Now here’s an American original with a recent tragic past, renewed through one of America’s premier cheesemakers and agers while the original cheesemaker goes through renewal of her own.
Willoughby, a stinky little 8oz washed rind cheese from the Cellars at Jasper Hill was originally crafted by Marisa Mauro at Ploughgate Creamery in Waitsfield, Vermont. That is, until a devastating fire in 2011 closed the
creamery down. Marisa had already been aging the cheese at Cellars at Jasper Hill, where a number of America’s best cheeses originate; it was perhaps only logical that she sell them the recipe so they could continue the cheese.
Fortunately for Marisa, things are looking up. Last Fall she was selected by the Vermont Land Trust to be the sole farmer at the restoration and preservation of Bragg farm in Fayston where she’ll tend a small herd of cattle and raise pigs, and make artisan butter. Lots of artisan butter.
So here then is Willoughby crafted by new hands.
Handing off a cheese recipe is no simple matter. Sure, there are instructions but change the milk, the feed, the land, the water, the climate, the very maker, and you are bound to get a different cheese than Mauro’s original.
And so it is.
Different. And tasty still.
And for a great example of what aging can do to a soft ripened cheese look to Janet Fletcher, the great food writer, especially of cheese for the San Francisco Chronicle who reviewed Willoughby just a few weeks ago. Take a gander. Compare the picture of hers and look again at mine. Certainly mine is, at the most simple, more ripe. And maybe that’s it but it appears her description of crunchy rind and the look of the paste, the color… that’s a significantly different cheese at that younger state. Maybe the recipe changed from hers to mine? Hey, everybody gets saggy as they get older.
If you prefer a younger or older version, be sure your cheesemonger helps you select for consistency.
Nothing crunchy about this rind. It very tacky, very thin and quite Pepé Le Pew stinky. The odor blows off (mostly) after sitting out but there’s plenty of whew! on this one. Bacteria-washed stinky cheeses aren’t my favorites as I’ve often said before, but Willoughby has enough richness, boiled nuts, ham/cooked pork, savory depth that, paired with bread or crackers with a little counterpoint sweetness, makes for a tasty plate. It’s more like an oozy Camembert in texture… and there is this “fresh corn” taste that I get across many of their cheeses from Alpha Tolman to Bayley Hazen to Winnimere. Terroir anyone?
WHO: Jasper Hill
Where: Greensboro, VT
Milk Type: cow (pasteurized)
Shape: 1/2lb round
Tasting notes: cooked pork, savory, butter, boiled peanuts