We love Thanksgiving. It may mean a variety of things to a variety of people but there are many common threads – turkey, family, friends, cranberries, football, a full stomach and, in many cases, an afternoon nap or walk. This year, we checked in with our domestic cheese buyer, Tripp, who has put together a wonderful Thanksgiving cheese board, incorporating a cross-section of milk types and textures. He draws on some old favorites but also includes a couple of newer cheeses that we think are destined to become classics in their own right!
Twig Square – Michael Lee has a herd of 30 milking goats on his modest farm in Cornwall, VT, and he makes some of our all-time favorite goat milk cheeses. Michael worked at Formaggio Kitchen South End for several years but, when he and his wife Emily Sunderman found the right land in Vermont , they relocated, establishing Twig Farm and transforming their passion for cheese from cheesemongering into cheesemaking. Twig Square (also known affectionately as Northstone in our shop) has a mottled natural rind that ranges in color from a deep grey-green to brown. Reminiscent of European, tomme-style cheeses, the rind has flavors of mushroom and earthiness. Underneath the rind, the paste evokes tastes of herbs, grass, and toasted nuts, with a pleasing bit of goat milk pungency. Michael and Emily’s cheese pairs well with a drizzle of thyme honey.
Brebis Blanche – 3-Corner Field Farm is located in beautiful Battenkill River Valley. Tucked up against the foothills of the Green Mountains in New York , right near the Vermont border, they are one of the few farms in the country that milk sheep in order to make artisan cheese and yogurt. Husband and wife duo, Karen Weinberg and Paul Borghard, along with their two daughters, Zoe and Emily, are the team behind 3-Corner Field Farm’s delicious cheeses. They raise their sheep on organically managed pastures populated with grass, clover and alfalfa – the sheep are never given hormones or unnecessary antibiotics. In 2007, Karen and Paul installed a cheese cave in their basement – all the better to control the aging process of their cheeses. This unique button of fresh sheep milk cheese offers just the right amount of saltiness alongside fresh and rich sheep milk flavors. Brebis Blanche is beautiful served in conjunction with Blue Chair’s Strawberry Pink Peppercorn jam.
Verano – David and Yesenia Major and their children raise sheep and make cheese on their 250 acre farm in Westminster West, Vermont. They choose to model their cheeses after a variety of Pyrénées mountain cheeses, deemed fitting because a large part of the family is Spanish. Indeed, Verano may have been the very first American-made cheese to catch the attention of cheese lovers on both sides of the Atlantic. For years, the cheese was known simply as Vermont Shepherd but this year, the Majors adopted the name Verano, which means “summer “in Spanish and accurately represents the cheese which is made using only raw summer milk. In the summer, the sheep on the farm are grazing in pastures abundant with wild herbs and grasses. It is not surprising then that the cheese itself is sweet and earthy with hints of clover, mint and thyme. Aged 3-5 months, Verano begins to be available by August. The cheese has a golden brown rind and rustic shape with a smooth and creamy texture. This is a rich cheese that makes a great pairing with a dab of Fig Vincotto or, in the Pyrénées tradition, our cherry jam from Boutique Arraya.
Cabot Clothbound Cheddar – A perennial and year-round favorite of staffers, this cheese is versatile and eminently snackable – also great for grilled cheese! To make their cheddar, Cabot Creamery teamed up with the Kehler brothers at Jasper Hill Farm, a farm and aging facility at the forefront of the artisan American cheese movement. Cabot chose the Kempton Family Farm in Peacham, VT as the sole source of milk for the cheese and it is made following traditional methods – namely, one vat at a time. When the 40+ lb. wheels are but a few days old, they are sent over to the Cellars at Jasper Hill, where they are bandaged in muslin and aged anywhere from 10-14 months until the cheese’s flavor emerges: sweet, fruity, savory, and nutty.
We are the only cheese shop that routinely visits Vermont to taste through wheels of the cheddar with the stellar team at Jasper Hill, personally selecting each batch that we receive in the shop. What we look for: a rich and buttery cheddar with notes of caramel and toasted nuts. Enjoy with a dab of apple cider jelly, fresh apples and/or a hard cider!
Middlebury Blue – Husband and wife team, Greg Bernhardt and Hannah Sessions, are the powerhouse team behind Blue Ledge Farm. Many of you may already be familiar with their wonderful goat milk cheeses – Lake’s Edge and Crottina – that we regularly carry in the shop. However, as the season for goat milk winds down, they have time to diversify a little bit. Using Ayrshire milk sourced from the Crawford Family Farm (only four miles away), Greg and Hannah have begun producing Middlebury Blue, a stunning, raw blue cheese aged 2-3 months. It is creamy and a little sour (think cultured European butter) with a delicious nuttiness off the rind. Very more-ish. Middlebury Blue is wonderful on Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps or paired with Fieschi’s pear mousse.
For all five cheeses, please click here to order our Thanksgiving Cheese Course online.