As the sun begins to warm up a bit, it seems impossible not to let the mind think of the seasonal changes. With the echoing battle cry (or hashtag) of “Rosé All Day,” we will begin to put away the full bodied reds and stouts of winter. In exchange, we drink wheat beers with slices of citrus, Kolsch, Rosé, and bubbly. As it warms, we are more attracted to the fresh produce, lighter food and brighter flavors offered by what is in season during the spring months.
Cheese is no different than any other part of the culinary world; it has this seasonal shift. There are a handful of cheeses that in my mind, are an inseparable part of spring. They come in two main categories: fresh and aged.
Let’s start with the fresh. Sheep and goats only reproduce during a specific part of the year. Lambing and kidding season just finished up about a month ago. This means that the babies are healthy enough to start taking some milk from the mothers to make cheese. As this happens, we begin to see things like fresh ricotta from Bellwether farms and small cheeses wrapped in leaves such as the Manistique from Zingerman’s Creamery.
At farmstead dairies like Idyll Farms in Northport, Michigan, they begin their milking and cheese making season at this time of year.
Idyll Gris and Mont Idyll were some of our early favorites when we first opened in November, but we have not had them in stock since December. We are excited to kick off their 2018 season in the shop. They are creamy ash-ripened goat cheeses that are really an exceptional example of Michigan cheese. No Kidding!
In terms of aged cheeses, they require us to do a little bit of math. If a cheese is 6 – 10 months old right now, then what season is the milk from? These cheeses were made from milk from the peak of summer last year. It is a time capsule of the lush grasses of July and August when the milk is its richest. Cheeses like Alp Blossom, which is made in the Alps of Austria, are made with lush summer milk and aged around 6 months. These particular alpine cheeses are then covered with the very wildflowers that the cows graze on during the summer. The result is a cheese that you can’t help but photograph. It also sets the stage for the season to come. It is dense and creamy as you would expect from an Alpine cheese, with a specific bright grassy note. As we wait for spring colors to emerge, Alp Blossom is in full bloom.
We will be bringing in all of these cheeses throughout the spring. Stop by the shop as we begin to start celebrating spring cheeses and the change of ingredients around the table.