Friday, October 31, 2008
CLEMSON BLUE CHEESE: MEASURED BY EYE, CUT BY HAND
Somewhere in my reading, I came across mention of Clemson Blue Cheese, a artisanal blue cheese manufactured by Clemson University students and professors. I made a mental note to procure some when stopping to visit my friends Carol and Paul in Walhalla, SC. This September, I was finally successful in bringing some home in a cooler and was pleasantly surprised in the taste and quality of the cheese.
For me, blue cheese is tasty but a bit on the sharp, salty, and bitter side for me to have often. Clemson Blue Cheese, on the other hand, is smooth as silk, tangy and is the obverse of most blue cheeses that have left me less than satisfied.
In the early 40's, an imaginative agriculture professor at Clemson came up with an idea to use a railroad tunnel under Stumphouse Mountain to cure cheese. The tunnel had been started and stopped before the Civil War as a means of connecting Charleston ports with the markets of the mid-West. The tunnel, naturally moist from infusions of warm surface air into the cool confines of the tunnel was ideal for curing blue cheese.
Agricultural researchers began small-lot manufacture to experiment with the concept of using milk from Brown Swiss and Holstein Clemson dairy herds to produce and cure blue cheese. Later, after their techniques were perfected, all manufacture was done on campus and curing was moved on-campus into air-conditioned rooms that mimiced the cool, moist air of the tunnel.
This "roquefort-style" blue cheese is tangy and smooth and an absolute delight. It is produced in 288 gallon vats making batches of 240 pounds each which are then salted, waxed and aged for over 6 months. The cheese is then "measured by eye and cut by hand" so that each wheel will vary slightly in weight and size. Because it is an artisanal cheese made in small batches, each lot of cheese may vary slightly in color and taste.
I highly recommend that you try this cheese. Their production is understandably limited so the availability in that part of South Carolina will vary, but Clemson Blue Cheese can be found served on campus and in a number of local restaurants. The cheese is also available on-line at http://www.clemsonbluecheese.com/. It is not cheap, but it is hand-made, hand-cut, and delicious to anyone's palatte. Order some. You won't regret it.
Bon appetit, ya'll.
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