Despite one last look at New York cheese, this first week of American Cheese Month is devoted to the South here on Cheese+Champagne. With the traditional market dominance of Upper Midwest, New England and California cheesemakers, their Southern counterparts often don’t receive their fair share of attention, which is a pity since many of our long-standing favorites hail from this region. Imagine a world without Georgia’s Green Hill or Texas’ Grassias. Depressing, isn’t it? Well, even though we won’t be able to make it to this year’s Southern Artisan Cheese Festival in Nashville on Saturday, we’ll make sure the South gets its due this week.
Southern cheeses aren’t all that easy to find here in Minnesota. (Colleen has a little more luck in Northern Virginia, which is technically in the South but feels more Northern in character.) So I was pleasantly pleased to come across this fig leaf-wrapped specimen in the Surdyk’s cheese case recently. I had stumbled upon Eden, the ACS award-winning cheese (category: soft-ripened brie – made from cow’s milk) from Brazos Valley Cheese in central Texas.
Eden is a curiosity. It’s not that leaf-wrapped cheeses are hard to find, but most often they are blues or goat cheeses. The addition of vegetable ash isn’t all that unusual, either, but again, you’re more likely to find it in or coating a goat cheese. Eden combines those elements with a pure, silky raw cow’s-milk base that is creamy and buttery enough to stand on its own, but cheesemakers Marc Kuehl and Rebeccah Durkin decided to kick it up a notch with that vegetable ash layer, which adds a rich, spicy flavor to the squishy, scrumptious paste. The fig-leaf rind is edible, but honestly, I found it to be too chalky and gritty for my palate after my initial taste.
Our friend and wine expert Kirstin recommends pairing Eden with a variety of white wines, including bubbles, of course, which will make you feel even more sophisticated while enjoying your cheesy snack. Brazos Valley Cheese also offers other bries and cheddars – let us know if you’re able to snag a taste.
Later this week: We venture east toward the Deep South – and have a surprise for cheese lovers who love to experiment in the kitchen!