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Best Blue Cheese?

"My reaction to law_doc's post wasn't as strongly negative as yours. On the one hand, I agree with you that the rarity of a cheese hasn't anything necessarily to do with its quality. On the other hand, it is sad that several of France's farmhouse cheeses, made by traditional methods, are on the brink of extinction or have already disappeared. BdT is now made by at most four small dairies. Persillé de Tignes, another cheese from the same area of France (Savoie) is made by a single cheesemaker. When she dies, PdT may die with her. It's hard these days to convince children to keep the old traditions alive and stay with the family farm or dairy."
As someone who has explored starting a cheesemaking farm, I think the biggest issue is that the economics are just untenable. I grew up on a dairy and really love the work but there is no way to make a decent living in most places as a small dairy. Certainly I treasure our culinary heritage and morn the loss of valuable disappearing foods (I raise several endangered vegetable varieties and a rare Rabbit on my farm in central Ohio). But I don't value things just for being rare and expensive. And I think it is one of the worst traits that runs through our food culture. It contributes nothing positive and turns off potential new enthusiasts.

I wish those attitudes would be limited to the world of fancy cigars.

"About your comment on blueing in clothbound cheddars: It is of a different type in that it occurs when there is a random crack in the paste that is exposed to air. In the UK, many people are thrilled to find a blue vein in Keen's, Montgomery's or a similar cheddar and will ask specifically for a piece with some blue in it. Americans tend to have the opposite reaction and see the mold as a defect. They don't associate cheddar with blueing, because they have less overall experience with clothbound cheddars, even though the US now makes several excellent ones."
I know, I sometimes drop one on purpose to encourage more bluing (!). Though my experience with BdT is that it only really blues up where there are similar flaws (cracks, air bubble holes, etc.), which, to my mind, makes them more similar than different. Honestly I think the the cheese I most love that is in a similar style to BdT isn't a blue at all: Salers. I love the eggy, yeasty, rich flavor and it is also blued up on several of the occasions that I've gotten it.

Jan 15, 2013
RockDoveFarm in Cheese

Best Blue Cheese?

I have had BdT, it is delicious (but not show-stopping), but I'm not going to stop eating other really great blue cheese because they aren't "a natural blue".
This whole statement is the worst kind of snobbery: it has nothing to do with the culinary merits of a cheese and only respects a cheese that is made in minuscule amounts and is largely unavailable.
All the worse is that it is untrue. Jasper Hill's (I have seen their operation) Baylee Hazen is a cheese that is much more available but is from one farm, with a relatively small herd, and it doesn't leave the property until being shipped to the retailer (though the mold is introduced into the milk during the making). Ditto for Classic Blue from Westfield farm, Harbourne Blue, and many many other Blue Cheeses that are produced in the traditional fashion and are more widely available. Including good Roquefort, Blue de Causses, Gamonedo, Valdeon, Castelmagno, Gorgonzola Naturale, and good Stiltons (colston-basset).

There are also the cloth wrapped farmstead Cheddars from Montgomery, Keen, and shelbourne farms. They are often more blue than the BdT and, since the bluing is unintentional, it is at least as natural as the bluing in BdT.

Also, who wants to go back to the culinary past? Yes, there was excellent cheese available, but, except for hard cheeses, it couldn't be shipped any significant distance, so it could only be eaten by the locals and travelers. Wine was so bad during the roman empire and middle ages that they improved the flavor by adding lead dust, pine pitch (if you think this is a good idea, try Retsina), and other unsavory things. Beer was as likely to be sour as not (think Gueze Lambic), and food poisoning was a really common way to die.

Jan 15, 2013
RockDoveFarm in Cheese

parmigiano reggiano in north america

It looks like TreStella is the real deal, but is a cut and vac-pack marketed product. If it is at all possible, you should try and find a shop that will cut (break) the pieces to order or that only breaks up enough to last for a couple of days.

If you are at a store that does actually cut their own cheese, then ask them for a piece. Almost no good shop will actually run out of good DOP Parm.

I've also noted that cheeses of comparable quality have gone up in price and that many shops are getting less aged product to keep their price stable.

Jan 06, 2013
RockDoveFarm in Cheese

Cheese: True (gut) Rennet vs. Microbial and other types...

I especially love the Extremadura and Portuguese cheeses. They are so funky and complex. I think it's worth noting that it isn't any thistle, but the cardoon thistle, which is also grown for delicious stems (actually petioles) and as an ornamental plant and cut flower here in the US.

There is also a short period (during WW2) when there was a rennet shortage in the british isles and they were coagulating the milk with snails. Which I've always wanted to try but don't know enough about the snails used to decide if our local variety would work.

Jan 06, 2013
RockDoveFarm in Cheese

Best Blue Cheese?

Ah... I actually knew that, but I guess I was thinking more about British as in 'British Isles' more than as a national identity. You how we are in america, ignorant, lol. I've had Shropshire and Bourne's and they are they are good and memorable, but I didn't mention them due to lack of availability unless you live in the UK or NYC.

I'll keep an eye out for the others, but cheese imports can be difficult and irregular.

Jan 06, 2013
RockDoveFarm in Cheese

Why is amercan artisanal cheese so pricy

Given how long O'Banon has been on the market (20+years), even if the recipe was patented, the patent has long expired.

The distinction that we make between different farms here in the US is more of an artifact of us not having a centuries old tradition of farmstead cheesemaking (because we all but killed the industry during WW2).

