New Cheese Qualities & Flavors As Seasons Change
Changing seasons bring changing flora which results in a wide variety of additional flavors imbued in the milk of cows, sheep and goats that graze in spring and summer fields. This allows small cheesemakers to offer a diverse selection of cheeses year round with the seasonal milk used to make the cheese providing different notes to each product.
“Certainly goat and sheep milk are popular spring cheeses… cheeses made from the spring have hints of floral and wild onion flavors,” says David Gremmels, president and head cheesemaker at Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon. Rogue Creamery’s most recent seasonal release is Flora Nelle Blue. The cheese was reintroduced this year after it was taken out of the creamery’s rotation in 2018.
“For this recipe, I was inspired by the consistency of the classic Bleu de Gex and flavor Bleu d’Auvergne. I combined the recipes and created an American original that is loved by chefs and connoisseurs. It is a tribute to our families and particularly to my grandmother, Nelle,” Gremmels says.
“Flora Nelle’s natural rind and traditional rennet produce a distinctive blue marbling with a layered, spicy and savory flavor experience,” says Marguerite Merritt, cheese emissary and marketing manager at Rogue Creamery.
Flora Nelle Blue pairs well with fresh baby greens and organic olive oil and honey vinaigrette for a summer salad or with grilled peaches and a balsamic vinegar.
“These are both simple, delicious dishes and excellent when prepared with our Flora Nelle Blue,” Merritt says.
“The semi-soft natural rind American original Blue cheese is most popular in the spring and often shared in the spring holidays, including Mother’s Day,” Gremmels adds.
The fall seasonal cheese Rogue Creamery offers is Rogue River Blue. It is created with organic cow’s milk collected the previous fall and then aged for nearly a year, creating a fudgy rich cheese with calcium lactate crystals that develop with age.
Rogue River Blue was named World Champion in the 2019/20 World Cheese Awards and is the first and only U.S.-made cheese to receive this award.
“(It) is one of the most passionately awaited seasonal cheeses on the market. We release it each year on the autumnal equinox,” says Merritt.
Rogue Creamery’s Spring Cheese gift box has an eighth-wheel of Flora Nelle Blue in addition to a block of Cheese Is Love Extra-Aged Cheddar, Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies by Rustic Bakery, Honey Sticks from Jacobsen Co. and a limited-edition Rogue Creamery Swedish Dishcloth.
Flora Nelle Blue also can be purchased online or from Rogue Creamery’s cheese shop.
Andy Hatch, co-owner and cheesemaker at Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, takes a different approach to seasonal cheeses.
Uplands Cheese only offers two cheeses sourced from its dairy farms: Pleasant Ridge and Rush Creek.
Pleasant Ridge is a seasonal cheese that only is made May-November, when the cows graze in summer pastures. The milk produced in the summer and early fall months offers a “savory, nutty flavor with a rich salty finish” to the cheese, Hatch says.
The cheese is aged between eight and 14 months; so although it is made with summer milk, it only is available in the winter season.
The Alpine-style cheese is similar to Gruyere or Comte and pairs well with savory accompaniments such as garlic and onion, rosemary and thyme.
Pleasant Ridge is one of the most-awarded cheeses in American history with three American Cheese Society annual competition Best of Show awards (2001, 2005 and 2010) and the U.S. Cheese Championship in 2003.
Uplands Cheese Rush Creek Reserve is produced only in the fall, when the cows’ diet transitions from summer pasture to the winter’s dry hay. The rich milk produced makes a cheese “so soft and decadent that it’s often referred to as a savory custard,” Hatch says. Additionally, Rush Creek is wrapped in spruce bark to impart a subtle woodsy flavor.
Both Rush Creek and Pleasant Ridge are available in a variety of holiday gift boxes, offering a taste of both seasons in the winter months, as they are most popular between November-January, says Hatch.
While Rogue Creamery and Uplands Cheese specialize in cow-milk seasonal cheeses, other cheesemakers feature fresh goat milk cheese or Chevre as a popular summertime option.
LaClare Creamery offers a wide variety of fresh and aged Chevre in different flavors that see popularity in the warmer months.
“Our more popular summer flavors include Blueberry Vanilla, Chipotle Honey, Honey and Garlic & Herb. Anything that can tie consumers to the season — fresh flowers (honey) and fresh herbs always please,” says Patrick Considine, national director of sales for LaClare Creamery.
All of the company’s cheeses are made with goat milk from nearby farms, allowing for a higher-quality better-tasting cheese through the modest distance and minimal disruption between farm and factory, Considine says.
This year, LaClare Creamery will introduce a new Rolled Blueberry Vanilla Goat Cheese Log. It is based on the Original Blueberry Vanilla recipe, but rolled in dried blueberries as inspired by the holiday seasonal cheese, Cranberry Cinnamon, which is rolled in dried cranberries.
“Our fresh goat cheese’s fresh flavor makes it a summertime favorite. Some of our distinct Chevre flavors — particularly original Blueberry Vanilla, Fig & Honey, and Garlic & Herb — have been warm weather picks for years,” Considine notes.
The company also sees increased demand for crumbled Chevre to add a fresh light cheese flavor to salads.
LaClare Goat Mozzarella and Goat Jack cheese work well for backyard barbecues and side dishes and also provides consumers with the option to pick between hard or soft goat cheese while still enjoying summertime flavors.
“Because our Chevre lends itself to both savory and sweet flavor enhancements, it’s an ideal product for exploring new seasonal creations. We are constantly pondering unique, delicious and fun ways to enhance our original Chevre,” adds Considine.
As part of seasonal offerings, LaClare Creamery also makes a mixed milk Chandoka cheese and a Cave-Aged Chandoka. Chandoka offers a buttery sweet flavor, lighter than the deeper stronger notes of Cave-Aged.
The company recommends serving flavored Chevre on its own or paired with crackers to fully experience the seasonal flavors of goat cheese. The company’s website offers a Blueberry Vanilla Goat Cheese Pudding, Garlic & Herb Goat Cheese and Tomato Tartlets or Original Goat Cheese on a salad as summer recipes to bring out the flavor of its wide variety of cheeses.
“Due to their popularity with consumers, these cheeses have gone beyond the seasonal offering and are now a part of our permanent lineup of fresh goat cheese flavors,” says Considine.
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