Sunday, June 7, 2020

Cheese Tasting Event

Jasper Hill Farm held a virtual cheese tasting event on June 4. It was terrific! Cheesemaker Mateo Kehler and scientists Dr. Rachel Dutton and Dr. Ben Wolfe talked about the art and science of cheese, especially the five delicious cheeses in the tasting kit:
  • Moses Sleeper
  • Willoughby
  • Highlander
  • Landaff
  • Bayley Hazen Blue
Mateo was broadcasting from the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm where cheese is cave-aged under carefully controlled conditions in underground vaults. He showed us a lot of cheese and some of the aging process (affinage), including a robot for washing, brushing, and turning cheeses. 

Dr. Ben and Dr. Rachel talked about the microbiology of cheese. As Mateo explained:

It's the microbes that really do the hard work of transforming and unlocking the flavor potential of each of these cheeses.

Dr. Ben described the microbial process as "delicious rot."

We learned about the importance of the rind, and three different kinds of rinds:
  • Bloomy rind (inoculate with mold)
  • Washed rind (wash with salt)
  • Natural rind (do very little)
Should you eat the rind? It is definitely edible. Dr. Rachel: "If it's not a wax rind, then you should taste it, because you might like it." Mateo and Dr. Ben strongly agreed! A bloomy rind or a washed rind, especially, will often be delicious and enhance the flavor of the cheese.

There was much more about science and tasting notes. It was a delightful hour and a half. The event was advertised as the first of "an interactive online lecture series." More than 200 people participated in this Zoom presentation. Many participants submitted questions and comments via chat, which enhanced the experience.

The photo below shows the computer and cheese board at our house at the beginning of the event:

Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vermont, was a former dairy farm that brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler and their wives purchased in 1998. They broke ground for the Cellars in 2006. Since then the business has grown significantly and they have won many cheese awards. See their history here.

Dr. Rachel Dutton researches the microbiology of cheese in her laboratory at the University of California San Diego. See The Dutton Lab @ UCSD.

Dr. Ben Wolfe researches the microbiology of cheese and fermented foods in his laboratory at Tufts University in Massachusetts. See The Wolfe Lab @ Tufts University.

The collaboration between the scientists and Jasper Hill Farm is discussed in this article: The kings of artisanal cheese wear lab coats. The Kehler brothers are not only dairy farmers. As cheesemakers, they also farm microbes.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I have connections with some of the people mentioned in this post beyond simply being a cheese consumer. Before I retired at the end of 2016, I got to know Mateo and Andy Kehler through my job at Yankee Farm Credit (link). Completely coincidentally and unrelated to that connection, a few months ago our daughter became a post-doctoral researcher in The Wolfe Lab @ Tufts University (link).

Nevertheless I did not learn about this "interactive online lecture series" through any of those connections. I learned about it because I am on the mailing list for Jasper Hill Farm. Anyone can sign up for that mailing list here (scroll down to "Join the Herd").

Enjoy good cheese!