Tuesday, April 20, 2010


New Jersey and cheese? I never thought I’d put the two together, but then my friend Albert (of Messy & Picky fame) texted me about Maidenhead. I saw the pics on his blog – here was a cheese that looked like a rusty wicker basket – and I got very excited. When I heard it was washed in Flying Fish beer, I lost my shizzy.

Maidenhead has a cool story – it’s made on a sustainable farm, called Cherry Grove, in Lawrenceville, NJ where the cheese facility is run solely on a wood fire supplied by brush from local tree surgeons. This is a true farmstead cheese, which means that the maker uses milk from his own animals, not from other sources. It’s both organic and raw. Rah rah rah to that -- I love the depth of flavor that you get in unpasteurized cheese.

Let it be known that I took this cheese to my Food Writing class this week, as a bonus tasting – they have been very brave (last week they sampled Purple Haze, Parm, and a raw whiskey-blue) – and at least one of them could not handle the stink. Maidenhead smells like a cow stall, true, but it’s just delicious.

Imagine eating a chicken leg on a tire swing, and you’ve got the flavor notes. There’s a strong rubbery, gamey taste, initially – which sounds awful, I realize – but then it mellows, filling your mouth with sublime avocado. Wild. It’s a long-lasting, quasi-exotic ride – a little bit farmy, a little bit Costa Rica.

Cherry Grove makes about 7 cheeses, including an arrestingly salty blue, called Shippetauken, and a buttery Piedmont-style washed-rind cheese that melts like a dream, Toma Primavera.

I have a little crush on Cherry Grove Farm, not just because it has a purdy website but because it's so welcoming to strangers – there are tours and a farm stand. One blue-sky day, I will wend my way over the PA line to buy a wedge of Buttercup Brie and some free-range pork. Mmmm, I smell a farmstead breakfast sandwich.


  1. Any chance I could get in on this field trip to Cherry Grove Farm? Sounds amazing!

  2. The food writing is really showing - very visceral description, and now I want to try that cheese.

    I'm thinking that this summer I shall try my hand at making my own cheese. Do you know of a local place for the bacteria, cultures, and rennet or should I mail order?

  3. Livia, let me consult the cheese gods and get back to you. I don't know if there's a House of Rennet in PA, but I'll ask. I've met several people in the city who make cheese in their basements, so there may be an underground means of procurement.

  4. Livia, try http://www.cheesemaking.com/ -- this is the regional supplier for a number of cheesemakers in the Northeast. Rikki Carroll, who runs Northeast Cheesemaking Supply Co., is very hands on and can answer questions. I've never met her, but I've read about her in numerous sources, and she sounds grand. Good luck, and let me know how your first cheese-making endeavor goes.

  5. Glad I found your interesting and well-written blog. Look forward to following you here. Cheers!

  6. Livia/Madame,
    Ricotta is an easy entry way to delicious "kitchen sink" cheese. All the "special"items you need are a thermometer, cheesecloth, citric acid (i.e. either a lil white vinigar, white balsamic or cider vinegar or you order the powder form), and farmFRESH milk. Their are a great many recipes online, but consider non seriously that have you taking the milk over 180 or adding a large amount of the acid. You only want the acid to do it's job, not provide a flavor profile. And salt to taste of course.
    mhmm, think i might have to go make some ricotta soon now that i recommended it I'm hungry.

  7. Great to know, PKK. Maybe we can have an online ricotta-off. Do you use raw milk?

  8. "Imagine eating a chicken leg on a tire swing" is such a fantastic line to divide the world in two: those for whom this taste-imagery sounds divine (cheese lovers); and all the normal people.

    And for Paul: