Now that we’ve gone through the Best of Show cheeses, our focus turns to other blue-ribbon winners from last week’s American Cheese Society awards. Today: blue-ribbon blues!
The ACS competition includes seven categories of blue cheese, and Boonter’s Blue, a raw mixed-milk cheese from California’s Pennyroyal Farm, topped the long-winded “blue-veined with a rind or external coating – made form sheep’s or mixed milk” category. Say that five times fast!Pennyroyal Farm is a farmstead operation in northern California, and cheesemaker Erika Scharfen, who co-owns the herd with Sarah Cahn Bennett, blends milk from their goats and sheep. The animals are free to graze on the farm and vineyard’s wild grasses and pennyroyal mint, which is evident upon tasting Boonter’s Blue. It’s a gentle, minerally blue with grassy, floral notes, and the veining, though thick, doesn’t overpower.
If the name isn’t familiar, that’s not a surprise. Pennyroyal Farm has been making cheese for just more than a year, and Scharfen didn’t introduce Boonter’s Blue to the market until early 2013. Beginner’s luck? We doubt it. Our friend and fellow blogger Kirstin at It’s Not You, It’s Brie sang the praises of another Pennyroyal cheese, Boont Corners, back in March, and we expect a bright future – and many more delicious cheeses – from Pennyroyal.
Avalanche Cheese Company’s Midnight Blue, a raw goat’s-milk cheese from Colorado, comes across as intense as Boonter’s Blue is laid back. A dense, earthy cheese made from the milk of Saanen, Alpine and Nubian goats, Midnight Blue is a tongue dancer. I had to consume many water crackers to cleanse my palate after eating my wedge, but I savored every bite. It’s not every day I get to enjoy a goat’s-milk blue – especially once that packs a punch like this one.
We don’t get many Colorado cheeses here in Minnesota – remember when I paid more to ship Haystack Peak than the cheese itself cost? – but Avalanche Cheese Company is a creamery to watch. Like Pennyroyal Farm, it’s a farmstead operation, and owner and cheesemaker Wendy Mitchell first learned the craft while living in the United Kingdom. Now working with fellow cheesemaker Kevin McCullen, she makes several varieties of chevre, goat cheddar, cabra blanca and Lamborn Bloomers, a Robiola-style cheese.
Other 2013 blue-ribbon blues include perennial favorite (and 2009 and 2011 Best in Show winner) Rogue River Blue, Westfield Farm’s Bluebonnet, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company’s Ewe’s Blue and Montchevre-Betin’s Chevre in Blue.
BLUE RIBBON GIVEAWAY: We’ve teamed up with the cheese-loving crew at Murray’s Cheese to offer one lucky reader a “Blue Ribbon Beauties” box of winning cheeses. Leave a comment on each post this week for the best chance of winning a shipment straight from Murray’s to you. What is your favorite blue-ribbon blue from this year’s awards?
Disclosure: Murray’s is generously providing the giveaway prize, but no other compensation was received.