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Oct 1, 2013 02:54 PM

North American Cheeses - Cheese of the Month (October 2013)

In 2011, The American Cheese Society in conjunction with John Hickenlooper, the Governor of the State of Colorado, proclaimed October as American Cheese Month, “ a celebration of North America’s delicious and diverse cheeses, and the farmers, cheesemakers, retailers, cheesemongers, and chefs who bring them to your table.” In honor of American Cheese Month 2013, I invite you to participate in the CHOW Cheese of the Month – American Cheeses.

The American cheese market has really grown in recent decades and there are innumerable wonderful cheeses being produced. To focus the discussion and learn the most from each other’s tasting experiences, I have selected a few categories and a select cheese within each category as the inspiration of an “American cheese plate,” if you will. Of course, if another cheese within these categories catches your eye (or your tongue), please feel free to explore and share your thoughts here.


1. Hard cheese: Clothbound cheddar – Cheddar is a hard, sharp cheese which originates from the Somerset County Village of Cheddar in Southwest England. It is produced via a process called cheddaring which involves cutting the curd into blocks, which are then turned and stacked at the bottom of the cheese vat at intervals of ten to fifteen minutes for 1.5 hours. The milk is then set, cut, cooked lightly and allowed to mat at a warm temperature. The cheese is then aged as a block or in a cloth. In contrast to block cheddar, Clothbound cheddar aka “English” cheddar is shaped into cylinders which are wrapped in permeable cheesecloth and aged in environmentally-controlled caves. These cheeses are usually earthier than block Cheddars with hearty, toasty, and nutty flavors.

A clothbound cheddar which is made from the raw milk of Flory’s jersey cows. The curds are wrapped in cloth-lined truckles (= cylinder shapes), aged for 60 days on wooden shelves, and then transported to Iowa where they are aged for 12 months in a specially designed facility. It has a salty, caramel flavor like Gouda with grassy notes.

*Other suggestions:

Cabot Clothbound – Cabot Creamery

Flagship Reserve - Beecher’s Hand Made Cheese

Bandage Wrapped Cheddar - Fiscalini Farmstead

2. Soft-ripened cheese – These cheeses are ripened from outside in, very soft and often runny at room temperature. The most common soft-ripened cheeses have a white, bloomy rind that is sometimes flecked with red or brown. The rind is edible and is produced by spraying the surface of the cheese with a special mold called Penicillium candidum before the brief aging period. This category includes Brie and Camembert styles, Camembert, and triple crèmes.”

A camembert-style meltingly creamy cheese, named after the co-owner of the company, made from a blend of Old Chatham sheep’s milk and cow’s milk. The texture is semi-soft in the center, and smoother and softer just under the rind becoming runnier with age. Smooth and buttery flavor, like very rich ice cream notes of hay, grass and savory vegetal.

*Other suggestions:

Mt. Tam – Cowgirl Creamery
Triple crème,

Truffle Tremor – Cypress Grove
Flavored, goat,

Harbison - Jasper Hill

Traditional Brie - Marin French Cheese

3. Sheep’s milk cheese: Sheep’s milk cheeses are characteristically rich and earthy with grassy aromas and savory flavors. Sheep’s milk cheeses comprise a smaller fraction of the cheese market in the US as compared to Europe, but the availability of pure sheep’s milk and mixed sheep’s milk cheeses is growing rapidly.

A natural rind cheese, produced only during the spring and summer, which is aged 4 to 8 months on wooden boards in the Vermont Shepherd aging caves. The cheese is available from August until the supply is exhausted

*Other suggestions:

Dante - Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative

4. Blue cheese: Blue cheeses can be classified into all categories of cheese, except fresh cheeses. They are distinguished as cheeses that have distinctive blue/green veining, created when spores of Penicillium roqueforti, Penicillium gorgonzola or Penicillium glaucum, which are added during the cheesemaking process, are exposed to air. The mold provides a distinct flavor to the cheese


River Blue, Rogue Creamery
A blue cheese wrapped in grape leaves that have been macerated in pear brandy. Its forward, well-aged flavor tastes of brandy, fruit and burnt cream with a creamy, crunchy-smooth texture. Flavors include hints of sweet pine, wild ripened berries, hazelnuts, morels and pears. The cheese is made during the autumnal equinox and before the winter solstice from Brown Swiss and Holstein cow’s milk and aged a minimum of 9 months.

