When you’re a cheese wiz — like our cheese and specialty foods buyer, Ken Blanchette — late spring and early summer mean a delicious seasonal flavor shift for many fresh cheeses.
But you don’t have to be an expert to get excited about fresh spring cheeses!
Read on to learn about Ken’s early-summer cheese favorites (both local treats and imports), score two affordable wines for perfect spring-cheese pairings and learn a little more about why eating seasonal cheese is so exciting.
As for what cheese lovers should shop for right now, Ken says, “I really look at spring and early summer seasonality in terms of freshness. In a cheese, you capture that quality in what’s eaten by the sheep, goats and cows, and that translates directly into the fresher cheeses. It’s floral, herby, fresh and perfumey.”
“The goats and sheep get out there first, and the cows get out on the turf a bit later. Those first green shoots are very sweet and they love to chew those right away, just as soon as they get out there.”
He says the time it takes for that flavor to get from the field to the wheel, log or wedge of cheese will vary, based on how long each particular cheese ages, but FreshDirect shoppers should be able to notice some of spring’s herbal richness in fresh cheeses they’re ordering right now.
“In what we’re seeing for cheeses from the Hudson Valley, you’re already going to detect a change in the flavor. Also the Vermont Butter & Cheese products, the Cypress Grove products and the Coach Farm fresh cheeses.”
If you like imported cheeses, Ken recommends the Brie de Nangis, which has a small production run, so it’s easier to detect a seasonal change in what the cows are eating. He says, “In the spring, they’re out there munching the clover and thyme.”
“For Parmigiano, since we buy from a particular small farm, customers should be noticing a slight difference in flavor and texture throughout May and June.”
His advice for making the most of our Parmigiano-Reggiano’s springtime character? Don’t serve it grated.
“Buy a whole piece and use that as a table cheese. It’s very luxe and I love to munch it just the way it is. There’s not a tremendous amount of crystalization, but there’s enough, and it’ll have enough fudgy character there to make it a great table cheese.”
As far as wine pairings for springtime cheeses, Ken recommends the Muscadet from Domaine de la Pinardiere: “It’s delicious with the fresh goat and sheep cheeses… and it’s just around 11 bucks a pop, so it’s very affordable.”
Another good (and reasonably priced) wine pairing Ken recommends is the Ravines Keuka Village White: “Great sweetness and good body. It tastes like an orchard.”
For more of the cheeses that Ken is raving about right now, shop our New and Notable Cheese Selection.