Washed rind cheeses began as a style of monastic cheese making in Alsace, France, centuries ago. This style of cheesemaking involves repeated washing with diluted brines and cider, beer, spirits, or wine to cultivate bacteria on the surface of the cheese, giving it a distinctive flavor as it matures. The results can be extremely pungent, smear-ripened styles, like the Burgundian Epoisses whose red, stinky rind barely contains the creamy paste inside, or harder, firmer styles like Hartwell (above) where the bacteria is more restricted through washings and brushings. Cheesemakers often collaborate with local craft beverage makers to create unique regional styles. Aging caves can also be used by creative affineurs, or cheese aging specialists, to develop a signature brand or specialty cheese. Here are a few decadent cider-washed favorites that pair well with the Hudson Valley’s diverse cider and apple spirit offerings.
Photo: The Cellars at Jasper Hills Farms
Murray’s Cavemaster Reserve Greensward
The result of a collaboration between NYC’s Murray’s Cheese and The Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont, Murray’s Cavemaster Reserve Greensward features a wash of cider-based brine with just the right amount of cave aging to achieve an oozy, silky texture. Its spruce wrap lends subtle hints of pine and resin. Big and meaty.
Slightly funky natural style ciders or an unaged Applejack can stand up to the cheese’s unusual pine notes.
Gatekeeper is a washed-rind triple creme made with pasteurized sheep’s milk, cow’s milk, and cow cream from the Hudson Valley’s Old Chatham Sheepherding Company. At just a few days old, the baby cheese makes its way to Crown Finish Caves in Brooklyn where it’s washed in Graft Cider’s funky Farm Flor three times during its two-week stay.
Sparkling ciders and apple brandies balance the salty, fruity, and yeasty cheese flavor.
Hartwell is a bloomy-rind style cheese from The Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm inspired by the soft cheeses of Brittany. Washed with Ice Cider lees from a nearby cidery, its flavors start out custard-like and approachable becoming more complex as it softens. Aromas of butter-softened leeks with crisp apple nuances. Find it only at Whole Foods.
Dry to off-dry sparkling ciders complement the fruity aromas of the cider wash; for a sweeter finish, try a Pommeau.