JASPER HILL BAYLEY HAZEN BLUE
The Cellars at Jasper Hill began with the intention to be a model for struggling New England farmers while reviving the dairy industry in the Vermont area. They proved that, with certain modifications, it was possible to be successful amongst the rocky hillsides that dominate the area’s farming terrain. In addition to making Jasper Hill cheeses, their cellars act as an affinage site for neighboring cheesemakers. In the early 2000’s the company invested in a series of aging tunnels built into the farm’s hillside. The tunnels have been designed to maintain the specific temperatures and humidity levels necessary for ripening a variety of styles of cheese.
Mateo Kehler, one of the founding partners of Jasper Hill, gained experience working domestically with farmstead cheesemakers, as well as abroad in France, Spain and at Neal’s Yard Dairy in England. Among the number of cheeses created at home at Jasper Hill, Mateo considers Bayley Hazen Blue to be one of his dearest. Likewise, at Zuercher, we consider this homegrown American beauty to rival any of the blue cheeses created overseas.
Bayley Hazen Blue cheese is named after an old military road commissioned by George Washington during the Revolutionary War. The road was built to carry troops to fight the English on a Canadian front. However, no battle ever took place. Just as this road brought Jasper Hill’s village of Greensboro its first settlers, Bayley Hazen Blue brought Jasper Hill some of its first sales.
This truly farmstead cheese never leaves Jasper Hill property until it is ready to make its way to your cheese plate. The milk is pulled from the creamery next door, which houses their 50 Ayrshire cows. The cows are free to roam Jasper Hill Farm’s rolling hills between late spring and early fall. Jasper Hill’s herd manager, Andy Kehler, has been continually improving their pasture to enrich the quality of the Ayrshires’ milk. This delicious raw milk is what gives Bayley Hazen its creamy, melt-in-your-mouth consistency. Each batch of Bayley is cared for by hand and monitored for quality by Jasper Hill’s cheese team.
After 4 days at the creamery, the Bayley is sent 200 feet away to Jasper Hill’s cellars. Once it makes it here, it is tested to see if it meets Jasper Hill’s standards and sent to the Bayley cellar. An appropriate amount of pin holes are added to the cheese in order to promote the growth of Penicillium roqueforti. This cellar is kept very humid in order to aid the growth of the blue veins. Once it is left in the cellar, Clarence, the cellar supervisor, takes charge of the cheese. He flips and rotates the cheese as needed, and checks to see how the blue veins are developing. Based on what he finds, he will make any necessary adjustments to aid in its proper aging.
Between days 60-80 of the cheese’s life, Jasper Hill’s management will taste test the cheese. They aim to send out cheese that is almost close to its peak. Additional time is allowed for aging while the cheese is in transit. This enables a more perfect ripeness upon consumption. This blue has successfully risen to the top of the American blue kingdom because of the unique care it receives.
The texture of Bayley Hazen is fudgy and dense, and in the vein of English Stilton, has a lower moisture content than other blues. The usual peppery taste of the blue is softened by the milk’s natural grassy and nutty taste. As a result of the breakdown of all those luscious fats and proteins found in the raw Ayrshire milk, hints of anise, tobacco (a nod to George Washington, perhaps?) and spice peek out amongst flavors of hazelnut and toasted bread.
Alone, this blue pairs excellently with imperial stouts. Alternately, try pairing with dark chocolate and a tawny port or a late-harvest Zinfandel for a unique dessert. The Zuercher staff would love to hear what your favorite pairing is with this new American classic cheese.
This writer’s favorite match with Bayley Hazen is caramelized onions, especially in the springtime when young onions are at their best. The following recipe celebrates this classic combination in an easy-to-prepare dinner or snack. For this, a dry sparkling rosé wine would stand up to both the buttery crust and salty cheese and bacon. Bring on spring!