The last 150 years of Upper Midwestern cheesemaking have yielded a cornucopia of firm or semi-firm cow’s milk cheeses — cheeses like cheddars, goudas, butterkases, parmesans, and Wisconsin originals like Colby and brick. But aside from (the now nearly extinct) Limburger and some extremely Americanized brie, washed rind and blooming rind cheeses have been reasonably scarce – ditto goat’s and sheep’s milk cheese, which are square pegs in the round hole of the cow-milk optimized dairy industry.
But over the past decade, the local market is has begun to fill up with some exciting new contenders, from Alemar‘s excellent Bent River Camembert-style cheese to Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands to Hidden Falls from Shepherd’s Way Farms. Belmont, Wisconsin’s Montchevre has also thrown a splashy new taste onto the board: 4-oz. logs of Blueberry Vanilla Goat Cheese ($4.59 at Seward Co-op).
This isn’t a snack for the cheese purist. Decades of cheese companies adulterating second-rate cheese with sweet ingredients and fruity flavors have rightfully led to a great deal of skepticism about whether cheese can be tampered with without becoming a perverted abomination.
But this stuff works, at least as a novel way to kick off (or end) a meal. The “blueberry” component of the cheese isn’t a chemical or a flavored syrup — it’s a coating of wild blueberries that are rich in flavor and as delightfully pungent as they are sweet. And the vanilla component is derived from a bourbon / vanilla bean extract. The result is a coating that is convincingly fruit-kissed and flavorful without being candylike, the blueberry layer playing nicely off of the tangy bite of the goat cheese beneath. It’s a pleasing package, and it was good enough to win a blue ribbon for Best Flavored Goat Milk Cheese at this year’s World Championship Cheese Contest.
Those who find the unholy union of fruit and cheese distasteful have other options from Montchevre, including the company’s 4.4-oz. Mini Cabrie of goat’s milk brie ($5.29), which has a clean, stark white appearance (goats don’t store carotene in their systems like cows do), a beautifully runny texture, and a mild, mellow flavor with only a hint of goaty pungency and bite.