Caveman Blue, Rogue Creamery
A rich, complex blue, aged a minimum of 6 months, that is a deliciously sweet and fruity with slight vanilla tones and a texture of butter and crystal with tastes of sweet, buttermilk with nuances of beef and bacon, tropical fruit, and hay.

*Other suggestions:

Two-faced blue – Willapa

Maytag - Maytag Dairy Farms

Other sites of possible interest:,

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  1. This will be fun! I have known John since well before he entered politics. Factoid: he owns the Cherry Cricket in Cherry Creek, home of the best bowl of green chili anywhere. I'll be back with cheese.....:)

    1. Good a reason as any to be digging deeper into sheep's milk cheese. I'll be baa baa back :)

      1. Wanting to see what availability might be at a regular ol' supermarket, I just got back from Nob Hill in Salinas. It's part of the Raley's and Bel Air chain in Northern California. There was more blue cheese in standard supermarket pack than I expected: Roth Käse Moody Blue, Emmi Roth Buttermilk Blue, Point Reyes Original Blue, Salemville Amish Blue (wedges and crumbles), and Faribault Amablue. Last time I tasted them side-by-side, I preferred the Buttermilk Blue to Point Reyes.

        I had expected to pick up the Marin French Traditional Brie. Not here. But what was available from this Petaluma, CA producer included Camembert, Breakfast Cheese, and Triple Cream Brie. The brie has a best by date of Oct 28, so I bought one to put aside for a few weeks to report on later in the month. The back label describes how maturity relates to the date. It was on price reduction, dropped to $9.99.

        18 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I like the Buttermilk Blue a lot, too, and the price-value is hard to beat!

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Well, Buttermilk Blue is made from 100% Jersey milk, that higher butterfat content makes it hard to beat the mouthfeel...
            TC loves Moody Blue, which is their (RothKase) smoked blue...

            1. re: galleygirl

              Buttermilk Blue is my favorite for blue cheese dressing: I love the texture and balanced flavor and the price is right.

              1. re: teezeetoo

                And a real bacillium roqueforti culture, too..
                To add a little history, the man who started Roth Kase was a retired cheese importer...He decided that the area of Wisconsin near the Great Lakes has the same kind of terroir (in this case, soil composition and limestone underlay) as a lot of the cheese producing areas of Europe, and decided to prove it by doing European style cheeses there...Saves you that airfare!

                1. re: teezeetoo

                  Okay, I gottah jump in with a category two, a semi-ripened cows' milk cheese from Vermont Farmstead Cheeses. A fairly new company (2009) that started by taking back a parcel of land destined for development, and making European style cheeses there, while they keep their cows across the road...
                  Anyway; Lillé is their take on a French-style Coulommiers-type cheese...They make one closer to a crottin size , tho it's 7 ounces, and it is FABULOUS when you let it age a few months, go about a month before the sell-by date...The same creamy texture that you usually find in riped goat cheeses, like Coupole, to cite another Vermont Cheese, but cows' milk...I had a ripe one of these next to a ripe Coupole a few months ago (it was summer, and a humid 90 degree day is my favorite time to eat cheese!) and everyone was swooning...

                  1. re: teezeetoo

                    I agree, I often use it for dressing. I think I'm gonna taste and then use either the Dunbarton or 2 Faced blue in a dressing this week.

                  2. re: galleygirl

                    Hey galleygirl, long time since we've been on a thread together. Glad to see you on this board.

                    I first had Buttermilk Blue at the big annual ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) tasting in San Francisco a few years ago. It's a raw milk cheese to boot. The regular version is aged for a minimum of two months. But I've just read about an affinee version that's aged for six months.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      I didin't even realize we HAD a cheese board!!
                      Haven't had that aged BBLue yet...Wannah hear something sinful? Mix BBlue, about 2-3 parts, to one part softened cultured butter, and schmear on baguette, and put it under the broiler...

                      1. re: galleygirl

                        Not sinful. That's the Sunday sacrament at the Church of Blue Cheese.

