The Cheesemonger: Great Hill Blue
Name: Great Hill Blue
Producer: Great Hill Dairy (Marion, Massachusetts)
Milk: Raw Cow's Milk
Age: 4 months+
Unpasteurized, unhomogenized and, as an orange juice company put it, "simply unfooled around with". These phrases describe the ideals Great Hill Dairy employs when producing their lone cheese, Great Hill Blue. Located near Boston, in Marion, Massachusetts, they are one of a growing segment of Massachusetts cheesemakers. Great Hill was previously a dairy farm, but is strictly in the business of making cheese. They source their milk from nearby farmers, using a mix of Jersey and Holstein.
Though Tim Stone, the owner of Great Hill Dairy, had been at the farm for years prior, it wasn't until a year after a sale of their cows, in 1996, that he began making cheese. The choice in doing a blue cheese was a very direct and intentional one, the result of research into what the buying public (and restaurants) were looking for. His inexperience didn't seem to hurt them. In just three years, Great Hill had already won first place in the blue category, from the American Cheese Society.
Perhaps one of the most unique things about Great Hill Blue is the smell. The combination of the salty, high quality milk and a slight toasted odor reminds me almost instantly of Ritz crackers. Tasting the cheese, the first adjectives that hit my tongue are dry and salty, with a flavor not unlike Bulgarian feta. As it works its way on my palate, I get a lot of butter flavors. Strangely, I find the bite to be more acidic with less of that funky-moldy blue twang. That said, this cheese is oddly addictive, and I find myself munching on it continuously while writing this article. Its texture is firm and crumbly, making it perfect for sprinkling on a salad or serving with a blue cheese's best friend, roasted beets.
Normally, when pairing a blue, sweeter or even fortified wines are the easy go-to. With Great Hill Blue, there's such a buttery flavor, I find myself wanting to cut through it with something a little cleaner and crisper. A dry white with notes of melon would be excellent, as would a bottle of hard cider (the French style that is more akin to wine, not the sweet American stuff).
Great Hill Blue is available at the newly opened Brooklyn specialty store, Grab (located at 438 7th Avenue) for $15.95/lb. Artisanal carries it for $17.75/lb. Online, iGourmet stocks it for $13.99/lb.