Friday, November 16, 2012

Mt. Tam-alicious!

As we get closer to Thanksgiving I'm thinking more and more about what cheeses are the biggest crowd-pleasers. I'm almost embarrassed that I haven't talked about this cheese yet in my blog, but I am rectifying that now...

That's right, it's the one, the only... Mt Tam! This is the signature cheese from Cowgirl Creamery - a wonderful creamery located in Sonoma County, CA - named after the gorgeous Mt Tamalpais. This cheese is a delectable triple cream, bloomy rind cheese that is 100% organic made from the organic cow's milk from Straus Family Dairy also located in Sonoma County.

The cheesemakers use both Penicillium camemberti and Geotrichum to create a really super thin rind that adds a little bit of a mushroomy flavor but doesn't have the bitterness of most other bloomy rind rinds. They designed this cheese to ripen and create a gooeyness close to the rind, but made it so the middle maintained a bit of firmness which doesn't become as soft as the outer edges of the cheese. I really like this because it gives the cheese some texture and body. You get the decadence of the creamy, buttery outer edges while still tasting the firmer lactic paste of the middle. This cheese is great with fruits like apples, pears, grapes or - my favorite - covered in Amarena cherries in heavy syrup... yum! I also really like having the Mt Tam with a nice, dry sparkling wine. The bubbles really help balance out the decadent creaminess of the cheese. 

Last month I had the privilege of taking a tour of the Cowgirl Creamery plant in Petaluma, CA. This was such a treat! Check out some of my pictures...

This is a picture of the cheesemakers putting the curds into the forms. The big steel drums at the top are where they put the milk and separate the curds and the whey. The hose that you see coming out of the bottom of the steel drum is how they get the curds into the forms. By using gravity they are being really gentle with the curds and not breaking them up to create a much creamier, more delicious cheese. Once the curds are in the forms they let them sit and drain out more whey under their own weight and then they add more curds and repeat the cycle under the forms are filled to their liking. 

This is a picture of the Mt Tams after they have come out of there forms. The picture doesn't really do it justice, but the rack on the right is Mt Tams that have not started to develop the bloomy rind, the middle rack has Mt Tams with a little bit of rind development and the rack on the left has the most rind development and are almost ready to be wrapped.

This is virtually the same picture, but if you look at the doorway behind these racks, you can see more cheeses in there. Those are the aging rooms where the Mt Tams sit and develop their rinds. Once the rinds are developed to the specifications of the cheesemaker, they move on through that red door to be wrapped individually (by hand!) and shipped. 

I had such a great time at during this tour and I recommend it to everyone. One thing to note is that you have to make a reservation beforehand, but believe me, it is such a blast! 

We carry the Mt Tam in my cheese case year round, so if you are ever in the mood for a nice creamy cheese, this is always a hit! 

I've also been asked to post a picture of myself so that if you are ever in my store, you can recognize me and ask me all your cheesy questions. I really don't like taking pictures much, but I had my picture taken today after the cheese plate building class I taught and figured I would share it... here goes...

So now that you know what I look like, feel free to track me down whenever you are at my store and I'll answer any questions you may have.

I hope to see you all soon, but until then, eat, drink and be happy!

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