Currently on her way to receiving a master's degree in Gastronomy from Boston University, WFM Pearl Specialty team member Annie Knopf is a serious food buff with an unwavering passion for artisanal cheeses. In her weekly column, The Cheese Course, Annie reveals why some cheeses are, quite simply, worth making a stink about.
Photo by Annie Knopf
Cheese of the week: Harbison
Origin: Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vermont
Style: Bloomy rind, wrapped in birch bark
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Aged: 3-6 weeks
Harbison is an unusual cheese, and unusually tasty! For starters, it is wrapped in Vermont birch bark. This bark helps impart woody, savory flavors into the cheese. Harbison can be served either by peeling away the top rind and scooping from the top, or in slices. (But don’t eat the bark!) The cheese is a luscious, soft, fluid paste that still manages to be slightly tacky in your mouth. The paste covers your tongue and melts in your mouth. The flavors are savory with a slight mustard seed note. There are some sweet milky flavors but the lingering taste is woodsy and delicate.
Harbison is an American creation by the Kehler brothers of Jasper Hill Farm. The brothers created this soft, bloomy rind cheese, wrapped in Vermont birch bark, and named it after the town's "grandmother," Anne Harbison. The Kehlers met Anne Harbison during their youth when they would visit Greensboro for the summer. Years later, and all grown up, the brothers both returned to Vermont with their families in tow to open Jasper Hill Farm. Their herd is made up of Ayrshire cows, known for producing milk high in protein and fat. The milk is also very consistent and clean tasting. The herd grazes on fresh grasses during the warm months and local hay during cold, harsh months. Their favorite music is jazz and classical.
With their farm prospering, the Kehler brothers decided that they could do more for their community. Vermont is a very special place and Vermonters have created a mindset and vocabulary to discuss their state’s prosperity, which they call "the working landscape." That means keeping farms hugging roads and rivers, keeping towns small without sprawl, and keeping the mountains filled with many types of trees. In order to accomplish this, those farms need to be working farms. That’s where the Kehler brothers come in. They want to help current dairy farmers and local cheesemakers maintain their rural lifestyle.
To do this, the Kehlers created the Cellars at Jasper Hill. The Cellars is an aging facility that offers small cheesemakers a place to age their cheese and a way to get their cheese to market. I've mentioned two cheeses from the Cellars in previous posts: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and Landaff.
Harbison, with its earthy aroma, would pair wonderfully with a simple salt and pepper salami like Creminelli’s Milano and a crusty baguette. I would choose a warmer winter beer like Odell’s Isolation Ale or, for a hoppier note, Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale.
How does cheese factor into your holiday celebrations? What are some of your favorite pairings?
Have you tasted Harbison? Come in and try it with me!
Like this post? See Annie's selection from last week: Colston Bassett Stilton.
Annie is a Specialty team member at Whole Foods Market Pearl. She is known to travel with a stash of "emergency" cheese in her purse and glove compartment.