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Harbison cheese, from Jasper Hill

I tried a new cheese last night that was terrific: Harbison cheese, from Jasper Hill. This was recommended to me at Cowgirl Creamery in the SF Ferry Building. I asked if they had reblochon and the salesman recommend it as an alternative. Wonderful and I would say 'sweaty' using the above lexicon -- from the family reminiscent of a reblochon or even dare I say mild epoisses... I will get this again.

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  1. I've tried two Jasper Hill cheeses and they are quite good. Is the one you tried the one with a mustardy-smokey flavor?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ridge

      I would not classify it that way, but that doesn't mean we are not talking about the same cheese. :-)

      The Harbison is very soft, and held together by a cylindrical strap of bark that girds the whole.

      1. re: pauliface

        I think it’s the same one. To me it was very savory with a very distinctive kind of mustard-smoky flavor. Have you tried Stinking Bishop? If you like the Jasper Hill and epoisse you might like the SB. Good batches of SB are my favorite cheese of late. But be warned some batches of Bishop can be extremely Stinky and are too over the top for me.

    2. (FYI the 'lexicon' refered to above is from the following Harper's article I've saved for many years. I have it stuck on my fridge. It was called "Quel Fromage" and was a segment of a paper "Adapting a Lexicon for the Flavor Description of French Cheeses"...)
      .
      Sweaty: sour, stale, somewhat cheesy aromatics
      reminiscent of perspiration-generated foot
      odor, found in unwashed gym socks and shoes
      .
      Goaty: pungent, musty, and somewhat sour,
      reminiscent of wet animal hair (fur)
      .
      Animalic: a combination of aromatics associated
      with farm animals and the inside of a barn
      .
      Musty/earthy: a slight musty aromatic associated
      with raw potatoes and damp humus
      .
      Musty/dry: aromatics associated with closed air
      spaces, such as attics and closets
      .
      Ashy/sooty: bark-like lingering aromatics associated
      with a cold campfire
      .
      Fermented: combination of sour aromatics associated
      with green vegetation, sauerkraut, soured
      hay, or composted grass
      .
      Green/herbaceous: fresh, green, slightly sour
      aromatics associated with green vegetables,
      newly cut vines, snap peas
      .
      Chemical: an aromatic associated with a broad
      range of compounds, which mayor may not
      include chlorine, ammonia, aldehydes, etc.
      .
      Biting: a slight burning, prickling, and/or numbness
      of the tongue and/or mouth surface
      .
      Butyric: an aromatic that is sour and cheesy,
      reminiscent of baby vomit

      1 Reply
      1. re: pauliface

        Butyric-Classic Aged provolone usually in the torpedo size.

      2. Harbison is wonderful, with luck you may find their Winnimere, Awesome.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          A friend posted to his FB page that the cheese staff at SF's Rainbow Grocery described Winnemere as "'bacon running through an autumn forest." It's not, but he still liked the cheese.

          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

            I loved Winnimere and just posted that I'd found some after a couple of years without. I've not tried any other from them so will seek them out. Thanks for the tip.

          2. A photo from an April 7, 2012 taste-off: The final fromage: Vacherin Mont d'Or hand-carried from France. In a smack down with Jasper Hill's Winnimere and Harbison of the USA.

             
            18 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I think the Winnimere was the winner of that taste-off.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Vacherin is another cheese I love. I have not tasted side by side but I do believe Harbison would give it a run for it's money and possibly beat it.

                It is so rare that a domestic cheese compares or could beat a favorite French variety of mine. I think Harbison may in fact be the first that I'd give that honor...

                So based on what you and Deluca have said, I will have to try Winnimere as well, if I can find it.

                1. re: pauliface

                  Tell me where you are and l can maybe lead you to it.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    San Francisco! ( I found the Harbison at the Ferry Building's Cowgirl Creamery store.)

                    1. re: pauliface

                      l would check the Berkeley Cheese board as well.
                      If you have to have it, Murray's in Manhasttan and Jaspar Hills in NE will ship it.

