Young people are idiots. At least I was. My biggest crime against intelligence? Saga blue cheese.
Listen, I could probably eat Saga today and thoroughly enjoy it. It’s actually pretty tasty. But, what made me such a goddamn dummy was the fact that I thought that foil-wrapped triangle was somehow superior to my peer’s dairy choices. While my friends, fools as well, happily snacked on Babybel and shredded mozzarella (if you can even call it mozzarella), I was at home smearing $3 blue cheese on Wheat Thins and considering myself a culinary genius.
Thankfully, over time, my wallet, taste buds, and food knowledge evolved. Well, let’s be more honest than that — the internet evolved, allowing the other aspects in my life to follow suit. A little something called…what was it..’Google?’ ..came about …allowing me to learn, learn, learn and learn more. Plus, now I could virtually visit and buy from my favorite place in the world: Murray’s Cheese shop, heaven to turophiles like myself. While most of my college peers were coveting the latest cardigans from Express, there I was pacing the apartment waiting for wedges and wheels of things I couldn’t even pronounce.
Nowadays, my life as a cheesemonger provides more countless hours of entertainment than Google ever could and sure beats waiting for the mailman to deliver my dairy. Tasting, eating, devouring have now taken residence alongside all that ‘learning, learning, learning’ and have made me one very happy and well-fed gal.
Thus, my foray into Berkshire Blue.
Louise is constantly catching me slipping shreds of cheese into my face, something she generally encourages, but when I caught her eyeing the Berkshire Blue with suspicion (“wasn’t that wedge double in size only moments ago?”) I knew I had a problem. A new, beautiful cylinder arrived at the shop and I must have sampled that cheese out to every single person who walked in that day – no matter if they were pregnant or allergic. I didn’t care. “You MUST taste this,” I screamed in their faces. I can’t believe I still have my job.
So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Why is this blue so great?
Well, most of our blues are great. They just are. And kind of like chocolate, although there may be many varieties, the well-made ones are all delicious. What sets Berkshire apart is the fact that it’s very similar to a Stilton. In fact, it’s very similar to the Colston Bassett Stilton we carry – but much, much creamier thanks to the unpasteurized Jersey Cow milk. And what have we learned so far in life? Creamy = better. It just does.
Berkshire Blue, a raw cow’s milk cheese made in Great Barrington, MA, is aged over 60 days, with hints of barnyard and hay flavors – giving it a delightful tang yet earthy kick. Yes, in the cheese world, barnyard and hay are desirable qualities. This small batch artisanal cheese is made completely by hand – hand-stirred, hand-ladled and hand-turned. This blue is mild compared to some of its peers, but still yields enough saltiness to make your mouth water for more.
Let’s get back to the milk. Berkshire’s website lays it out clear as day: “Jersey milk has consistently high butterfat, calcium and protein contents. No other cows’ milk compares. Period.” Plus they add in this cool bit o’ trivia: “Jerseys have the highest IQ of domesticated bovines. Any farmer with a mixed herd will tell you that when his cows escape for greener pastures, it is usually a Jersey leading the herd.” PS – Jersey Cows are not from Jersey. Don’t be embarrassed if you thought they were – I once did too. I mean, it makes sense. Why couldn’t they call them “yummy-milk cows” or “smarter-than-the-rest cows” …if you are going to slap a label like “Jersey” on the animal, shouldn’t it’s name be indicative of its place of origin?? I don’t make the rules. Unfortunately.
You should really check out the Berkshire Blue website as they have a ton of awesome info – including a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section, with answers from the cheesemaker himself, Ira Grable, that really goes into what makes their cheese so kick ass. Here’s a sampling of your ‘need-to-knows’ from their FAQ page with a tiny excerpt of the corresponding answers:
How do you get Berkshire Blue to be more creamy than other blues?
Not by adding cream.
How does Berkshire Blue differ from the more famous English blue, Stilton?
For a factory cheese, Stilton isn’t bad.
How should I serve Berkshire Blue?
If you really want to go native, try it at breakfast!
So, my friends, come in and get a bite. If Louise is in the back, we can just split a quarter pound up at the cheese counter. Although, I’m guessing you’d rather take it home so nobody sees you when you fall in love and start a torrid love affair with this cheese and end up smearing this beautiful blue all over your body. It happens. We don’t judge.