2012 American Cheese Month 31 Cheeses in 31 Days: Day Twenty-four: Mt. Tam
Cheese: Mt. Tam
Who: Cowgirl Creamery
Website: Cowgirl Creamery
Where: Pt. Reyes, California
Milk Type: cow, pasteurized
Shape: 10oz round
Flavor: cream, fresh butter, slightly of sweet grass
Multiple Award Winner
Mt. Tam is now the signature cheese for Cowgirl Creamery and is only getting better. Last Spring at the Cheese School, Maureen Cunnie, maker of Mt. Tam presented us with Tam of various ages including what must have been a perfectly ripe example. The Tam I had had previously was younger and rather bland- Maureen’s cheese that day was illuminating and transformational. It demonstrated the fine line a cheese can walk between good and bad. It also help set my compass for what “just right” should be with this cheese. Fortunately, this particular Mt. Tam was spot on: rich, just-so softness, a thick and pleasing triple cream cheese more like eating a lightly savory, room temperature ice cream.
Knowing ripeness for soft, mold-ripened, fresh and geotrichum aka “brainy rind” cheese can be a challenge, especially when secluded in its wrapper such as Mt. Tam or any of Cowgirl’s cheeses. Allowing that it was optimally shipped and stored, this cheese should be perfect at about five weeks. Ask your cheesemonger how old the cheese is before you buy. Until you cut into it, it will continue to ripen. Smell ammonia? It’s not always a warning sign, but, if after bringing up to room temp that smell is still prevalent- the cheese has probably gone south. If it is especially salty, that’s another warning sign.
About the founders:
In 1997, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith opened Cowgirl Creamery in Pt. Reyes Station, a picturesque postage-stamp-of-a-town on the coast about an hour north of San Francisco. They started with an old barn, made it beautiful, put in a small plant for making hand-crafted cheese, bought organic milk from the neighbor, Straus Family Creamery… and before long the world found them! From the beginning, they wanted to make delicious, artisan cheese, to be environmentally responsible, and they also wanted to support their cheesemaking friends in being sustainable land stewards. Today, Cowgirl Creamery continues to make just a small collection of cheese — four, soft aged and three fresh, totaling about 3,000 pounds per week. However, their circle of cheesemaking friends has grown like wildfire and they now distribute extraordinary artisan cheeses from over 60 of America’s and Europe’s most prized producers.
Tam is thick, creamy and rich- you’ll want a not-too-dry sparkling wine to help scrub the palate. The clean milkiness of Tam allows it to hold up to sweet or savory marmalade and jams, fresh berries or simply plain, as the first or second stop on a cheese board. Roasted cherries… now there’s an idea I need to try…