                  2. re: pauliface

                    You're in SF, right? I don't remember where we got the Winnemere for the tasting -- probably either Cowgirl or Rainbow. I know we did some calling around.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Thanks!
                      I'll try those and also The Cheeseboard in Berkeley.

                      1. re: pauliface

                        Cowgirl in the Ferry bldg has Harbison, Winnimere and Rush Creek right now. I was there this afternoon. The cheesemonger advised getting the Rush Creek as it peaks at season's end, which is fast approaching. Winnimere supply is abundant. I'll say more when I'm off mobile.

                        1. re: pauliface

                          The first time we had it was from WF in Sonoma but haven't found it in any WF since. Got mine at a new and small cheese shop in Reno of all places. I'd bet the Jasper Hills would be happy to tell you who they supply in the SFBA. Also, it's a seasonal/cold weather cheese so who knows how much longer this year?

                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                          That half-round of Winnimere was acquired at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco.

                          Both of these cheeses are seasonal and not available year-round.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Winnimere should be available now, as it is made from winter milk. Harbison is made from summer and fall milk and is likely getting harder to find at this point of the year, although Jasper Hill Farm may have extended its production into winter, given the cheese's enthusiastic reception. Since you like Vacherin-type cheeses, it's also worth trying Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese Co. in Wisconsin.

                            I've never had a bad cheese from Jasper Hill Farm. Winnimere is simply fantastic and Bayley Hazen Blue is one of America's best blue cheeses. They seem to be concentrating lately on their line of (semi-)soft cheeses: Winnimere, Harbison and Moses Sleeper, all excellent. Unfortunately, they appear to have discontinued Constant Bliss, a double-cream bloomy rind cheese in the style of Chaource. Unlike nearly all other domestic and imported bloomy rind cheeses sold in the US, it was made - legally - from raw milk. Jasper Hill was able to get the cheese to age to 60 days without becoming overripe by lowering the temperature during aging. It's a cheese I will miss.

                            1. re: cheesemaestro

                              Interesting, as they started with Constant Bliss and gained their fame through it.

                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                Anything I could say about why they dropped Constant Bliss would be speculation, but Jasper Hill has never produced more than three or four cheeses at a time. As they have added new ones in recent years, they may have decided that something older had to go. Perhaps they did not feel the need to make two bloomy rind cheeses, now that they have Moses Sleeper.

                                It's not the first time JH has retired a cheese. They no longer make either Aspenhurst (similar to a British Leicester) or Bartlett Blue, which is the cheese from JH that I liked least. Still, I'm surprised that they've done away with Constant Bliss (if it's true that it has been permanently retired). It's a cheese that was almost universally appreciated by the public.

                              2. re: cheesemaestro

                                Farmstead Cheeses and Wines in Alameda had both the Winnemere and the Rush Creek Reserve yesterday (3/21) if anyone in the Bay Area is still looking for them.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco had both the Harbison and the Winnimere on 6/4.

                              3. re: Melanie Wong

                                Re seasonal, OOPS!, I should have read the rest of the thread.

                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Yes, that's right, the Winnimere won the taste-off. Forgot to mention that we had the French pasteurized milk imitation of Reblochon also but it was so far behind these three it slipped my mind.

                            That said, I suspect that the condition of the cheeses may have had more to do with this than anything. The Mont d'Or had been purchased nearly three weeks before in France. I bought two and the one opened for the fete de fromage immediately on my return was much better. I was very, very impressed by both Jasper Hill cheeses.

                        3. As an aside; I was introduced to Harbison with Blais bourbon maple syrup. The combination is INSANELY good.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: musugu

                            If you should see the Blis Elixir vinegar, try that as an accompaniment.

                            1. re: musugu

                              You know you're eating a Vermont cheese when it comes with a shot of maple syrup!
                              I love Harbison, though I really dig Winnimere for its utter stinkyness- I find Harbison to more closely resemble a ripe Fromage de Clarines or a over the top L'Edel de Cleron. Winnimer is more like a super ripe Rush Creek reserve from Uplands or a Swiss Vacherin

                            2. So this weekend I was in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and wanted to show my sister this great Harbison cheese. She, too, loves Rebluchon. She loved it took, and agrees that with your eyes closed, you might believe it's a Reblochon. Though, of course, I have yet to do a side by side test, and I do know that the texture of Reblochon is a bit firmer. Still, I'm tempted to try making a croziflet or tartiflet (two classic Savoie dishes made with reblochon) to see how it works out.

