We had so much fun last Thursday at the Meadow Creek Dairy cheese tasting class, where we tasted and learned all about cheese with Kat, whose family owns and runs Meadow Creek Dairy! They’re a dairy-making farmstead located in Galax, Virginia, set high in the Appalachian Mountains. With a little time and a lot of management, their mountains have become a haven for sturdy, diverse perennial pastures. Each of their cheeses has its own original recipe and specialized process; because of their seasonal raw milk, no two cheeses are the same!
Every cheese has a time of year when it is at its best, depending on grass quality, grazing patterns, and many more variables. Cheese is made anytime from April to November, when cows are out grazing on the grass. When grass growth is high, so is milk production, which means they can make their delicious cheese!
Cows have variations in milk composition following the seasons, which is reflected in the cheeses. During the summer, it’s the breeding season. In the fall, from September to November, milk production and grass growth slow down. In the winter, cows’ milk production stops, and they begin to have a feed diet. There is no milking or cheesemaking done in the winter. In the spring, all the calves are born, and the milk production starts again.
We were thrilled to partner with Meadow Creek Dairy and curate a cheese bundle, specially for the class! We had three cheeses to taste: the Grayson, the Extra-Aged Appalachian, and the Appalachian. The first cheese we tried was the Grayson, which is the classic example of a washed-rind cheese. It has a renowned reddish-orange rind and a golden paste, and is made from raw cow’s milk! The texture of this cheese is supple and fudgy, becoming silky as it gets warmer. There is a rich, beefy taste which is slightly sweet, with grassy, nutty notes and a solid earthy undertone.
The second cheese we taste-tested was the Extra-Aged Appalachian. Also made from raw cow’s milk, this cheese has to be aged for at least eight months in the Meadow Creek Dairy cellars. It is an extra-aged version of their original Appalachian recipe. This cheese is lush and fruity, with overtones of toasted butter and mushroom earthiness. When you taste it, you can taste the intensity of the cellars, and a tangy, smooth finish! The texture of this cheese is firm but velvety, melting right on the tongue!
Lastly, we had the pleasure to try out the original Appalachian cheese. This is their original recipe, which has to be aged for four months in their cellars. It is a lush, vibrant cheese that has cream and butter tastes, with a mushroom earthiness that recalls the cellars. It has lemon notes which shade to toasted as the cheese ages. The texture is the same as the Extra-Aged Appalachian: velvety and melts on the tongue.
Thank you again to Kat, who generously took the time out of her day to help us learn more about cheeses and their seasonality. It was so much fun taste-testing with everyone, and we hope that we can do another class soon!
About Seasonal Roots
Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our neighborhood market managers – who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grass fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.