Cheese: Natalie in Gray
Who: ShadowBrook’s Farm Dutch Girl Creamery
Where: Lincoln, Nebraska
Milk Type: Goat, pasteurized
Shape: small pyramid/bell
Flavor:goaty, mushroom and barnyard
I first tried Natalie in Gray a couple of years ago on a trip back to my old home state and was eager to give it another go now that the blog is underway.
If my memory serves, the flavors remain consistent since then. As similar ripened cheeses go, Natalie is more barnyardy than most. There’s a little more critter-stink going on here but it’s still a nicely balanced cheese.
It’s a tiny whole cheese, literally just a very few ounces… almost an amuse-bouche.
*A lesson in using your nose and the state of artisan cheese-buying today:
Back in Nebraska this past week on a visit, I procured the cheese at a Whole Foods in Omaha – not a wonderful, cut-to-order cheesemonger but still a nice range of cheeses. Having learned my lesson with ripened cheese the hard way (one too many purchases where I wasn’t picky enough), I asked the monger, “Hey, would you mind if I smelled the cheese before I buy?”
I think he stared at me a full five seconds before he said, “Ummm… what?”
“Smell it.” I replied. “I want to see if it’s spoiled.”
He shrugged and held it across the counter… Yeow. Enough ammonia to make your eyes water. Now, I’m still novice in the ways of cheese but hopefully I can tell when a cheese is absolutely over-ripe by the smell. I explained to the cheesemonger who seemed dubious but nonetheless he let me try another. Same thing. And another… finally on cheese five, a specimen with no ammonia.
And a good thing too… I think the poor guy at Whole Foods was beginning to wonder if this guy just came to smell cheese. Thankfully a coworker arrived who knew more about cheese and quickly agreed that they had gone on to whatever heaven or hell cheese trundle off to when they are past.
They let me have one of the over-ripe Natalie’s (yeah – that sounds weird to me too – <grin> ) and I headed out with a healthy specimen.
Sure enough, trying the spoiled goat, not only was it redolent with ammonia, it was overpoweringly salty, both common traits to overripe cheeses.
As you develop your own tastes for artisanal and farmstead cheese, work also to develop knowing when a cheese looks, smells and tastes too young or too old. After all- you wouldn’t buy sour milk, right? Ask your cheesemonger to help you. And give them feedback too, you’ll be helping improve the selections for the future.