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Cheese of the Week - Vacherin Mont d'Or

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All this talk of turkeys makes me think of...cheese! Nothing says fall like Vacherin Mont d'Or, a small washed rind round made in the Alps on both sides of the French/Swiss border. Also known as Vacherin du Haut-Doubs (but not to be confused with Vacherin Fribourgeois), it is traditionally made with late-season cow's milk that is too high in fat and protein content to make Comté or Gruyère. Because of this the cheese is aged for a much shorter period of time than Comté and Gruyère, and so peak ripeness is usually seen in the fall and winter months (October through March). At peak ripeness, the cheese is soft and runny, and is therefore wrapped in a spruce band and shipped in a circular wooden box. Since the cheese spends a fair amount of time in this environment, the wood lends a subtle flavor to the finished cheese. The golden rind, which still shows imprints from the cheesecloth used during production, hides a pale yellow, unctuous yet mild paste. The cow's milk used to make Vacherin Mont d'Or is typically raw, but since the cheese is only aged for three weeks, specimens found in the US are necessarily pasteurized. Enjoy with a Beaujolais Nouveau, another autumnal delight!

Making Syrian Cheese

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The time commitment demanded by a 2-month old baby drives the hobbyist cheese maker to cut some serious corners. Gone (for now) are the 8 hour days molding and flipping Camembert rounds. As are the 24-hour pressing times required of the Swiss-style alpine cheeses. My cheese making appetite would need to be satiated in other ways...

Enter Syrian cheese, also known as Jiben, a fresh, friable cheese--one of the easiest cheeses to make. Syrian cheese actually comes in many different varieties, one of which is sort of like a braided mozzarella, but the one I made is more like a salty Paneer, or Queso Fresco. It's got a very fresh, milky taste, with a firm but elastic texture. It's traditionally used in pilafs and pasta dishes, as well as omelets (edgehs), but it's probably also good with sweet dried fruit like dates, raisins or figs.

It couldn't be easier to make*. Bring 1 gallon of good-quality milk to 88° F. Gently stir in 1 tsp. of double strength liquid rennet, and let sit for

Evans Creamery

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Dave Evan’s Creamery doesn’t look like ground zero for a revolution. With its hundreds of feet of snaking stainless steel pipe and hot tub-sized vats it looks more like a large moonshining operation than the locus of hope for a crippled and depressed small farm dairy industry. Dave himself, a stout, bearded man with a serious twinkle in his eye, might even look a little like a bootlegger - until you start talking to him.

When asked how long he has been working his farm in Norwich, NY he replies with a simple, “Well, forever.” Dave grew up on the farm and was a young man when dairies around the Northeast started to disappear. Between 1980 and 2000 the number of New York dairy farms shrank from 19,000 to 7900 farms. At last count, that number is down to 7000.

Evans wasn’t the only small dairy farmer to notice. In 1996 the Northeast Dairy Compact signed into law to help regulate the wholesale price of milk. The intent was to

Anonymous Commenting is Back!

In an effort to encourage more commenting from you, our faithful readers, we have made anonymous commenting possible once again. We'd originally removed this feature because the comment spam was getting out of control, but now we use a system that can better identify the real curd nerds from the spammers (no doubt vegans). So now that you no longer need to register to post comments, let's hear from you!

Apples and Cheese

applesncheese.jpgCrisp like the new autumn breeze, sweet like the joys of family gatherings, and tart like the season’s change from warm to cold, the apple is the expression of fall. And though they can last all winter long, there is no substitute for a specimen in season, when the apple’s flowery juice tends to explode brilliantly from beneath that red-green covering.

Apples also make for an almost-perfect companion to cheese, as the balance of tartness and sweetness is a phenomenon common to both. These days, the Union Square Greenmarket is teeming with apples of every kind, New York State being a particularly great area for growing them. Seeing the surfeit, I decided to do an informal apple and cheese tasting event with my wife and her brother and sisters, who happened to be coming over for a visit. I picked out ten, yes ten, varieties of apples as well as five cheeses to try with them.

Picking the apples was fairly straightforward—I went with some of my old favorites (Stayman Winesap, Honeycrisp, Suncrisp, Mutsu), as well as some that I keep hearing about but have never tried (Cameo, Jonathan, Macoun). Rounding out the list were

The Cheese Reporter

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Just added to the "Miscellaneous" section of our links page is a link to the Cheese Reporter, a Wisconsin-based dairy industry periodical. The 130-year-old periodical, available by paid subscription, is circulated weekly to cheese and dairy industry insiders from around the world, and provides weekly coverage of important industry developments, ranging from new FDA regulations pertaining to bioterrorism to winners of state, regional, national and international cheese competitions. In addition, the website offers a

Stinky Bklyn

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I'm quite sure there are many stinky things in Brooklyn, the Gowanus Canal being perhaps the paradigmatic example. But just a stone's throw away from that cursed body of water, you can find some stinky items that actually make us happy. I'm talking about cheese of course!

Stinky Bklyn opened about six months ago and carries over 125 varieties of cheese, as well as a nice selection of high quality charcuterie, breads, chocolate, preserves, and even produce, all tucked in to a cozy and charming retail space at 261 Smith St. in Carroll Gardens. They even have

Laura Chenel's Chèvre Sold

The New York Times reports today that Laura Chenel's Chèvre, one of America's first and largest artisanal goat cheese companies, has been sold to a large French conglomerate (the Rians Group). According to Chenel, whose company currently makes 2 million pounds of cheese per year, the sale price was "in the millions." Might this be the start of a new trend, with other small American cheesemakers getting bought by larger multi-national conglomerates? Or perhaps we will see more mergers among small companies so that they can better harness economies of scale? Whatever happens, this almost certainly is a watershed moment.

Link to full article.

Move Over Fondue...

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Raclette is a semi-firm, cow's milk cheese, made in the alps of Switzerland and France and aged from 3 to 6 months. It is also a means of serving the cheese, not unlike fondue, in which the wheel is heated by a fire or heat-lamp, and the melted surface of the wheel is scraped onto a plate. In fact, the French verb racler means "to scrape." Along with the melted puddle of cheese, one traditionally serves cornichons, pickled pearl onions, and one or more small boiled potatoes.

Last week Emmi USA, the largest importer of Swiss dairy products in the country, invited me to a "Raclette Party" held at Swizz Manhattan, a Swiss-American restaurant in Hell's Kitchen. (Swizz actually offeres a Raclette dish on their regular menu; appetizer portion $10, All You Can Eat for $26.) Though I'd previously tried the cheese on its own, this was

Easy Cheese Laid Bare

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Easy Cheese, that orange, processed so-called cheese in an aerosol can, is a cultural marvel. (And also, what's so damn hard about eating regular cheese anyway?) So much so that this month's Wired Magazine has an article that explores the many bizarre ingredients that go into every can of this party favorite. The ultimate irony: this "cheese" is mostly whey!

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