This year I used all New Jersey cheeses for my cheese trays on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. These five cheeses got rave reviews; each one had something special to offer. Even that little mouse on the Cherry Grove Brie in the upper left was excited! (The sixth, in the bowl, was my homemade ricotta. I had a saucer of NJ honey-soaked walnuts on the side for that, and the brie.)
I fashioned cheese flags with wooden picks and adhesive labels I printed out, and printed out a sheet with the descriptions below, so the curious could read about the cheeses. All were cows’ milk except the Oldwick Shepherd. (If you know of anyone in NJ making commercially available fresh goat cheese, I’d be interested in knowing. Also, if anyone knows a source of disposable write-on cheese flags, I’d love to have a source.)
Bobolink Dairy, Vernon NJ
Zinfandel-cured Frolic – Frolic is a collaboration between Bobolink Dairy and three Amish graziers. Made from raw milk from grass-fed herds, it has a grassy, complex yet subtle flavor. This limited edition is enhanced by a few weeks of immersion in the must of local Zinfandel grapes.
Cave-ripened Cheddar – Jonathan White’s truly traditional cheddar, cave-aged with a natural, bloomy rind.
Jean-Louis Bleu – named in honor of the memory of chef Jean-Louis Palladin, who encouraged food artisans to aim for bolder, earthier flavors.
Cherry Grove Farm, Lawrenceville NJ
Buttercup Brie – A fresh Camembert style brie; its bloomy rind hides a delicious soft center with a deep rich color.
Valley Shepherd, Long Valley NJ
Usually Bon Appetit has two or three Valley Shepherd cheeses in stock, but when I went they only had one. But this is one of my favorites, and a good representative of this dairy’s products.
Oldwick Shepherd – Raw sheep’s cheese, A cave ripened, raw milk cheese that develops a brownish-white mold exterior during its 3-4 month stay in our cave. Great earthy aroma, nutty smooth finish. Just a wonderful Pyrenees style sheep’s milk cheese. Batches vary based on pasture grass, temperature and time of year.