In France, "Fermier" (Farm made) cheeses are a big thing and get a considerable premium in price over industrially produced cheeses. But they don't distinguish between producers because, to use St. Nectaire as an example, there are dozens of producers that make small amounts but belong to a marketing consortium. So each makes a relatively small amount, but in aggregate they can market a larger amount and access international markets.

Jan 05, 2013
RockDoveFarm in Cheese

Why is amercan artisanal cheese so pricy

So, I am not a cheese producer... though my education and training is in farmstead cheesemaking. The reason is this: even if you are charging $12/pound wholesale and $20/retail it is still a poor business plan.
Starting a small Cheese producing farm (in Ohio, where I grow vegetables and fruit for a living) that produces about 20,000 pounds per year costs about $200,000 for the facilities, $200,000 dollars for the land (you just about can't rent to make this work), and $25,000 for your animals (cows, for this example). So, you have $425,000 in upfront costs before you have made anything. Then you have the cost of producing the milk which runs about $12/hundred weight, which will end up as $1.20 in milk cost per pound for the cheese.
After that you have labor, assuming you are making 120 pounds per day (20 milking cows on 20 acres), You will be spending 6 hours (ish) per day (everyday, no weekends) just working with cheese is about $75.30 in labor per 120 pounds and then energy, insurance... you get the picture. You also have to take into account that the cashflow is terrible with cheese needing to age for 60+days for hard cheeses. And there is a ton of risk with a lot of batches not turning out, esp. at the beginning.

At the end of the day, in my math, I figured that the best case scenario for making farmstead cheese was a $30,000 - $40,000 per year for a 90+hour per week job with a high percentage chance of failure (more than 2/3rds go out in less than five years) was not something that I wanted to do. Esp. since there would never be a vacation.
Ever.
You would make more money working double shifts at a McDonalds and probably still work less hours.

It's also worth noting that French producers get a nice subsidy for keeping their prices low, and quality Italian, Swiss, and British cheese are priced comparably.

Jan 05, 2013
RockDoveFarm in Cheese

Best Blue Cheese?

From France: Good Roquefort (like Papillon or Carles, not societe, which is mediocre compared to the smaller labels), Blue de Causses, and many more.

From Italy: Gorgonzola Naturale is one of the best blue cheeses, hands down.

From GB: Colston Basset Stilton, Cashel Blue and Harbourne Blue are excellent of reasons why British food should be given a second chance.

From Spain: Cabrales, valdeon, and Picon are awesome cheeses.

From the US I like: Westfield farm's Classic Blue (a surface ripened blue goat cheese that is best when fully ripened), Jasper Hill's Baylee Hazen (which, I think, is the cheese that others were trying to think of in this thread), Point Reyes Blue, and Great Hill Blue are all really good cheeses.

Jan 05, 2013
RockDoveFarm in Cheese

What cheese pairs well with strawberries?

What are you talking about? Cheese and strawberries are really friendly: virtually any cheese (not herbed ones) will work fantastically with strawberries. The problem is going to be finding good strawberries in January in the northern hemisphere.
I particularly like an aged goat cheese (like those from Capriole or Cypruss Grove) with good strawberry preserves or, even better, whole strawberries from the mid-season glut (I grow a small commercial patch) stored in sweetened brandy or bourban.

Jan 05, 2013
RockDoveFarm in Cheese

Cheese and Beer Pairings

Virtually any British Farmhouse Cheese is excellent with malty beers. My favorites are Montgomery's Cheddar, Kirkham's Lancashire, and Berkswell. From France I like any of the mountain cheeses like: Gruyere, Morbier, Epoisses, and good Raclette-types and country cheeses like Salers, Cantal, roquefort, and saint nectaire (though good ones are rare). Most Swiss Cheeses are excellent with flavorful beers, my favorites are: Val Bagner and L'Etivaz, but most are good.

From Spain there are lots of great beer-drinking cheeses: Mahon, Manchego, Valdeon and cabrales, Idiazabal (pronounced Ee-dee-thee-a-ball), Roncal (arguably the best Spanish cheese), and zamorano are all excellent choices.

Italy also has great cheeses for beer drinking (though there aren't many top notch beers from there). My favorites are Fontina D'Aosta, Gorgonzola naturale, and Taleggio (which is quite smelly and is often of dubious quality).

And of course, many of America's cheeses are also very good with beer: Jasper Hill, Vermont Shepherd, Woodcock farm, westfield's classic blue, and many more.

I don't think being too specific is helpful, but hoppy beers aren't usually as cheese friendly as malty and/or tangy beers.

Jan 05, 2013
RockDoveFarm in Cheese

Cheese to go with smoked trout?

So, fish and cheese pairings are always tricky: they aren't thought to be particularly friendly with one another. I would go with something mild and tangy with... maybe citrusy flavors: a good fresh goat goat cheese like from coach farm, or westfield goat farm if you are on the east coast, on the west coast there are lots of options like Cyprus grove, etc. In the center of the country you should look for brands like Zingerman's Creamery or Capriole.

You might also consider going with an artisan cream cheese like those from Zingerman's or Sierra Nevada. They are a completely different product from Philadelphia!

Jan 05, 2013
RockDoveFarm in Cheese

What the *&@#%!$ Should I Do with Carrot Greens?

As a farmer, I clicked on the headline was going to say feed them to a rabbit, or throw them in the compost heap, or (my personal favorite use) mulch your tomatoes. I don't recommend eating them. They don't taste good and, as has already been pointed out, are mildly toxic.

Jan 13, 2011
RockDoveFarm in Features