Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jersey Blue

Jersey Blue: An occasional piece on cheeses

I owe my love of blue cheeses to my wife, which is just one of the many things she brought into my life and our relationship. At one time she worked in a cheese shop (“It’s not much of a cheese shop really, is it?”) and possessed a level of lactic sophistication far greater than mine. (Today such things might be listed on Craig’s List as “Former cheese monger seeks willing student…” You get the idea).  The delights in all things blue and moldy were passed on early. Youngest daughter discovered the joy of gorgonzola during dinner one night during a family trip to London when she was 7. (It was an Italian restaurant, so she had to learn about Stilton later). Sadly oldest daughter is lactose intolerant.
When youngest daughter was home recently for spring break we spent a day in Philadelphia, making a stop in that temple of cheesy comestibles, Di Bruno Brothers. Looking over the selections of blue cheeses we found Jersey Blue, a raw milk beauty from Switzerland. Distinctive with its marble-like veining of mold I figured that if looks were any indication, it should be wonderful. (A caveat here: it is expensive). We bought some, took it home, and I was curious to learn more about the cheese.
Jersey Blue is one of the cheeses made by Swiss cheese maker Willi Schmid. Often referred to a “the Cheese Wizard,” which was probably a title bestowed upon him by his importer, Quality Cheeses. There is a video of Schmid at a cheese tasting in NYC accompanied by the theme from the Harry Potter movies. I’m not making this up.
Trained in science (chemistry, microbiology, and physics), Schmid has been a dairy farmer since 2006. Four short years later, Jersey Blue won “World’s Best Jersey Cheese” in 2010, an annual award for cheeses made from Jersey cow milk.
Jersey Blue isn’t inoculated with mold like other blue cheeses. The unique veining is a result of hand ladling the curds into the cheese molds. The cheese is ready in about 9 to 10 weeks time, when the mold has developed throughout the cheese and appears on the outer surface. Slight differences in the color of the paste are seasonal. A white paste signifies that it was made during the winter. A pale yellow paste indicates that it was made from summer milk, the time of  year when the cows graze on fresh grass and flowers that colors the milk with beta-carotene. Schmid tastes the milk every morning to determine its proper use.
But all of this is meaningless unless it’s good.
And it is. Rich, buttery and creamy smooth with a nice blue acidic twang. (I’m no good at the “You taste hazelnuts and the terroir of the Lichtensteig meadows where the cows graze” business). We are slowly working our way through our slice of this marbled beauty. And don’t remove the rind since that is edible as well.
I know I usually don’t write about food without recipes. This is the best I can do for this post.  Slices of good crusty bread? Check. A knife for spreading the cheese onto the aforementioned bread? Check. Wine or beer? Check. Well then, you’re set.
 If you love blue cheeses and don’t pass out when you see the price, Jersey Blue is a beauty.

Quality Cheese:

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