A few years ago, I walked into Eataly, the Italian food mega-emporium in Manhattan, for lunch and was so overcome by all the choices that I left without eating. Lame, I know, but I’m starting to feel like that at some cheese counters, especially when it comes to Swiss cheeses. I have way too many number-one favorites. And matters just got worse. Jumi, a respected Swiss producer, has recently targeted the U.S. market, and the cheeses are landing. You need to know them: all raw milk, all sublime. Steel yourself for some hard choices.
Après Soleil (above) is one of the new arrivals and it’s beyond delicious: intensely beefy and brown-buttery, with those roasted-onion and meat-broth aromas that make me think of French onion soup. Lots of crystals in this year-old wheel for lovers of the crunchy bits.
Jumi (pronounced YOO-mee) is a 12-year-old enterprise founded by two childhood friends, who christened the company by blending their names, Jürg and Mike. For 85 years, Mike’s family made Emmental, and only Emmental, because the Swiss Cheese Union permitted them to make nothing else. When the Union collapsed in 1999, cheesemakers like Mike’s dad were suddenly free to create whatever they wanted. In less than two decades, these unchained artists have revolutionized the world of Swiss cheese.
Jumi buys milk from about 60 small dairy farmers, all within five miles of the creamery. Most of them deliver the milk twice a day, and it is never refrigerated. The evening milk is cultured and left to ferment overnight, then combined with the following day’s morning milk. This practice would not be legal in the U.S., where milk has to be chilled if it’s transported. Alas, chilling alters milk in ways that are not ideal for cheesemaking.
I’m looking forward to exploring Jumi’s craftsmanship over the next several months, as more cheeses filter into retail shops, but here are some first impressions of the cow’s-milk wheels I have tried:
Cironé: A 14-pounder matured for more than 24 months, it’s similar to Après Soleil but dryer, crunchier, beefier, more concentrated.
Schlossberger Alt: A 65-pound wheel matured for 18 to 23 months; intense sautéed-onion, roasted nut and caramel aromas and plentiful crystals.
Belper Knolle Alt: About the size of a mandarin orange, this tiny ball is seasoned with garlic, coated with black pepper, and aged for almost 4 months, until firm and crumbly. The flavor is strong and slightly sourish; grate on pasta or soup or shave like a truffle.
Look for Jumi cheeses at these retailers nationwide.
Eat Cheese, Drink Pink
Saturday, May 19
25 North Street
1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Time to discover the cheeses that go best with the fresh, crisp, thirst-quenching rosés we love. Please join me for this class, when we'll taste just-released 2017 rosés and the many cheeses that make these refreshing wines shine. Get a jump-start on summer entertaining.