The official food bets of this year’s Niners v. Ravens Super Bowl game may be limited to crab (Dungeness vs. Blue) and beer (Anchor Steam vs. Flying Dog), but there’s no bowl spread that’s complete without cheese — at least not in our view. Admittedly, Maryland’s fledgling artisan cheese industry is up against some pretty stiff competition in California’s dairy players, but Ravens fans need not show up empty-handed.
Maryland’s cheese making scene has been hampered by onerous raw milk regulation in the so-called “Free” State. Because the state forbade the production but not sale of raw milk cheeses, cheesemakers like Holly Foster of Chapel’s Country Creamery transported her grass-grazed cows’ milk to Pennsylvania to make cheese, then brought it back to Maryland once aged the mandatory 60-days. In 2009, a raw milk trial program allowed her to make the state’s first raw milk farmstead cheeses. Even now, the state offers just five raw milk permits for cheesemakers.
These restrictions haven’t hampered the goat dairies, though, and Maryland’s FireFly Farms and Cherry Glen Goat Cheese Co. have been making award-winning fresh and soft-ripened cheeses for several years. Signs of further growth and diversification are present as well: Cedar Hill Farm is presently building Maryland’s first cheese cave and the state’s first sheep dairy, Shepherds Manor Creamery, began producing sheeps milk cheeses in 2010.
Most of these cheeses are only available direct from the farm or at area farmers markets, but a few are carried in local cheese shops, MOM’s organic market and Whole Foods. If you can’t find Maryland cheeses in your area, use your favorite local cheddar for a Chesapeake Cheese Ball.
As for our Cheese Bowl, here’s my pick for Ravens fans:
FireFly Farms Cabra LaMancha, a firm, washed-rind goats milk cheese, paired with Evolution Craft Brewing (Salisbury, Md.) Lot 6 double IPA. It’s not purple, but this spunky duo will make any Marylander proud. We won’t promise the same about the game… (Is this a bad time to mention that this West Coast native is, um, a Niners fan? Let’s just keep that between us.)
For those in DC, stop in to Righteous Cheese (where I purchased Cabra LaMancha) to taste their Cheese Bowl pairings and vote for your favorite. (Spoiler: they’ve put up Cherry Glen’s Monocacy Ash against Vella Dry Jack. May the best cheese win!)
Maryland Cheesemakers (also available on Google Maps!)
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