Jersey Blue: A tale of cheese (and sports)
No one would have ever said I was an athletic child. As an asthma sufferer who grew up during the eighties, I belonged to the group of kids that was encouraged to sit on the sidelines, put on a leotard instead of knee guards and sneakers, and by all means, walk instead of run. At that time, a large sector of the medical profession was convinced that as soon as asthmatic child's heartbeat even considered rising above a very, very quiet sitting rate, the child would be in grave danger of having asthma attack immediately. So with an inhaler in my pocket, I grew up hanging out on the outskirts of the playground at lunch time (after I used my nebulizer every day in the nurse's room of course), watching others play dodgeball.
When accounting for my complete inability to dodge a round object, my lack of hand-eye coordination, my tendency to run into things, and my slow lap time, I point to this period in my life. It's possible that it's not related, but I'm hopeful.
With all this in mind, it's probably clear why I fell in love with blue cheese. Finding my classmates unimpressed by the way I could power-read for three hours straight in library corners, and without a way to prove my prowess through brute physical strength or athletic ability, I needed a way to prove my bad-ass-ery. I proved my strength through food. In the cheese world, blues were a measure of my fierceness.
Everyone could run faster than me. But no one, no one, could eat more blue cheese than me. Or stronger blue cheese. I think I even put it on a peanut butter sandwich once. Blue cheese dressing was always my salad topper of choice. Gorgonzola and Roquefort went on everything I could put it on. I couldn't run around two blocks, but I could crumble the hell out of a wedge of Stilton in an era when "sharp" Cheddar was considered an acquired taste.
It is through this attempt to prove that I had a vein of fierceness in my body that I fell in love with blue cheese. I love all sorts of blue cheese. The strong ones (I often will pair them with dried figs or honey- I admit, I'm a bit pansified now), the soft ones (solo), please, and the weird ones.
Today I still always have a wedge of blue at home. My most recent blue discovery? Jersey Blue.
Imported by the awesome Swiss cheese importer Caroline Hostettler, Jersey Blue is made in the Valais region of Switzerland by Willi Schmid. Willi Schmid, in case you don't know (don't worry, I haven't met him either), is a Swiss wondercheesemaker that's been turning heads in the country that used to be only celebrated for cheese with big holes. After Switzerland stopped rewarding mass market cheese producers with heavier subsidies, artisan cheese makers like Schmid have been freer to create, and compete in the market.
The buttery, creamy flavors and color of Jersey Blue is thanks to it being made with raw, Jersey, cow's milk. It has light veining, and the rind often acquires a wrinkled texture not unlike La Tur or Rochetta that, after sitting in a cheese fridge covered with foil for a bit, acquires quite a punch. Too feisty for you? Cut off the rind. Overall this is a rich, sweet blue that is fantastic for beginners and vein-lovers alike. I'm fond of it in thick slices, or, crumbled in a salad like the Fava, Sweet Pea & Blue Cheese Spring Salad.
And don't think less of me, but I wouldn't eat it on a peanut butter sandwich anymore.