                              The store we went to (Rubiner's, an excellent cheese shop) also carried the winnimere. I tried it, and it was very nice, but for me no comparison against the Harbison.

                              Also, a shout out to Rubiner's. It's a small store but I liked everything I saw, and the woman who helped me knew the ages of each of the Harbisons there and steered me towards the right one to by for that night, and the right one to get for a friend to have some nights later. Yes, I know the dates are written on the cheese, but still she knew what she was talking about. When in Great Barrington, I'd recommend a visit.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: pauliface

                                Isn't Great Barrington a charming little town? It's one of my favorite places in western Massachusetts, along with Williamstown and Northampton.

                                Harbison and Winnimere are definitely different, Harbison is reminiscent of Reblochon and Vacherin. Winnimere takes Harbison up several notches in stinkiness. Its inspiration is the Swiss "lumberjack" cheese Försterkäse. It's one of my two favorite washed rind cheeses from the US, the other being Meadow Creek Dairy's Grayson.

                              2. I just discovered this board. Tried Harbison last month. Very good (4 out of 5) but mine was very runny. Only a slight stink. The bark wrap is amusing. My wife likes reblochon more than I do, but agreed with me on Harbison. Nice to see cheeses like this come from America.

                                3 Replies
                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    The cheese comes girdled in a strip of bark that holds it together. I'm not sure the purpose -- possibly to impart flavor. But one does have to wrestle a bit to remove it from the cheese when eating.

                                    The cheese does tend to running. When I serve it I only take it out 30 minutes before eating, tops.

                                    1. re: pauliface

                                      Thanks pauliface for answering the question. Soon after I asked I found this link:
                                      http://www.otheravenues.coop/2012/01/...

                                      and this film.

                                      http://culturecheesemag.com/news/harb...

                                1. Saturday afternoon a friend and I stopped by Freestone Artisan Cheese, a new cheese shop on the Bohemian Hwy in West Sonoma County. The proprietor is Omar Mueller.
                                  http://www.freestoneartisan.com/

                                  When I saw him unwrap a wheel of Harbison and cut into it to offer a taste to another customer, the state of ooze compelled me to say, "We'll take the other half." Since we weren't eating it immediately, he swaddled it as tightly as he could in cheese paper to try to keep it together overnight. Here's what it looked like Sunday afternoon flowing onto the cheeseboard over less than a 10-minute period.

                                  http://www.cellarsatjasperhill.com/in...

                                  ETA: This cheese plate was accompanied by 2005 von Hövel Scharzhofberg Riesling Kabinett from the Saar. The wine is exquisite at this point in time.

                                   
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    Planning a trip to Freestone Artisan next weekend -- can hardly wait!!!!!

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      I'm so sorry that I'll be south next weekend, how's this keep happening when you're on my home turf?!? I'll warn you that this shop is pricey. But it makes a great second stop when you're at the bakery. And more importantly, every cheese we tried was in impeccable condition.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        I'm used to pricey when it comes to cheese. We're going to be doing a few cheese trail stops, so I'm going to be focusing on local cheeses, but if there's anything else you recommend ....

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          By pricey I mean not only is the average price level high here, the prices for individual types of cheese are higher than sold elsewhere. On the order of 20 to 40% higher.

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            So warned. But I'll probably only buy cheeses I can't get elsewhere.

                                  2. I love this cheese and thought exactly the same: a mild epoisse. Since epoisse is my favorite cheese in the universe, I'm so thrilled to find an American wannabe that has all the lush funky notes.

                                    1. This cheese is terrifc. I just bought it tonight and have only had a few tastes but I'm excited to really dig in.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                        When its sibling, Winnimere is available come January, you'll need to try it as well for a comparison.