NORTH CAROLINA is getting cheesier and cheesier.
Over the past couple of decades, our tastes have
expanded from Monterey Jack and cheddar to include
the delights of stinky, nutty, and moldy cheese. Terms
like washed-rind, alpine and mold-ripened have started to creep
into our lexicon.
With a growing number of small artisanal, farmhouse operations,
the region is occupying an ever-increasing slice of cheese counter
space across the country.
Not only do consumers know where the milk comes from, but
they can rest assured that the cows and goats are selected, nurtured,
fed, and cared for to produce the best possible milk for cheese. The
29 stops on the North Carolina Cheese Trail link a group of North
Carolina cheesemakers and cheesemongers from the mountains to
the piedmont who joined together to promote artisan cheesemak-ing
in the state. Each member creates different products, carving a
niche and gathering a loyal following along the way.
According to an ancient legend, an Arabian merchant acciden-tally
created cheese when he put his milk into a pouch made from
a sheep’s stomach and set out on a journey across the desert. The
rennet in the lining of the pouch, combined with the heat of the
sun, caused the milk to separate into curds and whey. That night
he found that the whey satisfied his thirst, and the curd satisfied his
Cheesemaking became an ancient artisanal skill, passed down
through generations. It’s a complicated business, demanding an
understanding of history and tradition as well as precise microbiol-ogy
and biochemistry, fiddling with pH meters, hygrometers and
salinometers. Artisan cheesemakers bring a level of obsessiveness
and a love of each step involved.
WBM october 2018