                        1. re: galleygirl

                          I've added some bacon to that mix and it's delicious

                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                            I made a bacon blue cheese souffle once, and it was delicious!

                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                              This board challenges my calory limits. I love the bacon idea. I'm going to stick to my mantra: real cheese has no calories. Low-fat cheeses (except for real goat which is almost sinless) are bad for your health. I'm with Galleygirl: the cheese board is new to me and an exciting discovery.

                              1. re: teezeetoo

                                Wow, why did I never think of that "real cheese has no calories." I'm joining you.

                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                  Only counts if you are standing while you eat the cheese.

                                2. re: teezeetoo

                                  That's not completely ridiculous: it takes less high-quality cheese to satisfy you and you buy it in smaller quantities, so you're likely to consume fewer calories.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Don't worry about the calories from gourmet cheese. I am of the opinion that excess sugar is far more unhealthy and more responsible for the obesity epidemic. Remember that grass fed cows have more omega 3 fatty acids that are good for health. And fat makes you feel full so you eat less. And Ruth is right, we tend to eat smaller portions of high quality cheeses. So if you indulge in high quality cheese once in a while it's not a bad thing especially if you eat lots of veggies and avoid excess sugar.

                                    1. re: Ridge

                                      Not to stray too far, but I eat up all the fat and protein I want, sugar and I have never been very friendly. I totally agree, I wanted to eat more of that Pleasant Ridge last week but alas I was saturated, ate way less than I ever have of the lower fat varieties. Also they tend to be more flavorful so a little goe sa long way. I think we're all in good company accepting that cheese is OK :)

                              2. re: galleygirl

                                Oh, and welcome to cheese-hounding! Please take a look around. Many older threads have been moved here and they're still relevant. Do start some new ones and tell us about your discoveries. And please help us recruit some Boston 'hounds.

                        2. Well done!

                          Just a tiny correction, that should be "Rogue River Blue" by Rogue Creamery. An amazing cheese -- this year's release should be available now.

                          A couple of other American blues I really like are Bayley Hazen blue from Jasper Hill and Tiger Blue from Poplar Grove Cheese in British Columbia (for our cheese-loving Canadian chowhounds -- it doesn't seem to be distributed in the US).

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            You are quite right re: Rogue River Blue...oops.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              I seem to be in a Category 4 Blue Cheese rut . . . not that I'm complaining. Needing a great blue to go with a special wine for a birthday party, I bypassed everything in Farmstead Cheese & Wine's display counter to ask for the seasonal Rogue River Blue. And indeed a fresh wheel had just arrived and none was on display yet. Watching the cheesemonger release it from the plastic shipper, I was struck again by how beautifully this Syrah grape leaf-wrapped cheese presents.

                              Later at room temperature, the paste turned soft and creamy with some crunchy crystals. Not as intense in the blue character as examples I've had in past years, this seemed a little less mature. Still wonderful all round though with the lovely fruity notes and hazelnut quality. As much as I love this cheese, it is $42 per pound and not one that I will reach for other than very special occasions like this one.

                              I bought Roman hazelnuts to accompany this cheese and the Tokaji Aszu, and they were a great accompaniment. As it turned out, our hostess had brought back hazelnuts from Piemonte, so we were able to have nut taste-off too.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Agree with you about the Rogue River Blue. Tasted it tonight and it was good but not exceptional. I am writing up my tasting notes for tonight.

                            2. looking forward to this month's cheeses-

                              i will be looking for oka- a favorite of mine

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: jpr54_1

                                Did you find any oka, jpr54_1? I did, in my cheese drawer in the fridge :-). I always feel better if there is a wedge of it on hand. The piece I had was smallish and not too ripe but not bland either. The texture is one of my favourites in cheese land, not hard but not soft. Since I was noshing on my own, I did cut off the rind but the flavour was still pronounced enough. Although I often enjoy the paste of wash rind cheeses, I sometimes balk a the slight sandiness/graininess in the rind.

                                I like oka just a tiny bit colder than many other cheeses, as it tends to sweat a bit at room temp, and lose the texture I seek. That might explain why I don't like it melted on or in things either. Oka is an original Canadian cheese, and one the I am proud of as a Canuck.

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  Whole Foods did not have any yesterday.