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April 4, 2010

There is something to be said for seasonality when it comes to supporting local.  This time every year, I look forward to spring asparagus, onions and ramps.  The same can certainly be said for cheese.  There are two ways of looking at how the seasons affect the taste and quality of cheese and that is directly tied to the milk itself.  In the spring and summer, animals are feasting on spring grass, alfalfa, clover, flowers, etc…  Because of the varied diet that is available from region to region, there is more possibility for unique flavors and compositions when cheese is made.  A Tomme-style cheese from grass fed Jersey cows in California is going to taste completely different from the exact same style made in Vermont, even when the same recipe is used.  In the winter, the grain-fed animals produce milk that has greater protein and milk fat content, which in turn, tends to yield a more consistent product.  Grain-fed milk lends itself to creating creamy, rich cheeses that can fully take advantage of the higher fat and sweet cream flavor.  The only reason I wanted to touch on this is because Winnimere from Jasper Hill Farm is a perfect example of what a seasonal cheese can aspire to be.

Winnimere, photo by Dennis Curran from

Winnimere is a washed-rind cheese that is wrapped in a layer of spruce bark directly from trees on the property at Jasper Hill Farm.  This cheese is produced starting in November and is made available to consumers in February.  Once the supply runs out (usually around June), we are forced to wait another year until the cycle begins again.

The aroma coming off of this cheese is absolutely amazing.  I think it is a perfect washed rind for a beginner to start out with, as the pungency is not overwhelming.  It is definitely present, but the layer of spruce bark in the outside band balances that with the cedar-like scent of the wood, which gives for an incredibly unique nose.  The taste is like sweet cream and butter with a salty and earthy overtone.  The finish on this cheese is incredibly long as the creaminess, thickly coats your tongue.  It is rare to find a washed-rind cheese that creates a perfect harmony between taste, texture, and aroma.  Most tend to go too far one way or another, which is why “stinky cheese” has a bad reputation.  If you have access to this special and truly seasonal cheese, do yourself a favor and get some to try.  You had better hurry though.  We only have a month or so left…

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