Stickney Hill Dairy Blueberry and Cranberry Chevres

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Cheese fanatics tend to object to novelty cheeses — mixed milks, newly minted styles, processed cheese, and fruit-covered or fruit-laden cheeses all appearing on the laundry list of sins. That attitude isn’t wholly ridiculous. If the cheese is good enough to stand on its own, why not let it stand on its own? For whose sake are you tampering with or diverging from traditional recipes? In short, if you can do it simple and do it right, why veer off the straight and narrow?

Becca Dilley / The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin

The cynical answer is that there is market demand for novelty, and market demand for cheese that can be served as an appetizer without much (or any) slicing or pairing required. The open-hearted answer is that, with a deft touch, you can create novel forms of cheeses that are, quite simply, delicious. While touring Wisconsin to write The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin, we found some back-country cheese spreads that were downright delicious, and met a master cheesemaker (Kerry Henning, above) who had worked for years to thoughtfully introduce fruit to cheese without creating a syrupy mess, and had succeeded.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

So when Rockville, Minn.-based Stickney Hill Dairy sent us a batch of their cheese, it was the novelty stuff — two 4-ounce logs of chevre rolled in bits of fruit — that immediately caught our eye. The chevre itself is clean, simple, light, and pure, an ideal vehicle for the fruit riding on its exterior.

We were crazy about the wild blueberry chevre, which had all the tartness, sweetness, and funk of those exotic little berries, plus the moderating mellowness of chevre.

The cranberry log was also good, but a little less complex. It was a fairly straightforward push-and-pull between sweet and tart. Either log, sliced up and served on bread or toast (or, say, stuffed into a date and wrapped in bacon), will get the job done. If you spot this stuff at the co-op or the supermarket, ignore the purists. Grab a log or two of good, locally made cheese, and indulge.

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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