Inspired by the famous ash-dusted and bloomy-rinded cheeses of France, Black Knight was named in honor of the Knight family, owners of Smiling Hill Farm. There on the property near Portland Maine, which has been in the Knight family since the 1700s, lies Silvery Moon Creamery. Holstein cows graze here outdoors seven months per year, and in the winter they eat haylage from the farm’s pesticide-free pastures.
Silvery Moon Creamery was born in 2003 from a partnership between cheesemaker Jennifer Betancourt, who first learned the art of cheesemaking at the Squire Tarbox Inn on Westport Island, and later at Cornell University, and the Knight family. Today cheese production continues under the direction of Dorothee Grimm, who was born and raised in Germany and worked for years as a researcher in microbiology. After moving to Maine, Dorothee took cheesemaking classes from different local cheesemakers and made yogurt and cheese at home before applying for a position at Silvery Moon. “I still work in microbiology, pampering the good microbes and keeping the bad ones out,” Dorothee says. “But now, I can eat the results of my work at the end of the day.”
To produce this cheese, the milk is first gently batch pasteurized – at a lower temperature for a longer period of time than in a continuous pasteurizer – in an effort to preserve the integrity of Smiling Hill Farm’s raw milk and to produce a more unique and flavorful cheese. Milk is then cultured and renneted, and the curd is cut with a vertical harp before it’s hand-ladled into molds. After draining and salting, squares are rubbed with a layer of vegetable ash and aged in the farm’s cheese cave for six weeks, flipped periodically to ensure the even distribution of moisture and the white fuzzy rind.
Black Knight’s grassy scent is reminiscent of camembert. Underneath its ashed rind, a gooey interior creamline surrounds a firm, curdy center. Flavor is intense, earthy and grassy, with a subtle tang that gradually builds amidst background notes of honey.
On a cheeseplate, serve Black Knight alongside apples, pears or honey. For wine pairings, try it with a Gruener Veltliner or a reisling.