Triple-cream cheeses are the industry’s gateway drug. Who isn’t seduced by all that buttery goodness? Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam, Brillat-Savarin, Explorateur—these luscious creations take cheese to the limits of richness. Pass the walnut bread. But now the triple-cream niche has a new challenger for the butterfat crown. Are you ready for quintuple-cream cheese?
Deer Creek The Blue Jay (above), from Wisconsin, turned up on my radar late last year when I asked merchants to name the year’s supernova—the new or newish cheese that their customers couldn’t resist. James Ayers of Atelier Fine Foods in Napa Valley nominated The Blue Jay, a rindless cow’s milk blue with juniper berries and a label that describes it as a quintuple crème. How could that be?
"It will ripen to the texture of crème brulée,” Ayers told me. I’d been eyeing the cheese in his shop for awhile but the dessert analogy got me. Needless to say, I am smitten. I’ve now served The Blue Jay in a couple of classes, and my students have joined me in the cult. “This would be great with a gin and tonic,” one student volunteered.
Deer Creek is a brand developed by Chris and Julie Gentine, whose main business is exporting American artisan cheese. Carr Valley Cheese, the Wisconsin creamery, makes The Blue Jay but Julie dreamed it up. Julie doesn’t like super-piquant blues; she prefers her blue cheese moist and creamy. She also uses a lot of juniper berries in cooking. “And that’s how we create stuff,” says Chris. “We sit around our kitchen island and talk.”
A French triple-crème cheese, by law, contains a minimum of 75 percent butterfat in the dry matter (the cheese minus its water). But the U.S. has no such laws. Our cheesemakers can call anything a triple-cream, although my sense is that most U.S. creameries honor the French definition.
Chris Gentine, in contrast, considers “quintuple crème” as something of a play on words. Carr Valley’s recipe calls for adding five 10-gallon cans of cream to the cow’s milk—that’s the quintuple. The finished cheese contains roughly 70 to 75 percent butterfat, says Gentine, the same as, or even slightly lower than, a traditional triple-cream. Mt. Tam is 75 percent butterfat in the dry matter.
Matured for three to four months, the six-pound Blue Jay is yummy—there’s no other word for it. It reminds me of Gorgonzola Dolce but is even more mellow and moist, with just enough juniper to be intriguing. You are going to love it. A silky dessert wine, such as an amontillado or oloroso sherry, is its perfect companion.
But here’s what I’m debating: Is “quintuple crème” legitimate poetic license, or is it a misleading term that doesn’t belong on the label? Your thoughts, please, using the Comments field below.
Cheese Class: Cow, Goat, Sheep
Thursday, August 16
5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Trefethen Family Vineyards
Cow’s milk is buttery. Goat’s milk is tangy. Sheep’s milk is thick and rich. Working with more than one type of milk allows a cheesemaker to get creative and develop signature recipes that resemble no one else’s. In this class, we’ll taste some stellar examples of two-milk and three-milk blends from the U.S. and beyond and see if we can detect the contribution of each milk type. Reserve>