Jersey Blue is a 100% Jersey cows’ milk cheese from Switzerland made by Willi Schmid, a man whose roots in agriculture date all the way back to his wee days as a young boy in Nesslau-Bühl on the Obertoggenburg a picturesque region nestled between two limestone massifs. Nesslau-Bühl is a place well-known by the happy and healthy winter adventurer. Going to school for physics, chemistry and microbiology before launching his own company in 2006, Schmid’s science-minded approach to cheese making coupled with his agricultural upbringing really stands out in his product.
Willi’s little darling known as Jersey Blue took “World’s Best Jersey Cheese” at the second annual World Jersey Cheese Awards in June 2010, put together by a group attempting to highlight Jerseys as the “premier breed of dairy cow”. The ceremony is held annually on the island of Jersey. By the way I’m not talking about New Jersey but a member of the Channel Islands between France and England.
The ceremony is fairly standard, involving a selected panel of judges who dish out bronze, silver and gold medals before crowning a new World Champion. In ’09 a cheese from Holland by the name of “Oude Remekera” emerged as the victor– a hard cheese made by Irene & Jan Dirk Van der Voort that was described by head judge Chris Ashby from the UK as “a cheese to make you weak at the knees”.
I have not been able to track this cheese down but if it is even in the same ballpark as Jersey Blue then you best believe I will make it so. As always if you have a French connection stop by Scardello with the goods and I’ll supply the libations.
Jersey Blue is a super lightweight, weighing in around 3.5lbs. Out of the wrapper is looks like no blue I’ve ever seen before. A dark green bulb that reminds me of a giant dot (like the candies) only more appetizing. One thing I noticed right off was the absence of needling marks. The holes that you find on Stiltons, for instance, result when they puncture the rind to allow oxygen to enter the cheese and supply that precious Penicillin Roquefort with some air. If you’ve ever looked at a big enough cross section of needled blues you’ll see straight lines running through the cheese. Some cheese makers take a different approach, loosely packing the curds to allow natural caverns to form. This gives the mold some breathing room, literally. So when you see the large pockets that look like blue cheese geodes it’s not that the mold has been slowly eating the cheese from the inside, it’s that the mold needs air and the curd has been loosely packed. Easy, no?
What you end up with is a more marbled look, which I absolutely love. Having a slice of this on a cheese board just screams classy. This wheel in particular was from the winter months. You can tell by the white to ivory paste versus a more yellow golden color that is attributed to spring/summer milk. That yellow color is from the beta-carotene produced when the cows eat fresh grasses and flowers. Conversely, picture the cows cooped up eating silage and old hay in a barn for months, and this winter milk represents the mood and diet of that season. Then spring hits and the cows get to frolic around the pastures, bask in the warm sun and eat up all the new goodies on the ground. Heck, maybe they even get a date or two, it’s a beautiful thing. You already know these happy cows are going to make some mighty tasty milk. A warm sun-colored flavor bomb that’s waiting to go off on your palate, it’s awesome.
In terms of taste the rind was not very appealing to me, a little too skunky, especially since the paste has such a beautiful texture. Similar to unbaked cheesecake, it was dense but still retained that flaky melt in your mouth experience. Sour cream and walnuts on the nose with a slight mustiness from the rind. On the palate is sweet cream with mushroom, followed by light pepper and a pleasant acrid finish. A stout companion that won’t overpower the delicate flavors should pair nicely. I liked this cheese with a porter or a Schwarzbier (black lager), light but flavorful.
This cheese not only looks beautiful but it backs up its pretty face with a little intelligence too. If you happen to see this at your local fine cheese shop pick it up, you won’t be disappointed.
Lance Lynn is one of the favorite cheese mongers at Scardello, and we always appreciate his reports from the field.