Expert Tip: How do you find the perfect cheese for you?
We asked Chicago-based writer and cheese lover, Erika Kubick, to help us. She writes the popular blog Cheese | Sex | Death.
“There is no single one perfect cheese for you, there are simply a vast array of incredible cheeses, each uniquely ideal in their own way. When I’m looking for my perfect cheese, I consider three things: the time of year, the mood I’m in, and what I plan to do with the cheese.
The time of year is particularly important to me, especially because of the seasonality of milk. In the warmer months, I find myself craving fresh cheese made with spring milk like the bright, floral chevre from Prairie Fruits Farm here in Illinois. I love that moment in early summer when I begin to find those cheeses made from the milk of animals that feasted on the plump blades of new spring grass. I always look forward to the arrival of Grayson from Meadow Creek Dairy in Virginia. This raw milk washed rind cheese is bursting with the complex flavors of spring vegetation. When the weather cools, I immediately get excited for Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese in Wisconsin, which is made with milk from cows that are switching from a grass-fed diet of to dry hay for the winter. The cold also makes me crave cuddle sessions with Alpine cheeses like Comté or burly blues like Caveman Blue from Rogue Creamery in Oregon.
I find eating cheese to be a very emotional experience, so I have to match my cheese to my mood. During the holidays, I always pull out my favorite celebratory cheeses: indulgent triple cream bries, aged goudas with a toffee-like crunch, and the most elegant of fromages, Roquefort. For more casual hangouts, I’ll set out a thick wedge of clothbound cheddar like Cabot Clothbound from The Cellars at Jasper Hill in Vermont or even Prairie Breeze cheddar from Milton Creamery in Iowa. A good, crumbly cheddar is such a crowd-pleasing, snack-able cheese. If I’m feeling a romantic mood, whether with a lover or just me and cheese, I’ll get a little gooey. A ripe wheel of Bonne Bouche from Vermont Creamery with thin squares of dark chocolate and salty oatcakes from Effie’s Homemade will always do the trick.
Finally, my intentions for the cheese are the final piece to the perfect cheese puzzle. If I’m looking for a cheese to cook with throughout the week, I love grabbing something hard and robust like a hunk of Parimigiano Reggiano. I’m a strong believer that you can never have too much parm. It’s great on soups, pastas, or sprinkled onto the outside of a grilled cheese to make it extra crispy. I also keep in mind the flavor profile when cooking with cheese. If I want to add sweetness to a sandwich, I choose something mild and rich like brie or mozzarella. If I’m going to add something sour like pickles, I stick with something nutty and boisterous like Gruyere.
The perfect cheese is dependent on the time, place, and situation. There usually isn’t one right choice, but a lot of delicious options.”
Photo credit: Erika Kubick - Summer Comte with Cherries and Oat Cakes
Carlos Yescas - Oldways Cheese Coalition Program Director