Disclosure: Because I did some volunteer work for the San Francisco Cheesemonger Invitational, Adam and Ashley kindly sent me a box of cheese as a thank you. In the box were Taleggio, Alp Blossom and Challerhocker. I had sampled Challerhocker in the “perfect bites” at the 2016 NYC CMI, but this was my first time tasting it naked.
A little background:
From 1914 to 1999, the Swiss Cheese Union served as a marketing organization to control cheese production and trade. Basically, it was your good old-fashioned cartel similar to OPEC. The cartel mandated that only three cheeses could be made: Gruyere, Emmental and Sbrinz and bought the entire production and distribution at prices set by the Swiss Federal Council. While it guaranteed steady income for the cheesemakers, it stifled creativity; killing incentive to develop new cheeses.
After the cartel was disbanded, enter the cheesemakers who had been craving the opportunity to make milk immortal in more than Gruyere, Emmental and Sbrinz (those are lovely cheeses but we all need to step out once in awhile and take a walk on the wilder side). In later years, the cartel allowed the production of Tete de Moine, Appenzeller and Raclette but cheessemakers could not stray far from the cartel pasture.*
Walter Rass, the cheesemaker who created Challerhocker made Appenzeller for the cartel. It was a good gig; guaranteed price for his labor but visions of Challerhocker danced in his head. In 2003, he began making Challerhocker… and the world is a better place for it… well, the cheese world, at least, is a better place.
Rass makes cheese once a day from locally sourced milk, which is not pasteurized. He uses traditional (animal) rennet and ages his wheels ten months, following frequent flipping and washing.
When I opened the wrapping, the aroma of a washed Alpine cheese wafted up; a lot like the smell you get when you dig peanuts. If you’re not from The South, think peanuts covered in dirt. The cheese lexicon would prefer “earthy”, but you get my drift. It’s an aroma I love. It comes from washing the rind; a different finish from your “typical” washed rind which doesn’t have the hard natural rind.
The paste is buttercup yellow, dense and fudgy. The taste is sublime; peanuty, grassy, butterscotchy and finishes smooth on the palate. If I could only eat one cheese for the rest of my life, Challerhocker would be a contender.
The Man and I had it as an evening snack with 34 Degree Crisps and Kelly’s Jelly Blueberry Lemon and Cranberry Vanilla. While both were delightful pairings, the Blueberry Lemon with Challerhocker had The Man swooning. It’s amazing how a high quality cheese doesn’t require as much volume to be thoroughly satisfying.
Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with Brianna and Andrew at Blue Haven Bee Company putting the finishing touches on our Valentine Cheese/Wine/Mead/Honey/Chocolate event next Saturday, February 10th (see below for details).
Every time I visit the Bees, I take along some cheese, 34 Degrees Crisps and Kelly’s Jellies (which you can now buy at Blue Haven). I took part of the Challerhocker and half of the Taleggio (saving the Alp Blossom for just The Man and me – yes, unlike The Man, I believe in sharing… but even I have my limits…) For the crisps I took the Vanilla and Natural, which we will be serving next week and KJ’s Pineapple Jalapeno and Tayberry preserves. We shared with a couple of the customers at the wine bar and Challerhocker was a hit (not to take away from Taleggio but the point of this review is Challerhocker… Taleggio will be in a few days…). Both ladies especially liked the Challerhocker with the Pineapple Jalapeno preserve atop the Vanilla crisp. Later in the afternoon a few of the Lake Hartwell Beekeepers Association members met for a final prep meeting for our upcoming 2/24 beekeepers short course (see below for details). They, too, loved the cheeses.
Finally today, I made mac n cheese using the last of the Challerhocker, combined with some of the Taleggio, a leftover hunk of Mull of Kintyre Mature Scottish Cheddar (sent my way by good friend and Atalanta Salesperson, Denise) and a couple ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano I had grated earlier in the week. I used my basic cheese sauce recipe but doubled up the ratio of cheese to make a spectacular sauce… if I do say so myself. I stay with stove top mac n cheese; scooping it into bowls and topping with 34 Degrees Sesame crisps breadcrumbs mixed with Kerrygold butter. I broiled for four minutes until the breadcrumbs were golden brown. The Man and I both swooned… and there’s plenty of cheese sauce left for more fun recipes.
Were Spaulding Gray still with us, there’s no doubt that he would award Challerhocker 4 Paws!!
Wine, Mead, Honey and Chocolate tasting. 5 cheeses, a baked brie bite, 5 wines and mead plus prosecco, honey, Kelly’s Jelly, local honey roasted pecans, chocolate and a goodie bag. All for $40 per person. Make you reservations by calling 706 245 6586. February 10th at 6pm. Reservations are necessary – filling up fast – don’t miss out!!!
And if you’re interested in keeping bees, join the Lake Hartwell Beekeepers for a one day short course on beekeeping: 8 classes, lunch, raffles, goodie bag and future hive inspections. $50 per person or $75 per couple. Reservation necessary. Please call 706 476 7089 of 404 219 7200 for more information and to reserve your seat.
Finally, our Facebook Cheese Study Group will be offering Mentorships for those taking the Cheese Industry Exam this July in Pittsburgh. We’re looking for CCPs to serve as mentors to make the 2018 the most successful class ever. Please check out details here.