtle fruitiness to help balance out the more robust characteristics of the cheese.
If you had to describe Normandy Hill’s profile in three words, what would they be?
Gooey, meaty, fruity. It’s got a bit of a Sunday roast thing going on for me. It is also one of our more visually stunning Cavemaster Labs. It has a downy peach rind that is easy to get lost in.
What would you pair this cheese with if you were snacking at home?
I think this would go great with a hearty flatbread. A spongy, whole wheat pita would be the direction I’d head. There’s a lot of flavor in this little round, so I’d be sparing with the sides. As the cheese ages it going get lean stronger on the savory notes. So I would probably add some Murray’s Heirloom Apple Butter to help bolster the fruitiness.
Want to learn more about the original creations from our Caves? There’s plenty more to explore ‘behind the rind’ right here.