We couldn’t paint a prettier rind; Sappy Ewe’s juxtaposition of black pine ash and white mold is a true work of art. With maple reduction-infused cow’s and sheep’s milk curds, this little button yields a flavor that mellows into maple sweetness while the rind contributes savory, mushroomy notes.
The woodsy cheese appropriately hails from near the Adirondak Mountains of New York, on a dairy run by Sheila Flanagan and Lorraine Lambiase. Nettle Meadow’s origins date back to 1993, when Raynald Hebert and his wife Laurie Goodheart transformed an old farmstead into a small cheesemaking facility and enough acreage to support approximately thirty goats. Its name was a reflection of the wild nettles and herbs that made up the goats’ diet.
Twelve years after its founding, the farm was sold to Sheila and Lorraine, both of whom had been living in California and were seeking a complete change of direction. Since 2005 they have worked extensively to expand the operation. Now spanning 75 acres, it is home to over 360 Alpine, Nubian, Saanen and mixed breed goats, several dozen East Freisian sheep and a variety of other farm animals currently cared for by the farm’s sanctuary. In 2017, estimated cheese production will be about 150,000 pounds of cheese. Sheila and Lorraine are passionate supporters of the farming lifestyle, the human care of animals and artisan cheese and run the farm with the assistance of Shiela’s mother Joan together with eighteen employees.
To make Sappy Ewe, cheesemakers reduce maple syrup while the milk is pasteurizing, and then let it cool while the curd is setting. They then drain the curds and add them to the reduced maple before letting them soak for a half hour. The curds and maple are poured into molds and left to set overnight. Young rounds are then rubbed in a layer of pine ash, and left for a few weeks as a thin layer of bloomy rind begins to grow.
Exuding aromas of sweet mold and slate with a hint of damp woods and moss, Sappy Ewe yields hints of grass, mushrooms, bagel dough and light maple on the palate. As sweetness fades, umami notes from the rind linger.
This cheese is more crumbly than creamy, so a sticky marmalade really pulls it all together. A bright, zingy lemon marmalade is really fantastic, especially with a sweet, nutty biscuit. Try the Lemon Coal marmalade from STAGG Jam & Marmalade and an Effie's oatcake.
For beverages, try a malty beer with a kiss of hops; Bocks, März, and Belgian pale ales are absolutely delightful. Fortified wine is a winner with any sheep milk cheese, especially younger ones with such a full nutty flavor. Spring for Oloroso sherry.