It has taken awhile, but it finally seems like spring has come to stay here in Pennsylvania. Spring is exciting for many reasons – the return of baseball, picnics in the park and of course, fresh local produce. If you’re anything like us, you wait anxiously all winter for spring to come and turn into summer so you can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables.
Did you know that cheeses are seasonal like other crops? Just as produce has certain variables that must fall into place in order to be at its peak, so too do cheeses. Patience and finesse are not the only characteristics a cheese-maker must possess to make a delicious cheese. The quality and flavor of a cheese has a lot to do with Mother Nature.
The term “terrior” has generally been used to describe the special characteristics that geography and climate give to wines, but nowadays, it is also being used for cheese. “Terrior” comes from the French word terre, or land, and explains why certain cheeses are native to certain places. Take for example, cheddar cheese. Real cheddar was first created in Cheddar, England, where the proper conditions exist to make this cheese that is so popular around the globe. The flavor of cheese is very dependent on the environment where it was made. The type of animal’s milk, the grasses and feed those animals eat, and the climate of the area all play a huge role in the quality and taste of cheese.
Not only does terrior explain why certain cheeses are only local in particular places, but it also explains why a specific type of cheese can be one color in the winter and another in the summer. Some of our cow’s milk cheeses are yellow over the summer and much paler in the winter months. This is because in the winter the cows eat fodder which lacks the carotene present in grass. When the cow’s return to pasture in the spring, they are able to feed on grass and the carotene in the grass turns the cheese yellow and rich.
Enjoying local food means appreciating freshness and respecting that not all foods are available year round. While it is disappointing to not be able to enjoy a fresh, juicy peach in December, it makes summer much more special. Our Royer Mountain Alpine cheese, Galen’s Good Ole, Tomme de Harvest and blue cheeses all rely on the milk of cow’s that graze on grass, and therefore are only made from April to October.
Fresh food is delicious food. Buy local and seasonal products – you won’t be disappointed (until they go out of season, that is!).