Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bayley Hazen Blue

Jasper Hill is quickly becoming a favorite American cheese company among cheese aficionados. One of their more notable cheeses is Harbison , but the team at Jasper Hill makes many outstanding cheeses including a remarkable blue cheese called Bayley Hazen Blue.

Cheese making involves several steps, each with a separate team to oversee the process. It all starts with the milk. Many cheese companies outsource their milk, but Jasper Hill has its own creamery and is also part of a shared space facility called the Vermont Food Venture Center. The motto at Jasper Hill Farm is quality over quantity, so they push for excellence over mass production. They milk about 45 cows that are pasture-fed during the warm months and fed dry hay the remaining months. Each style of cheese is made from a single herd of cows. Once the cows are milked, the cheeses can be made, and once they are ready, the cheeses must be aged in their unique climates. Jasper Hill has its own aging facility that is separated into seven specially calibrated vaults. In addition to the recipe of the cheese, the aging process is what makes each cheese different.

After the products have been packaged, selling the cheese is the last step in the process unless you count eating, which is where I come in. A cheese monger is the one who does the selling, and I am the customer or the cheese eater.

Bayley Hazen Blue is a surprisingly well balanced raw milk cheese that is reminiscent of the English blue cheeses. Think of a dense, intriguing and more rock and roll version of a Stilton. It's drier than the American blues or the famous French Roquefort, but I wouldn't say it's a very crumbly blue. Some say it has a fudge-like texture, but it's not as chewy or sweet, of course, though there is a nice sweetness about this cheese. This dairy product does have a nice mouthfeel, and the finishing texture is soothing and creamy on the palate. The natural rind provides a wee bit of an earthy, mushroom flavor that's not unlike that of a bloomy rind cheese, but the texture and look are nothing like the rind you would see on a Brie. The outer grayish crust is thin, dry and almost sandy.

This is a bold cheese that has an immediate salty kick. The tang that eventually hits the back of your throat is balanced by a traditional spicy blue cheese flavor with a trace of licorice. Light nutty notes, such as toasted hazelnuts or Brazil nuts, are present, and these undertones are complemented by an overall earthy, straw-like taste. Primarily, there's a wonderful milky flavor that stands out. Some describe this as buttery, but it's really a pure, fresh milk taste. The more the cheese ages, the more a barnyard characteristic emerges. When heated, the total flavor of this blue cheese mellows and becomes quite mild and lovely.

At Jasper Hill, here is how they suggest pairing the cheese:

"The texture and flavor make Bayley an ideal choice for any lover of blue cheese, but with a balance of flavors that renders it accessible to those new to the style. Try pairing with a fruity red dessert wine, toasty Imperial Stout, or a hunk of dark chocolate. Bayley is also ideal for crumbling over a juicy burger or adding to a salad with spinach, walnuts, and dried tart cherries."

Some other suggestions are:
Riesling or Chardonnay, Grenache, shiraz or Sangiovese.
Try Champagne or even a Tawny port for dessert.

  Bayley Hazen Blue
Beautiful blue veins are abundant in this cheese. 

Bayley Hazen Blue
The cheese is dense enough that it doesn't crumble completely.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Purple Haze

It's no surprise that my new favorite cheese, Purple Haze, comes from one of my all time favorite cheese companies, Cypress Grove. What is surprising is just how much I love this cheese. Dare I say it's addicting? It is, even after one bite. The unexpected shower of subtle but enticing herbs combined with the sweet tang of the goat cheese makes this little beauty both puzzling and remarkable. It's one you will want to keep exploring. Each bite seems to evolve as the flavors build and change on your palate. 

Purple Haze is a brilliantly thought out product. Reading the ingredients, I wouldn't have thought it would be something this extraordinary. It contains simply pasteurized goat milk, salt, fennel pollen, lavender, cultures and enzymes. That's it. I'm not a huge lavender fan and fennel isn't a flavor I often rave about, though I don't mind either one. I just didn't realize how delightfully these flavors would pair with a fresh goat cheese. If anyone was wondering, fennel pollen comes from the flower part of the fennel plant. It's an exceptionally aromatic perennial herb, and the pollen has a nice, slightly sweet and powerful flavor. A little bit goes a long way, and there's just the right amount in this cheese. Purple Haze has won many awards for good reason. It's a unique cheese with an exceptional taste. 

The beauty of Purple Haze is that the flavors are balanced perfectly. The herbs don’t overwhelm the cheese and visa versa. The flavor is outstanding, almost otherworldly. While the flavors are subtle at first, there's no denying the lovely but unexpected lavender and fennel accents. And these flavors build to a gorgeous crescendo. This is a cheese you will want to keep coming back to. It’s incredibly memorable. This beautiful cheese transports you into a sunny, fairy tale afternoon. You can picture yourself strolling through a charming garden on a warm, spring day.

Someone suggested caramelizing the top of this cheese before serving. That sounds divine!

Purple Haze
Purple Haze on toasted rye bread.

As far as pairings, make sure whatever you put the cheese on isn't too salty, too sweet or too aromatic. You don't want anything competing with these lovely flavors. For wine, a nice Sauvignon Blanc or Reisling would do well. Most red wines will be too strong, but you could also try a light rose.  

You can read about Cypress Grove's sexy Truffle Tremor or their wonderful everyday cheese the Lamb Chopper in my other blog posts.