A plate of cheese, a jug of wine and thou
Hey, Cheeseaholics—How much do you know about cheese?
A lot, you say? Here’s a pop quiz: How many cheese categories are there? Answer: Seven. Or maybe it’s eight, or even 10, if you google it. Food Network’s Alton Brown breaks it down to five: fresh cheeses that are under 2 weeks old so they haven’t got a rind (think: cream cheese, feta, cottage cheese and chevre); soft ripened cheeses that ooze at room temperature (i.e., brie and Camembert) and usually come in disks; semi-hard cheeses that are sometimes coated in wax or cloth and include dense, chewy cheeses like Edam as well as washed-rind semi-softs like Époisses; hard cheeses, like cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyère and manchego, that are firm and have thick, dense rinds or are waxed; and veined cheeses like Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton, which come in a variety of flavors.
Feel smarter now? That should at least get you into a cheesy conversation but just know classifications vary depending on who you ask.
For many Utahns, Kraft and Velveeta were training wheels of fromage, and many still lean toward mass-produced bricks of cheddar and Swiss.
But why cling to the familiar when Utah has climbed aboard the cheese train? Today, numerous outlets have brought to market a wide variety of “milk made immortal,” ranging from local to international, with samples to help expand your knowledge, plus classes and events.
We’ve teamed up with Mariah Christensen, Harmons’ specialty cheese buyer and certified cheese professional, to highlight four fabulous cheese plates with bites of golden goodness from around the globe (and from a variety of dairy herds). If you already have a few favorites but need pointers on bringing them together, Christensen suggests incorporating five flavors (sweet, umami, bitter, etc.) in your cheese plate. Add textures such as fresh fruits, chocolate and nuts. “Cheese in threes” is more pleasing to the eye. Most importantly, she says, develop a relationship with a cheesemonger. After understanding your preferences, they can recommend cheeses they have in stock.
Keep these plates in mind the next time you’re shopping for a seductive plate of cheese. What better way to win over the Honeycrisp of your eye!
Traveling Trio: Goat, Sheep and Cow’s Milk
Not sure about which cheese milk you’ll like? Taste samples from the big three—goat, sheep and cow—and decide for yourself. Beginners and epicureans alike will savor this cheese plate with tastes from around the globe.
Fun fact: Worldwide, 48.5 billion pounds of cheese is consumed each year.
Midnight Moon is a goat-milk cheese similar to Gouda for the chary palate. A great introduction to goat cheese, this one is mild, sweet and creamy with a nice pink hue. Aging, which breaks down proteins and fats for this cheese, occurs in the Netherlands, making it a great choice to pair with their famous stroopwafel.
Mobay is a unique half-and-half cheese wheel from America’s cheese capital, Wisconsin. Separated by a thin layer of ash, this semi-soft cheese has two slight color differences defined by the type of milk. Sheep’s milk has hints of lemon zest, warm butterscotch and cream while goat milk has a silky texture with savory umami broth and fresh bread flavors. Try each separately or combined for a third flavor.
Robiola-style cheeses with soft rinds like La Tur are fluffy and gooey for optimal spreading. Made from goat, sheep and cow milk, La Tur is light, milky and carries a hint of sweetness, doubling as a dessert cheese. Pair with fresh fruit and/or a sparkling wine.
One could easily try a new French cheese every day for a year and still not sample them all. The choices can be overwhelming. How about starting with dessert? This comely plate puts the finishing touches on a romantic, homemade meal.
Ossau-Iraty is a rich, buttery, slightly salted caramel cheese made in the Basque region of France, known for its sheep’s milk. Alpine-style cheeses are characterized by their mountainous terrain and seasonal pastureland. Ossau-Iraty embraces Neolithic traditions by making cheeses in small huts along the mountainside in large cheese wheels for longer aging.
Southern France produces this pungent yet reputable Roquefort blue cheese. Specifically, Roquefort is sheep’s milk aged in the caves of Cambalou, where regional yeasts and molds develop their localized flavor. Peppery, spicy and creamy notes pair with caramelized walnuts and pears, which add a crispness and contrast.
Langres may not be pretty on the outside. Geotrichum yeast (or “geo” for short) is used to give the rind of this cheese its distinguished wrinkle—which some claim is the best part. The cheese itself is creamy, dense and tangy with a hint of mushroom. A concave top develops during aging and, traditionally, the French poured champagne into this basin, then sliced the cheese and served it on a baguette. Pair it with Regalis Tennessee Black Truffle Honeycomb for a deliciously sweet and tangy treat.
OK, funeral potatoes, move over. Locals know Utah cheese is on the rise. Artisan cheesemakers dot the Wasatch Front with delicious styles made in our own backyard.
From Uintah, Seahive Beehive is a cheddar-style cheese rubbed with local salt and honey sourced from the Beehive State. In 2008, Harmons helped Beehive Cheese develop this flavor. Bringing it to market is a yearly tradition for Harmons. “Cheddaring” is a lengthy and attentive process, requiring the cheesemaker to flip the cheese in a warm vat every 15 minutes. Honey, sweet, savory cheddar flavor.
Park City Creamery produces the Silver Queen, made with local goat’s milk. It has a defining donut shape that ensures the rind covers a large surface area, which imbues the cheese with an earthy flavor. Ash changes the pH of cheese, giving Silver Queen a tangy lemon punch with mushroom notes.
Tucked away in Midway, Heber Valley Cheese Mustard Herb Cheddar is a creamy, mild-flavored choice. As one of Utah’s only farmstead cheesemakers, Heber Valley not only produces milk but also makes cheese on its farm. The secret to their outstanding Mustard Herb Cheddar, they say, is their ability to control the milk source and where their cows graze.
Locals Only cheeses can be mixed and matched with Honeycrisp apples, local Hollowtree raw honey and a spicy Creminelli piccante Italian salami.
Cheesemonger’s Selection: Cow’s Milk
As a cheese pro for Harmons, Christensen travels to dairies worldwide for her job and can share a story or two about each cheese that Harmons sells. Christensen divulges a few of her personal cheese favorites (along with pairing tips) below:
Keen’s Cheddar is a seasonal starter, reigning the OG of traditional cheddar cheese. Buttery, grassy, brothy and savory. Keen’s Cheddar methodically uses a different culture every day to prevent bacteriophage. West Country Farmhouse creates savory English cheddars, occasionally with horseradish notes. Pairs well with marcona almonds.
Harbison is one of the more trenchant American cheeses. Cellars of Jasper Hill Farm cheesemakers wrap this soft, lush cow’s raw milk cheese in spruce bark for woodsy, mushroom and mustard notes. Harbison is a French-style, vacherin mont d’or cheese that’s aged 60 days. Based in Greensboro, Vermont, this cheese has won awards from the American Cheese Society. Pair it with caramelized onion mustard on a sapid garlic crostini.
Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve is the most awarded cheese in America. Cheesemaker Andy Hatch makes only two seasonal cheeses, and one of them is Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve, an alpine-style hard cheese made with summer, grass-fed milk. The process of washing the rind in salt-water brine promotes bacteria growth. Milk changes the protein and fat ratios seasonally, and this summer variety is rich and salty, with a fruity finish. Delicious with mustard and crostinis.
Cheeses shown are available at Harmons Grocery Stores