It doesn’t take much more than a quick glimpse at teetering wedge piles in a cheese case to reveal that the artisan cheese market is now very rich. It’s thriving, to put it mildly. And when there are new artisan cheeses released every month and you’re an obsessante who visits the websites of said new creameries and are easily taken with pictures of their beautiful creations and cute animals, sometimes you forget about the glories of the tried and true.
But it only takes a taste to remember.
With one bite, Everona’s Piedmont is a wheel that clarifies why it’s an American classic worthy of being sought out.
Former owner Everona Patricia Elliot was a forebearer of the American artisan cheese scene that we have today. As with many other creamery owners, Elliot started her sheep’s milk creamery not just because she wanted to make delicious cheese, but because she was enamored with animals. Border Collies, that is.
A breeder and advocate of Border Collies, Elliot got her first sheep so her dogs could have something to play with. Tennis balls and chew toys only go so far. Then she decided her sheep needed to earn their keep. Beginning of story.
Elliot traveled to Greece to learn about cheese making in the early nineties. This is pretty rare for cheesemakers in the United States- most head to the Pyrenees to learn about Basque styles or Tuscany to learn the ways of pecorino. It was still rare to milk sheep in the U.S. for cheese too.
Elliot came back, took courses, and started coagulating curds.
My favorite of Everona’s cheeses is Piedmont pictured above. I say this with certainty because besides an even more limited edition cheese she made called “Earthquake,” it’s the only one I’ve had to opportunity to try. Those southerners know a good thing when they’ve got it – they work their way through their small batches of dairy deliciousness very well on their own. It’s rare much of this makes it to California.
Piedmont is semi-soft, a little crumbly, lightly tangy, sweetly funky, and citrusy. Many sheep’s milk cheeses are reported to have a “nutty” flavor. Not so much here. This is a type of high acidity washed-rind cheese that you’d serve on its own or with a bit of sugar, like bourbon preserved cherries or wildflower honey. Or melt it. This, potatoes, cream, and a glass of Pinot would make one hell of a night.
It’s a beautiful cheese and we’re lucky that it has inspired so many artisan cheesemakers.
Since I started writing this post, Everona’s owner, Patricia Elliot passed away. Her influence on the cheese world has been tremendous. I hope you’ve had experience with Everona’s beauties.