In our opinion, there’s never a bad time to enjoy some cheese. During the holidays, it can be an especially important part of the festivities. From cheese plates to decadent desserts, cheese in all its varieties, mild to sharp, soft to firm, milk-based to non-dairy alternatives, appears in many forms during holiday gatherings.
Here are twelve different kinds of cheese to likely suit every taste and need, including two of our December Cheese Deals and one from this month’s featured local vendor. For the rest of this month, members can also save $6 on a $25 purchase in the cheese department with their Member-Owner Coupon, found here.
3 Month Manchego – Considered one of Spain’s most well-known sheep’s milk cheeses, it is made with pasteurized sheep’s milk and aged for over 3 months. This comparatively younger Manchego will be creamier than longer-aged varieties, with a slightly nutty flavor and a hint of sharpness.
Harbison from the Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro Bend, VT is a soft-ripened, bloomy-rind cheese, wrapped in strips of spruce cambium, the inner layer of the tree’s bark. This cheese is best eaten by slicing off the top and spooning the decadent cheese onto a cracker or crusty bread of your choice.
Sottocenere – Made with raw cow’s milk, this cheese, whose name means “under ash,” is coated with a variety of herbs and spices and aged in an ash rind, giving it a dusty gray outer appearance. Inside, the semi-soft cheese is infused with a scattering of truffle slices and truffle oil, giving it earthy, smoky, mushroom-y flavor notes throughout.
Ashbrook – One of our Cheese Deals for December, Ashbrook, from Spring Brook Farm in Reading, VT, is a lightly-washed-rind cheese, inspired by the French Morbier. There is a line of vegetable ash running through the middle of the cheese, which has a semi-soft, supple texture, a milky bright flavor and a highly aromatic and slightly nutty finish.
Our other December Cheese Deal, Twig Farm Tomme, is aged a minimum of 90 days and is a semi-firm, raw-milk cheese delicately flavored with notes of roasted almond and lemon peel. Incredibly versatile for pairing, try it with an off-dry cider, a mid-weight stout or a light red wine.
Goatlet – A collaborative effort between Consider Bardwell Farm in West Pawlet, VT, and Crown Finish Caves in Brooklyn. It is a combination of 20% raw goat’s milk and 80% raw cow’s milk and has notes of a lemon cream pie. It recently won first place in its category at the 2017 American Cheese Society Conference.
L’Amuse Gouda – Large amber-colored wheels of Gouda are instantly recognizable at any cheese shop. A beloved cheese worldwide, it hails from Netherlands and is known for its nuttiness and notes of caramel. As it ages, it becomes harder and develops more of the crunchy bits of crystallization it’s also famous for. L’Amuse Gouda comes specifically from Northern Holland and has been regarded as the gold standard of this type of cheese.
Blue Ledge Piece of Coal – Our Featured Vendor for December is Blue Ledge Farm in Leicester, Vt, a goat dairy farm producing a wide variety of outstanding cheeses while maintaining a dedication and commitment to respect for their animals, the land and the consumer. Try this seasonal cheese perfect for the holidays, a cow’s milk Camembert/brie hybrid covered in a layer of ash so it appears like a lump of delicious coal.
Shelburne Cave Aged Cheddar – In addition to their education programs, Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vt produces a variety of artisan, farmhouse cheddars, using raw milk from their herd of Brown Swiss cows. This clothbound cheddar is cave-aged for over a year, imparting it with earthy notes and a brittle texture. It makes a fabulous addition to a charcuterie plate, pairing well with ales, mustard or pickles.
Miyoko’s – these non-dairy cheese alternatives are made completely from plants, such as nuts and legumes, and contain no lactose, cholesterol, gluten, hormones, pesticides or GMOs. They also never use artificial colors, flavors or fillers as ingredients. Their fresh vegan mozzarella is cashew-based and comes in classic or smoked varieties. For a perfect vegan cheese plate addition, try one of their cashew-based cheese wheels, such as the classic chive.
Comte – A French cheese made of raw cow’s milk that has been produced for thousands of years and is one of the most highly-and-widely-produced cheeses in France. Fairly strict rules regulate the production of Comte, the texture and flavor of which can vary according to the exact location where it was produced, the season or the length of aging. Creamy and complex, featuring a wide range of flavor notes, it’s perfect for any moment, from a fancy holiday cheese plate to a simple afternoon snack to being melted into macaroni and cheese.
Brie de Nangis – No holiday cheese plate is complete without brie. Originally produced in its namesake town in France, this approachable brie is mild and buttery with an earthiness and flavor notes of mushrooms. It pairs well with wines including Sauvignon Blancs and Merlots or a variety of beers.