It’s the time of year when our thoughts turn to the bounty of spring: asparagus, sweet peas, and artisan cheeses available no other time of year.
What makes spring artisan cheese so special? A large part of it is the signature taste achieved when a farmer and cheesemaker truly care about the herd and the land on which it grazes. Animals fed the most verdant grasses and wildflowers provide the most flavorful milk.
Cheeses made from spring milk are often more flavorful because the grasses are more nutrient dense. Grass-fed animals yield milk that tastes like the plants they ate. (You can imagine the difference in the taste of the milk from animals fed hay in the winter when there is no lush grass to munch.) Also, many animals give birth in the spring and so their milk is laden with protein.
This time of year, we are treated to artisan cheeses created from the best milk, and we have three exceptional varieties for you to try.
Mont Vully Classique
Second-place winner at the 2018 Cheese Word Championship, Mont Vully is a classic Alpine cheese named after the mountain on which it is made. During aging, it is lovingly washed several times a week with local Pinot Noir, giving it a beautiful orange to red-brown rind. This is a cheese that is perfect for any meal of the day. Try it in an omelet for breakfast, in a salad or sandwich for lunch, and on your cheese board for dessert.
Origin: Fribourg, Switzerland
Producer: Fromagerie Schafer
Milk: Raw cow (thermised milk), organic and lactose-free
Rennet Type: Animal
Age: 20 weeks
Look: Gold to red-brown rind with a grape imprint on the top of the wheel. The paste is creamy yellow. The color of the rind is due to the Pinot Noir wash as well as the addition of annatto.
Feel: Semi-firm with a smooth, creamy texture
Smell: Smells stronger than it tastes. Some say it smells like French onion soup.
Taste: Exquisite. Mild, meaty, grassy, with nutty and fruity notes. Similar to Appenzeller.
Pairs well with: Fruit, honey
Tastes good with: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Alsatian whites
Tomme aux Fleurs
Coated with spring flowers, Tomme aux Fleurs looks like Mardi Gras on your plate. You’ll be delighted by the explosion of nasturtium, blueberry, marigolds, strawberry, roses, and other flowers, and your nose will thank you for treating it to a surprising original aroma. The spring taste is also evident in the milk used to create this delightful cheese; the cows munch happily on a diet of hay, grass, and flowers growing on the mountains.
A truly unique cheese and a treat for all your senses, this cheese demands your attention. Like all Tommes, it is produced from skimmed milk and low in fat. Tomme is traditionally used in aligot, a classic French dish composed of melted cheese and mashed potatoes.
Origin: Alsace, France
Producer: Remy Claude Pierre
Milk: Raw cow
Rennet Type: Vegetarian
Age: Initially, it is aged for 4 months. Dried flowers are then added to the crust, and the cheese undergoes another aging period.
Look: A crust coated with the petals of spring flowers, a pale yellow paste beneath
Feel: Crumbly, dense, firm
Smell: Floral, milky
Pairs well with: Dried fruit
Tastes good with: Alsatian Pinot Gris, red wine
Chamomile is not just for tea! You’ll discover the magic of chamomile with your first taste of this gorgeous Italian cheese. Made from highly selected sheep’s milk, it is then covered with chamomile flowers and left to age in evergreen crates for two months. The result is a soft cheese with an intense, floral scent. The chamomile is what gives it its unique softness as well as its herbaceous aroma.
A seasonal cheese, Pecorino Camomilla is made in the summer, from the milk of sheep that have feasted on the best grass of the year and when chamomile flowers abound. It tastes like springtime itself and will make a delightful addition to your spring cheeseboard.
Origin: Emilia-Romagna region of Italy
Producer: Romaniae Terrae
Milk: Pasteurized sheep
Rennet Type: Animal
Age: 2+ months
Look: Ivory-colored cheese covered with yellow chamomile flowers
Feel: Semi-soft, creamy, smooth
Smell: Intense, aromatic, floral
Taste: Lush, creamy, smooth with a hint of herbal sweetness and notes of freshly cut apple
Pairs well with: Try it with ripe pears, orange blossom honey, and walnuts on a cheese plate. Tastes great with raw vegetables or on its own with a dash of black pepper and a few drops of olive oil on crusty bread. Shave it onto fava beans or peas for a delicious dinner dish.
Tastes good with: Alsace Riesling, Sancerre or other fruity white