Have you ever seen a piece of Parm, waiting in your local cheese shop, like a sparkling diamond? Wait, is it actually sparkling? You’re probably wondering what those little crystals, sprinkled over the paste of your cheese are. Or maybe you’ve bitten into a super aged cheddar, only to have a bit of crispy crunch break in. Maybe you love that little crunch – asking your monger for the “crunchies” whenever you visit the shop. Those little cheese diamonds, they’re a cheese lover’s best friend. They’re also known as tyrosine crystals. But how do they get there? Are they a flaw in the cheese or a sign of cheese mastery? We’ll lay it out for you.
The word tyrosine comes from the Greek word ‘tyros’, which, of course, means cheese. These crunchy clusters only appear on well-aged cheeses – that’s because they form over time, as cheese ages and the proteins start breaking down. If you want the more scientific answer, stay with us for a sec:
Cheese is made up of fats and proteins that are trapped in a matrix of proteins (think of it as a big spider web of protein molecules). As cheese ages, the chains of proteins break down, creating these small, crunchy amino acid clusters that are left behind. This shouldn’t be confused with the salty crunch left on the outside of washed rind cheeses – that’s residual salt left over from a brine wash. These tyrosine crystals stay on the paste, adding a delightful crunch to cheeses with a normally smooth paste.
Now, we’re talking about these little gemstones like they’re good things. But are they something cheesemakers are going for or are they a mistake in the process? Well, it depends on who you ask. For a long time, especially in the United States, these little crystals were seen as a defect – because of the appearance of tyrosine crystals, big cheese factories worried that the cheese would look moldy and get tossed in the trash. But nowadays, more people are seeing these cheese diamonds as the sign of a well-aged, delicious cheese that is full-flavored and complex. Our mongers hardly go a day without having someone ask for “crunchy cheese”.
From a delightful aged Gouda like Roomano, to the King of Cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, you’ll find crunchy crystallization of all kinds. Since Valentine’s Day is on the way, let’s forgo the diamonds and sub them out for cheese diamonds. Your cheeseloving lovers will go crazy for them.
If you’re starting to get the feeling that Valentine’s Day managed to sneak up on you this year, don’t worry, we feel you. You can go with the classics + flowers, but there’s still time to come up with something that is unique to your loved one’s taste. Something that says “I love you, in all your cheeseloving glory”. We’ve got your back on this one, and have a few gifts that you can give that say, “I was thinking about you”.
If the love of your life loves puddle-jumping, spends their days browsing cheap flights to Europe and beyond, and dreams of vacays visiting Italy’s historic sites rather than the beaches of the Bahamas, this is the gift for them. La Dolce Vita (“The Sweet Life” for you non-native Italian speakers) transforms a cheese plate into a moving experience. This exquisite selection of salumi, formaggio, and snacks comes from a country where food is a deity and features classics like sheepy Pecorino Calabrese, silky Speck, and plump and briny Castelvetrano olives. Look, we know you couldn’t afford to get your boo those tickets to Milan – but this is way better, if you ask us.
Forget diamonds, forget Rolex watches – this collection is more luxurious than the two of them combined. Designed to pair with a tall glass of bubbly, this collection was cooked up specifically for a romantic, memorable night in. Like champagne, the three cheeses from this collection will delight your senses and add a bit of excitement to date night – from the earthy Truffle Tremor, caramelly sweet Ewephoria, or velvety Hudson Valley Camembert, there’s nothing quite like cheeses and champagne. They’re a match made in heaven, just like you and your Valentine.
Cheese and crackers are nice, but you probably want a little bit of sweetness specially for Valentine’s Day. There’s nothing quite like an Effie’s biscuit and a dollop of creamy Delice de Bourgogne or a tangy sweet Chiroboga Blue. This selection tastes of home – it’ll remind you of breakfast at your mom’s house, or tea time at high noon. Whether you’re going for a fancy snack or a cozy treat, this collection is the perfect balance of both.
You love them, you know you do, but maybe you don’t want Domino’s for your Valentine’s Day dinner. We get it, and we definitely believe in compromise when it comes to relationships. That’s why we propose The Cure to your ailments – a spread of glorious meat that no one can say no to. From the simple smoky Mosefund Mangalitsa Bacon to the rare and delightful Iberico de Bellota or creamy foie gras. Ditch the floppy, half-burnt pepperoni and break out the ultimate gift for the love of your life – it’ll give ‘meat lover’ a whole new meaning.
Valentine’s Day is soon (read: two weeks!), so now’s as good a time as any to start thinking about your V-Day plans. Maybe you’ve got romantic plans out, or maybe you’re having a sweet night in, but we know there should be one thing involved: chocolate. Being cheesy experts ourselves, we think cheese goes with everything, and chocolate is no exception. While you might not think these sweet and savory delights go together, we’re here to prove you wrong.
Something about this decadent, aged Gouda just begs for something sweet. Its notes of caramel and sweet-salty butterscotch usually are paired with a nice glass of scotch and whiskey, but if you’re looking to add a little sweetness, the Raaka Bourbon Cask bar is the way to go. The dark virgin chocolate is enhanced with the flavors of aged bourbon, with bright notes of spicy rye, vanilla, and caramel. Since we know like goes with like, these two were just meant to be.
Blue cheeses and chocolate always go together – they’re like a couple of high school sweethearts! But Persille de Rambouillet is like the head cheerleader – popular, smooth, and sweet. The Alpine goats milk that goes into this blue creates clean lactic notes, with hints of white pepper and sweet cream. It’s that sweet cream and gentle piquancy that makes the chocolatey crunch of Murray’s milk chocolate covered graham crackers all the more delightful. (Hint: you might even want to spread the cheese directly onto the chocolate chunks. It’ll blow your mind!)
Summer pasture fed cow’s milk, with hints of floral, fruity flavors, Pleasant Ridge Reserve has those bites of sweetness we love. Like the Alpine cheeses it is inspired by, it goes great with a dark chocolate. We love it with the dark chocolate Infernal bar from Pralus Chocolatier, where the chocolate is fruity and deep and filled with toasty hazelnuts. We’re talking a match made in heaven, if we’re being honest – and it sure is heavenly.
Sultry smokiness paired with roasty coffee – honestly, what can be better? With a ball of fresh goat’s milk cheese wrapped in maple leaves and then smoked, there’s a deep, campfire-y richness and clean minerality that reminds us of smelling cooking bacon in the morning, but sweet. Add your cup of coffee or make it a mocha with the chocolate bar from Mast blended with freshly roasted coffee beans, and this is exactly what you’ve been looking for. Our taste buds have heart eyes.
Love is in the air! At Murray’s we get a lot of requests for cheese that will help make the night extra special, and we always know just what to recommend. Here are our staff picks for the sexiest cheese around – Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
Robin: A ripe Époisses is beautiful, and its silky texture just makes you go “Mmmm….”
James: Monte Enebro is luscious, thick, and velvety in texture. Plus it has the best rind in the world. Peppery and saucy, like any good woman should be.
Carlos: Podda Classico is sharp and has great curves.
Andrew: Winnimere! Because it’s creamy, oozy, and complex.
Deena: Zimbro is nice and plump, plus it’s wrapped in cloth so you get to undress it.
Beth: Burrata is the oyster in cheese form, except it tastes like gorgeous mild milky goodness instead of the sea.