Mondays in the Facebook Cheese Study Group, I will present cheeses from two styles: Cheddar and Bloomy Rinds. Today I am starting with two of my favorite American Artisan Cheeses that are “Kissing Cousins”: Beecher’s Handmade Flagship and Flagsheep.
(For those taking the ACS CCP Exam®, there are at least three terms or pieces of information that might be on the exam… just sayin’)
In 2008, when my beloved Spaulding Gray and I were creating our cheese blog, SG insisted the first cheese we review be his favorite cheese, Beecher’s No Woman. Whenever I brought No Woman home, Spaulding would literally climb up my leg to get at this cheese. In a conversation with its creator, Kurt Dammeier, we decided it was the beefy taste from the jerk spices that turned Spaulding on.
Soon after that review, Spaulding followed up with his takes on Flagship and Marco Polo. His reviews caught the attention of Kurt and the gang at Beecher’s and to my surprise and delight, an autographed copy of Kurt’s Pure Flavor cookbook arrived at my cheese shop. That kind gesture was the beginning of a lasting friendship. SG interviewed Kurt for one of his “Meet the Cheesemaker” interview series. You can read that 2012 interview here.
Cheddars are like “utility players” in my kitchen. I use cheddar every time I make macaroni and cheese, often combining it with an Alpine-Style cheese to create an extra creamy and flavorful gooey sauce. I grate cheddar into meatloaf, on top of salads, into potato dishes. You’ll usually find two or three cheddars sitting in my fridge and one of them is almost always a triangle wedge of Flagship.
Cheddar has been made in England since at least the 12th Century. It is named after a village in the Somerset region of Southwest England. In the Cheddar Gorge there are numerous cave which served as ideal atmospheres for aging the wheels of cheddar. There is some speculation that the Romans brought the recipe to France from the Cantal region of France. Cantal, the French AOC cheese, is similar to cheddar both in taste profile and production.
The manufacturing of Cheddar includes cheddaring; the unique step in manufacturing used to expel whey by stacking and re-stacking large mats of cheese curds. Acidity is also adjusted during this period as the flavor profile begins to emerge. After cheddaring, the cheese blocks are milled into small curds which are then stuffed into square or cylindrical forms and the aging begins. (This is a simplistic look at the manufacturing process. For a deeper dive into cheddar, I suggest reading Cheddar by Gordon Edgar.)
One of Kurt Dammeier’s earliest cheese memories is of his grandfather (whose last name was Beecher) buying whole wheels of Stilton. From an early age, Kurt was a foodie and interested in the origins and manufacturing of the foods he ate. “Pure Food” was his passion long before he opened his first cheesemaking facility in Pike’s Market in Seattle in 2003. He sourced his milk from a farmer in Duvall, Washington whose herd consisted of Jersey and Holstein cows. Cheese is made at Pike’s Place seven days a week using the fresh milk that the day before was still grass. In 2011, he opened his second facility in the Flatiron District of New York City. Visitors can watch the cheesemaking process at both locations. (In 2010, I had the honor of being a part of the “make” at the Pike’s Place location. Just being in the room while cheese is being made is the ultimate high for a cheese nerd. That day, we made No Woman, a coincidence but especially meaningful since SG’s first review was that cheese.) In 2015, Beecher’s expanded into Wisconsin, purchasing an equity stake in Monroe’s Maple Leaf Cheese . This enables the company to expand their cheesemaking facilities.
Flagship is made using the milk of the Holstein and Jersey herd that is generally pasteurized. Although a raw milk version is made occasionally in smaller batches. The first batch of raw milk Flagship was the result of the pasteurizer going down one day with a vat filled with fresh raw milk. Rather than lose the milk… ta da… raw Flagship was made.
- Flagship is aged a minimum of fifteen months in forty pound blocks.
- Gruyere cultures are added to give Flagship a nuttier flavor profile.
- Beecher’s uses chymosin for coagulation making Flagship vegetarian suitable.
- It pairs well with both red and white wines especially Pouilly Fuisse and Syrah.
- IPAs and Sam Adams Boston Lager also pair well with Flagship.
- Flagship maintains its flavor well when cooked and melts smoothly, making it ideal for sauces.
Flagsheep’s recipe closely follows the Flagship model with the addition of fresh, pasteurized sheep’s milk. This cheese is dense, earthy and fruity with a sweet butterscotch finish.
- Flagsheep won Best of Show at the ACS Competition in 2012.
- This natural rind cheese is clothbound and open-air aged, allowing it to lose about 15% of its moisture during the aging process.
- After being bound in cloth, each truckle is rubbed with butter and then hand-turned on a daily basis during the first two months of aging. After that, each truckle is turned weekly until the Affineur determines that it is ready for the market.
- Flagsheep pairs well with Cabernet Sauvignon or a pilsner.
- This is a cheese that can “Stand Alone”. I would serve it simply drizzled with honey or with crusty bread and olives.
Beecher’s Pure Food Philosophy is to handcraft authentic, full-flavored foods in traditional ways with only the best ingredients. In keeping with their commitment to pure food, Beecher’s contributes 1% of all sales to the Beecher’s Pure Food Kids Foundation, empowering kids to make healthy food choices for life. Beecher’s also contributes to other philanthropic programs including a generous donation to our Cheese Study Group ACS CCP Exam® Scholarship Fund.
As just mentioned, our Facebook Cheese Study Group is raising funds to send worthy ACS CCP exam® candidates and ACS CCPs® who want to attend the 2017 ACS Conference in Denver, Cheese With Altitude. You can apply for a scholarship by clicking here and you can contribute to the scholarship fund by clicking here. All monies raised (withe the exception of the fees charged by GoFundMe) go to the winners of the scholarship. everyone involved in the scholarship efforts is donating their time and receiving NO fees or monetary compensation… just the feeling of helping those who need our help. Complete rules and information can be found here.
All Beecher’s Handmade Cheese Pictures are copyright to and owned by Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and used with permission.