All Grown Up: Savor the pleasures of mature goat cheese
Cheeses, like people, are generally more interesting when they gain a little age and exposure to different “cultures.”
A fresh unripened cheese can be lovely and delicious for sure, but rarely is it intriguing. No wonder that as Americans discover the complex charm of a mature wedge or wheel, the population of cheese is shifting—goat cheese in particular.
Where soft, fresh chèvre once monopolized the selection of goat cheeses, that shelf is no longer reserved for only those young milky logs and pucks. Matured cheeses are showing up in the form of goat’s milk cheddar, Brie, Gouda, and blue cheese, as well as aged goat cheeses that are originals, with a style unto themselves.
Our cheese plate this issue brings together three such innovative choices, demonstrating what happens when goat’s milk meets cheese- making ingenuity. Call it the Goat Flight; it’ll take you to three very different flavor destinations. You don’t need much to enjoy this trip, but we suggest you bring some crisp crackers and juicy pears along for the ride.
Pasteurized goat’s milk / Vegetable rennet
Made by Bob and Debbie Stetson at Westfield Farm, located in central Massachusetts, Classic Blue Log is one of very few external blue chèvres in the world. Striking in appearance, the log is a slightly aged goat cheese with a bone white, moist, and densely fluffy interior encased in a downy blue-green coat of mold.
The cheesemaker begins with goat’s milk sourced from local dairies. Pasteurized, the milk is made into fresh chèvre curds that are inoculated with the Penicillium roqueforti blue culture. Over a two-week aging period, the cheese loses moisture, evaporating from a 10-ounce log to about 7 ounces, as it develops its characteristic exterior blue rind. The cheeses are then wrapped in permeable covering and shipped seven days later. The logs are best consumed after another two to four weeks of curing in the refrigerator. Flavors are lactic, clean, and bright with citrus notes and an earthy, piquant tang from the blue mold that slowly ripens toward the center.
Carr Valley Cheese
La Valle, Wisconsin
Pasteurized goat’s milk / Animal rennet
Located in the rolling hills of central Wisconsin, Carr Valley Cheese is one of the state's most successful cheese operations. Owned and operated by Sid Cook, a fourth-generation cheesemaker, Carr Valley is renowned for its Wisconsin cheddar varieties, as well as a host of award-winning cheeses, such as Cocoa Cardona.
Based on a traditional Italian recipe, Cocoa Cardona is a pasteurized, aged cheese made from goat’s milk from eight farms in the Green Bay area. What sets the cheese apart is the handsome exterior, which is rubbed with a dark blend of vegetable oil, cracked black pepper, and cocoa. The mixture helps develop a rind and protect the cheese during the four- to eight-month aging process, but it also lends a very subtle nuance of earthy spice flavors to the sweet/savory notes of the snowy-colored interior. Mildly goaty, the smooth, semifirm cheese is well balanced, with a natural tang and savory finish, leaving just a hint of cocoa.
Pasteurized goat’s milk / Microbial rennet
An aged goat cheese cloaked in soft, dark leaves, Hoja Santa was created by Paula Lambert, the founder of Mozzarella Company in Dallas, Texas. Her inspiration for the cheese came from Patricia Quintana, a chef in Mexico City. Patricia uses hoja santa leaves, vegetation native to Veracruz and Oaxaca, for wrapping fish and chicken before steaming them over a smoldering fire pit, dug in the ground. After tasting this dish, and having seen French cheesemakers wrap cheese in chestnut leaves, Paula was eager to try this wrapping technique with a goat cheese and hoja santa leaves.
Milk for the cheese is sourced from a number of goat dairies located across the state border in Oklahoma. Pasteurized at the creamery, the milk is cultured, mixed with rennet, and left to coagulate slowly overnight. The next day the curd is carefully hand-ladled into small, perforated molds. Drained in its mold for a day, the cheese for Hoja Santa is set out on cheese mats and turned and salted. Each one is then wrapped in organic hoja santa leaves, tied with raffia, and aged for between one and six months. When the cheese is young, the texture tends to be slightly crumbly. With time, the paste breaks down, becoming creamier and smooth. The flavors of hoja santa leaves infuse the milky, tangy cheese with distinct vegetal notes, interesting mintlike flavors, and hints of pepper. In addition to serving Hoja Santa on a cheese plate, Paula recommends gently heating a whole cheese so that when the leaf is cut the warm cheese flows out onto the plate.
You can purchase all three cheeses, plus a package of Rustic Bakery's artisan 2-Seed Lavosh for just $45 from our friends at Cowgirl Creamery.
Photos by Gregory Cherin