The Return of Spring Cheese: A Tale of Two Meadows
With the return of warm
weather comes nutrient-rich grasses and flowers upon which animals return to
graze. The first cheeses of the year are brighter and lighter. The cheeses with
the greatest expression of its springtime terroir tend to be those produced by
smaller farms with shorter aging times. This month, we are highlighting two
farms displaying some of the best of the season.
in Cazenovia, New York is Meadowood Farms. Situated on 225 acres just outside
of Syracuse, Meadowood is home to a flock of East Friesian sheep. Their cheeses
are hand-crafted by Veronica Pedraza (previously the Creamery Manager for
Jasper Hill) made from their farmstead milk. Their creations take inspiration
from northern Italy, and are styled after cheeses such as Robiola, Fontina Val
d’Aosta and Taleggio.
– 6/8 oz.
Strawbridge is a
soft-ripened bloomy cheese aged for 2-4 weeks. The higher milkfat content of
sheep’s milk highlights this cheese’s buttery characteristics. Strawbridge is
more along the textural lines of a triple crème Brie, but with the vegetal
notes of Camembert. You’ll notice its aromas of earth and hay and flavors
hinting at broccoli and hazelnuts.
– 6/8 oz.
Patterned after Robiola, this hand-ladled, soft-ripened
pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese is aged for 2 weeks before being wrapped in
grape leaves soaked in beer. Local brewery, Empire Brewing, supplies Meadowood
with a beer called Deep Purple, which is made with concord grapes. After
additional aging, the resulting aroma and flavor of Ledyard is lactic, woodsy
and fruity, with a bit of of barnyard funk. Its paste is fudgy in texture,
softening with age, and is surrounded by a wrinkly rind. Ledyard won 1st
in its category at the 2016 ACS competition in Des Moines, Iowa.
Juvindale – 6/8oz.
Juvindale is Meadowood’s
soft-ripened ode to Reblochon. Nearby Juvindale Farm provides the Holstein cows’
milk used to make this namesake cheese. The protein and butterfat composition
of Juvindale’s milk makes for a silky, rich paste. Young wheels are washed with
local Riesling wine and develops a peachy hue while its Penicillum candidum
flourishes. The flavor is bright with notes of crème fraiche, garlic and hay.
Nettle Meadow Farm
in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, Nettle Meadow milks their own
herd of 300 cross-bred goats and a couple dozen sheep. For their feed, they use
only organic hay, grain, wild herbs and kelp. Retired milkers are allowed to
spend the rest of their years on the farm, quite different from most commercial
operations that slaughter the unproductive animals. In fact, part of core
mission of Nettle Meadow is their animal sanctuary that takes in and
rehabilitates injured or abandoned animals that would otherwise be put down.
Simply Sheep – 6/8oz. round
Simply Sheep is a
bloomy disc made from the milk of the couple dozen sheep raised on the Nettle
Meadow Farm. The exemplary diet of organic feed produces a milk that is higher
in butterfat and, in turn, a full-flavored cheese. Simply Sheep has an edible
rind with a more assertive, barny flavor profile appreciated by cheese
Three Sisters – 6/6oz.
Three Sisters is
a cylindrical, bloomy mixed milk cheese, and exemplefies the best qualities in
each of the milk type’s differences. Cow’s milk displays a sweet cream flavor,
goat’s milk adds a bit of lemony tang and sheep’s milk adds a grassy, floral
aspect with a rich, buttery finish. The beauty of Three Sisters is that no
single milk profile overpowers the others.
Briar Summit – 9/5 oz.
Briar Summit is a creamy
pyramid of goat milk, cow milk, sheep milk and cow cream infused with raspberry
leaf tea. The cheese is finished with a bloomy rind. For concerned customers,
it is important to note that Nettle Meadow uses organic vegetarian rennet to
coagulate their cheese. Although aged between 2 and 6 weeks, this cheese is
best around the 12-week mark once the paste becomes gooey and lush. Briar
Summit subtly brings together the best of each milk type’s notes in a cheese
that has balanced sweet, buttery and bright notes.