2017: A Year in Cheese

The final days of 2017 have us in a reflective mood here at Murray’s. As we cement our resolutions and look forward to sharing our plans with you for the coming year, we are also taking stock of the last 12 months. We hit some major milestones this year, and we sold a lot of cheese—over half a million pounds in New York alone. Because we are in that transitional space between taking one calendar down and pinning another up, we figured we’d use this time to collate the most noteworthy moments of 2017 and put them all in one place. This is what a year in cheese looks like.

Murray’s Releases Stockinghall Cheddar

For years, we have been collaborating with some of our favorite cheesemakers to age their wheels in our caves, but this year marked the first time we released a cheese that we developed from scratch. That cheese is Stockinghall Cheddar, a classically clothbound truckle with meaty flavors of bacon and sour cream. It was created by our caves team in conjunction with Cornell University, where we shape the wheels before bringing them down to NYC for aging. We feel like proud parents, only instead of raising these wheels up and sending them off to college, we’re doing it in reverse.

The American Cheese Society Awards

The future is bright for Stockinghall, not least because it’s hanging out in our caves with a bunch of stars. This year’s American Cheese Society festival was held in Denver, CO, and three of our cave aged cheeses took home prizes in their respective categories. Greensward was voted best soft-ripened washed rind cheese in America for the second year in a row, and the third time in four years. Hudson Flower took top honors among sheep cheeses with flavor added, and Project X earned third place among all aged washed rind cheeses. Special shout out to our pals up at Spring Brook Farm for taking home Best in Show with their terrific Tarentaise Reserve.

400th Store

Murray’s began partnering with Kroger in 2008 to expand the grocer’s specialty cheese program across the country. It’s been such a success that this November we opened our 400th location, in Houston, TX.

Kroger Makes it Official

And we are looking forward to opening in many more stores next year, as Kroger officially purchased Murray’s back in February. This gives us the ability to expand the reach of our mission of providing the best cheeses in the world. It also means we had a prodigious send-off for our previous owner, Rob Kaufelt, who transformed Murray’s from a corner village mart into one of the country’s top destinations for artisanal cheese.

New Murray’s Label Products

Along with a wider reach, we also brought some excellent new cheeses into our private line. From classic blue Stilton to the delectably creamy Delice de Bourgogne, you can now get more great cheese with our seal of approval. We’ve debuted some top-notch preserves, too. Our Preserved Pumpkin and Preserved Walnuts are both complete stunners, bringing a new possibilities to your pairing habit.

We’ll be rolling out more goodness in 2018, and we can’t wait for you to try it all. Until then, thanks so much for making 2017 a great year in cheese. Have yourself a happy New Year, and don’t forget to have some cheese with your midnight champagne.

Cider and Cheese, Please!

You’ve known since childhood that “an Apple a day keeps the doctor away…” but now that you’re all grown up, you may have also discovered that when pressed for juice and allowed to ferment and age, apples can become just what the doctor ordered!  We’re talking, of course, about cider, that underappreciated cousin of beer and wine that shows up in force at bars and bottle shops this time of year, announcing to all that Autumn is here. 

At its simplest, cider is nothing more than the juice of pressed apples, fermented by the yeasts native to apple skins.  It has a long history in the United States, going back to the first English colonies, and was more commonly consumed than beer in the years before the German and Irish immigrant populations and their beer brewing traditions became fully incorporated into the American melting pot.  Nearly wiped out entirely by Prohibition, cidermaking has seen a renaissance in the last 40 years in parallel with craft brewing, winemaking, and artisan cheesemaking.

While we might associate ciders most often with the autumn colors of New York and New England, they are produced throughout the year and around the world, from the warm and wet English West Country; to the rolling fields of Normandy and Brittany; to the rustic, rugged mountains of the Basque Country.  These regional ferments evolved in response to the same geographic, economic, and cultural constraints as the cheeses consumed in their vicinities, and as such make brilliant terroir pairings.

We’re delighted to share a flight of cheese and cider pairings from three esteemed cider and cheese producing regions, so that you can break free of the repressive stranglehold Pumpkin Spice has taken upon our society, and celebrate fall with the simple bliss of a classic harvest beverage.


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Cidre Bouché 2016 Unfiltered Hard Apple Cider

Domaine Dupont (Pays D’Auge, Normandy, France)

From a region of apple growers influenced by their winemaking countrymen to the South comes this crisp, elegant, pleasantly sweet unfiltered Apple Cider; a perfect complement to its Norman counterpart, Camembert.

  • Deep amber-bronze color and a clean nose with subtle citrus and berry notes
  • A creamy mouthfeel, with rich, velvety effervescence like cream soda
  • Its flavor profile is a rounded, focused sweetness reminiscent of red grapes. It makes its presence known right away, and then recedes, making room for powerful brine and cooked broccoli flavors of farmstead Camembert

PairingsMurray’s Camembert; Murray’s Brie Fermier; Jasper Hill Moses Sleeper


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Shacksbury Dry Hard Apple Cider

Shacksbury Cider (Vergennes, Vermont)

This light, tart, rustic cider is a cocktail of 10 distinct heirloom apple varieties grown in Vermont and England, fermented in part by yeasts native to the apples themselves.  Aged over six months, its sweetness is present but dialed back, laying the stage for firm, lactic, tangy cheddar to work its magic.

  • A pale yellow color, with yeast and funky barnyard aromas
  • A light, smooth, clean mouthfeel, punctuated by large bubbles
  • Dry, as its name suggests, with a prickly tartness, it is a wonderful complement to the tangy fruit and sweet cream notes in its Vermont counterpart, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar

PairingsCabot Clothbound Cheddar, Murray’s High Plains Cheddar, Murray’s Cavemaster Reserve Stockinghall Cheddar


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Byhur “24” Sidra Apardunia

Astarbe Sagardotegia (Astigarraga, Basque Country, Spain)

An intensely dry bubbly with a hint of bitterness, produced from two proprietary apple varieties on a 450 year old estate in the heart of Basque cider country.  Pairs wonderfully with Ossau-Iraty, or as a substitute for Champagne alongside a decadent a triple crème.

  • Dark, yellow-orange color and clean, tart, green apple aromas
  • Light and crisp on the tongue, highly effervescent, and as dry as they come
  • With a balanced flavor profile, long finish, and slight hint of bitterness, it showcases the complex sweet, savory, pecan, and lanolin of Ossau-Iraty and other rich Basque sheep’s milk cheeses.

Pairings:  Ossau-Iraty, Pyrenees Brebis, Roncal, Nettle Meadow Sappy Ewe, Brebirousse D’Argental, Cremeaux de Borgogne

Written by: Tyler Frankenberg, Murray’s Cheese

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 the 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