Located just west of Petaluma in northern California, the MarinFrench Cheese Company was founded in 1865 by Jefferson A. Thompson, largely as a response to the burgeoning demand for cheese arising from returning Gold Rush miners. Today it’s the oldest continuously operating creamery in the United States. Milk for cheese production originally came from the company's own herds of cattle that grazed the 700 acres of land surrounding the creamery. However, during the Depression of the 1930's, Marin French decided to focus its efforts entirely on production and try to support its neighbors by buying in milk from local farms. This arrangement continues today.
To make the cheese, cow's milk is pasteurized and poured into 'make' buckets. Bacterial starters are added to each bucket and then the microbial rennet and either a mold or yeast culture are added. (The mold and yeast cultures are interchanged regularly every few days of production, since this promotes the health of each culture and keeps them alive.)
With the addition of the rennet, the milk coagulates. It is then cut into cubes using a long bladed knife and gently stirred at regular intervals. As the acidity level rises, the curds become firmer until they reach a point where they are ready to be poured into the molds and allowed to drain naturally. The cheeses are unmolded and brined, then placed on racks to dry before they’re transferred to the aging rooms where they will spend 10-14 days before release. The cheeses are turned once during this time to promote mold growth.
Austrian-inspired Schloss (which translates into ‘castle’ in German) has been produced by Marin French Cheese since 1901. Made from pasteurized cow’s milk and a dollop of cream, discs of the triple crème cheese are aged for five months. They’re repeatedly washed in brine, developing an orange-hued rind, then packaged in wooden cups.
Schloss has a distinctly hoppy aroma with notes of sour cream. Texture is contrasting, with a creamy middle and a chalkier outside underneath a thick, sticky rind. Flavor is pungent, meaty and earthy with a slight tang; complex layers bring to mind citrus, brandy and an ocean breeze at the same time.
Pair Schloss with a hearty California red wine or an aromatic white wine. Or simply serve it alongside beer, pickled vegetables and salumi.