From Fithian, Illinois, a rather odd little blue…
Ludwig Farmstead Creamery is not only new to me, it’s fairly new as American farmstead cheesemaking goes, with about two years under their belt. The Ludwig family’s son Jake, inspired by the quality of the milk on their dairy, part of a family farm operation dating to 1733! set out in 2009 to learn the cheesemaking trade. He interned in Pennsylvania then returned to the farm and designed their facility.
Unfortunately, Jake passed away before cheesemaking could commence.
Not to be deterred and to honor Jake’s intent, the family happened onto Fons Smits, born and raised in Holland, a student of food technology in the Netherlands, and an engineer with degrees in food science, biotechnology, and water purification. Smits joined the farm as their cheesemaker.
Smits makes six cheeses for Ludwig Farmstead Creamery, including the raw milk, triple cream Vermilion River Blue. And it’s unlike any blue I’ve had… and I’m not sure I care for it, to be honest.
The texture is dense, but rubbery… no crumbling, no soft paste, not an indication of triple cream, um… creaminess. It’s a bit silty as well. Unusual for a blue from any origin.
But it’s the flavor that gives me pause… for hours I tried this cheese and puzzled over the flavor… so very familiar but I couldn’t simply describe it beyond “richly meaty”. But what, exactly? Then it dawned on me: it’s a flavor I like, but would never have associated it with cheese:
Braunschweiger. Distinctly, liver-y, braunschweiger. Liverwurst.
When the light bulb went off I offered it to a colleague who responded “Oh my god! It IS.. how weird!” And it’s not really all that blue, especially along the veining. Smits talked about it here:
“I wanted to do something very different,” he says. “What we ended up with is a triple crème blue.” Triple crème cheeses are made from a base of whole milk, but with extra cream added to increase the fat content in the finished cheese. The extra cream gives the cheeses a luscious, soft texture and creamy flavor.
“Most are whole milk, and most are very strong in flavor,” Smits says. “With a triple crème, you are able to cut that strong flavor and it sort of melts in your mouth—it makes the blue flavor more subtle.”
I can’t say I like it, I just have never run across a blue remotely like it at all and am left a bit confused by it. At least Ludwig Farmstead Creamery can call it original!
Cheese: Vermilion River Blue
Where: Fithian, IL
Milk Type: cow(raw)
Texture: firm and rubbery
Format: small drum
Tasting notes: Liverwurst!