Just southeast of Syracuse in New York is Cazenovia, and don’t say “well, everybody knows that”. Cazenovia is home to a little over 7,000 souls and at least one ridiculously photogenic farm, Meadowood. Oh, be that way, don’t take my word for it. Look at their website and then agree with me, that’s fine. Meadowood is home to a herd of East Frisian sheep. Apparently these woolly wonders are the best that sheepdom has to offer in versatility: they produce a lot of milk, compared to other sheep, they provide fine wool and if all else fails, they don’t taste so bad either. The perfect package for a relatively small farm. The cheesemaker here is a woman by the name of Veronica Predraza, and
You can listen to a radio interview with her here. I just thought that I could put that in here, because I have not yet had the opportunity to link with a radio program. You can skip the first 2:12 minutes.
Veronica gave us Ledyard, this week’s cheese. She clearly knows her stuff and ended up borrowing an Italian tradition – that of the leaf-wrapped robiolas – for this particular cheese. so you take your soft ewe’s milk cheese, soak some grape leafs in beer (Deep Purple, a beer made with Concord grapes added for flavor and the purple color), slap ‘em on the cheese to create a neatly wrapped package, let it age for 4-6 weeks and voilà, you got yourself a cheese that is something else altogether. Ledyard is fresh, with some herbal notes, a bit of yeast and a bit of fruit, and yes, this time around I mean all of this high-falutin’ stuff: the cheese packs a lot of different flavors in each bit, and they all seem to be vying for attention, not all together, but one after another, which makes eating the cheese pleasantly confusing (is it a vegetable? No! Is it cream? No! Is it a drink? No!)
Notable: Ledyard became this week’s cheese after a pitched battle with the other cheeses I got from DTLA Cheese, a battle that took the shape of a true cheese orgy: the Smoked Kashar from Parish Hill Creamery in Vermont, the formidable Bandage Wrapped Cheddar from Fiscalini in Modesto in the Golden State, the Adair from Jacobs and Brichford in Indiana’s Whitewater Valley and the take-no-prisoners stinky Dorset cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm of West Pawlet in Vermont. Given the strong field – much better and more competitive than the republic presidential slate. And because of that, let’s show all of the contestants: drrrrrrrummrollllll:
This week I was in the Netherlands, a short stopover on my way to Switzerland. The small town where my mother lives has a large supermarket with a surprising array of cheeses, but there is also a cheese store that offers some really remarkable surprises. One find in particular was worth writing about: a small, soft goat cheese, wrapped in leaves from a cherry tree. This Robiola la Rossa is made in the Piedmont region of Italy, and it is spectacular. The cherry leaves bestow a rich caramel color to the rind, and a strong fruity flavor. It is perhaps like the Italian version of the Banon cheese. When cherry-flavored cheese sounds like something you would look for at the county fair, think again. The fresh tanginess of the cheese and the subtle, deep cherry flavor are in perfect balance here, and the result is absolutely delicious. The cheese is 300 grams, about 10 ounces, and my mother and I finished it off in one seating. Cora Formaggio has a wonderful website that provides great detail about their farm, the cheese making traditions of the region – and any farmer that has his portrait picture taken with his animals is a good man in my book. The Robiola la Rossa gave me a new idea for a trip: I would love to meet Signore Cora and his goats in Monesiglio.
In the supermarket, I discovered two other interesting items: cheese in a pot and ‘boerenkaas’ (farmer’s cheese, that is, cheese from unpasteurized milk) with a QR code on the wrapper that links to a delightful little video about the farm that produces the cheese. It is in Dutch, but much of it is easy to follow: it basically shows how milk becomes cheese, and it has great footage of friendly red and black cows. A very 21st century way of connecting people with the ways in which their food is produced.
And then there was the Stilton in the jar: a small red-and-white pot, quite pretty, with blue Stilton in it. I have never seen anything like it. Inside the pot was the real A.O.P. deal – creamy, not too sharp, and just enough aroma to remind you that it is a blue cheese. I will say, once the fun has worn off a little, you recognize that it was probably never a very good idea to stuff a small jar with cheese: it was hard getting the stuff out, it took a bit of scraping. Some other time, I will re-engage with the Stilton preferably in the UK, and I will talk more about it then. And I am not buying any more jars.