Monday, March 10, 2008

The Cheese Doldrums

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

So, another week has dawned! And brighter it will be thanks to good old daylight savings time. In the world of American farmstead cheese, the old light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter too. Allow me to explain:

At Saxelby Cheesemongers, the months of February and March are what I like to call the cheese doldrums, because the selection of cheeses available to us seriously dwindles as we try to shake off the last vestiges of winter. And the doldrums don't apply just to cheese. It's exactly the same scenario as walking around the farmers' market and seeing the same old stalwart selection of turnips and apples and cabbages that have been there since November. Right now at the cheese shop we are up to our ears in aged cows' milk cheese (the dairy equivalent of turnips at the market), but have a very paltry selection indeed when it comes to fresh cheese, especially of the sheep and goat persuasion. Now, it's not because the farmers are lazy, or depressed by the seemingly never ending string of cold wintry weather. In the wintertime, veggies don't grow in the ground, and cows (to some extent) and sheep and goats (to a larger extent) don't make much in the way of milk. Traditionally, cows, sheep, and goats are pregnant and dry (i.e. not producing milk) all winter long, and have their young ones and begin to produce milk again in the springtime. It's just nature's way of giving the animals a break, or a little maternity leave if you will.

However, all that down time on the farm is about to come to a screeching, baa-ing halt! As I write, thousands upon thousands of kids and lambs are being born in barns across the northeast and across the country. This kidding and lambing extravaganza is a noisy but joyous harbinger of spring, and also of good cheeses to come. When the kids and lambs come, so does the milk, and our cheese makers are at the ready to turn it into some scrumptious and delectable fromage. So, in the next few weeks we have a lot to look forward to. Keep an eye out for new fresh cheeses, blooming like crocuses at the cheese shop. They're just the thing to wake up your wintry palate and point it towards warmer weather and good, sweet, green springtime fare!

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