Every fall customers call on the phone to ask one very important question:
"Do you have Vacherin Mont d'Or?"
Every year I give the same answer:
"Unfortunately, sir/ma'am, we don't carry raw milk Vacherin."
I loathe having to give any customer a "no" and so after hanging up with the customer I go into the back of the shop and weep salty tears.
*shakes fist at the ceiling*
"Why isn't there an American made artisan cheese that has the silky, naughty texture of Vacherin Mont d'Or but is more accessible to me and my customers?!"
Finally this year there is a very good representation of the custardy cheese from France (and Switzerland).
Her name is Rush Creek and she's my precious.
To the uninitiated Rush Creek might look a lot like one of my favorite seasonal Vermont cheeses, Winnimere. Lets compare and contrast.
The following are my notes from a side-by-side tasting conducted with both cheesemakers when they came to Chicago in early November.
WINNIMERE: A raw cow milk cheese, belted in spruce bark, washed in beer and seasonally made from autumnal and winter milk*. It weighs about one pound per wheel. Wheels are creamy, though not runny, and have aromas and flavors of smoked bacon, toasted nuts, cured meat and savory flan.
RUSH CREEK: A raw cow milk cheese, belted in spruce bark, brine wash and seasonally made from autumnal and winter milk. It weighs about 3/4 of a pound per wheel. Wheels are uber creamy, runny and gooey like a ready-to-eat fondue. Flavors and aromas of smoky bacon, campfires, custard, sweet milk and a bit wheaty. Perfect for a 9 1/2 Weeks movie re-enactment.
So what is the cheese commonly known as Vacherin Mont d'Or all about and why do people go crazy for it? Although we usually attribute this cheese to France, truth is due to the location of the mountain that the cheese is named for both France and Switzerland make a version of this cheese. The raw milk French cheese is also called Vacherin Du Hauts-Doubs or just Mont d'Or while the pasteurized cheese of Switzerland is usually called Vacherin Mont d'Or.
The cheese is made seasonally. According to AOC regulations set in the 1980's, can only be made from September through early May. She's belted in bark and is a creamy dreamy fondue-esque cheese that people go just gaga for. Or so I've heard. Although I've has pasteurized versions of the cheese I've never had raw milk Vacherin before.
Before Rush Creek came onto the scene people would compare Winnimere to Mont d'Or, but to me it's always been a bit more like the Swiss cheese Forsterkase. Creamy yet solid paste, woodsy aroma, a bit baconish.
For this year, Mateo has changed the consistency of the Winnimere somewhat. It's not as creamy as in previous years. The cheese also looks darker than in previous years, and doesn't have the right funkatude to it. I usually wait for the wheels that arrive in March when I think the funky aromas and creamy mouth feel are at their peak.
No matter which cheese you manage to find in the cheese case, they're all delicious. We're in the best part of the year, WASHED RIND SEASON! Nom nom nom.
*autumn and winter milk has a higher butterfat content and the structure of the milk makes it especially good for making washed rind cheese like Winni, Rush Creek, Forsterkase and Vacherin.
When I promise you an overwhelmingly mediocre video I deliver! This week is Christmas and I'm wondering, what's going to be on your cheese plate?