Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pawlet Cheese Review

Pawlet, Vermont

Somewhere between Vermont's Champlain Valley and the eastern tip of Washington County, New York lies a 300-acre farm that was the first cheese making co-op in Vermont. The name of this charming place is Consider Bardwell Farm. Founded in 1864 by Consider Stebbins, new hands on deck, Angela Miller, Russell Glover and Chris Gray are bringing the cheese-making business into this century by upgrading techniques and producing quality, hand-made, small-batch cheeses.
Cows in pasture near Consider Bardwell Farm.

While goats are kept on the Consider Bardwell Farm, neighboring farms are hosts to the cows that produce the milk used to make cheeses such as Pawlet, Dorset and Rupert. Rotational grazing on pesticide-free and fertilizer-free grass allows cows to produce rich, sweet milk. Of course, the diet of the dairy cows plays a large role in not only how the end product tastes but how it looks as well. Because these cows are free to graze in lush pastures, the end cheese product is a cheerful yellow instead of an off white like the cheeses made from hay-fed cows. Rest assured that no hormones or antibiotics are added to the whole milk that is used in making the cheeses at the farm, and vegetarians will be happy to know that all the cheeses are made using microbial rennet.

An added note is that the cheeses are aged in caves on the premises.
Pawlet cheese

Some call Pawlet a tomme-style cheese. I can see and taste some of the the similarities, but I have a hard time throwing that label on it. The round shape of the wheel is very tomme like, but the flavor isn't quite that of a classic tomme-style cheese. It's true that there are plenty of exceptions when it comes to tomme, a broad term that usually refers to cheeses lower in fat than most and traditionally made in the Franch and Swiss Alps, so I understand how some people insist on Pawlet being in this category.

Holes made by gas-producing bacteria

The wash rind

My first impression of this cheese is that it's very mild. There's a very faint earthy, barnyard flavor that is apparent mostly in the rind, which is a wash ride, not a more classic tomme-style natural rind. It's not at all overpowering like some rinds can be. Speaking of the rind, it is nice and salty and goes well with the mild cheese inside.

The cheese itself is soft but substantial; it's one you can chew. It makes the perfect sandwich cheese, because of both the texture and its subtle flavor. The beautiful yellow interior has a buttery, mushroomy flavor with mild notes of both cheddar and Swiss. The raw milk from Jersey cows adds just the tiniest bit of tang, but overall, the cheese is extremely mild and nutty. You can almost detect a flavor like that of a generously buttered slice of fresh whole-grain bread. Because of its mildness and consistent, even flavor, Pawlet goes with just about anything and can be baked in entrees or served on a cheese plate with crusty bread.

Try this cheese with a bold Merlot.