Fireside Glow | January 2021 curdbox

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Dear 2021, we’ve never been more ready for you. Without harping too much about the Year that Must Not Be Named, let’s just say that we all deserve a night to just stay in and devote ourselves wholly to enjoying a finely curated selection of delectable foods. Lucky for you, we have just the ticket with this month’s box, Fireside Glow. I’ve always liked January: it’s full of winter coziness, but without any holiday stress. We hope that this box is conducive to your own cozy night in, where you can throw a log on the fire, curl up on the couch with glass of wine or some hot tea, and enjoy the abundance of flavor and textures before you.

Mini Harbison by Jasper Hill

Let’s start with the cute-as-a-button bloomy round of Mini Harrison that’s wrapped in spruce bark, another pitch-perfect creation from Jasper Hill. (If you’ve been with us awhile, for The Grate Outdoors, Hillside Picnic, Savory Winter, Vermont in the Raw, and Honey Honey Honey, you’ll know that only good things come from Jasper Hill.) The original full-sized Harbison won best in show at the American Cheese Society in 2018 and Best American Cheese at the World Cheese Awards in 2015 and 2016. This is the same cheese but just, you know, smaller. Harbison is a Brie-style cheese, thick and creamy, with a woodsy note from the spruce wrapper. The rind will be a little funkier, but if you’re not into the stinky stuff, you can just remove it, there's still plenty of delicious paste inside.

Jasper Hill's Mini Harbison with Okina's Savory Cheese Biscuits

Depending on the age of this little guy, you’ll get different textures and flavors. At 5-7 weeks, it’s firm enough to peel off the spruce and cut into wedges. At 8-10 weeks, I’ll be squishier and you may be able to still peel off the spruce without it losing its form, and some mushroom and cruciferous flavors will start to develop. At 10-12 weeks the texture is much softer and you’ll need to keep the spruce wrapper on it unless you want it to pour all over your cheeseboard. At this later age, you can cut the top off and use it just like a spreadable or droppable cheese (bonus: throw it in the oven or air fryer to make it really soft and melty). If you want to see how this gem came to be, then check out this 4-minute video from Jasper Hill showing how it’s made. And in this month's podcast episode, Curdbox founder Jenn Mason talks about the time she went to Jasper Hill and got to wrap a Harbison in spruce herself!

The Mini Harbisons in your box are on the older end of the spectrum, so you could basically hold it in one hand and eat with a spoon like a bowl of ice cream. But make sure to let it come to room temperature, so you can really revel in its  perfectly soft texture. We specifically chose the Okina crackers as the ideal vehicle for this gooey guy, but you could also just dip another one of these cheeses into this cheese—why not?!

Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from The Cellars at Jasper Hill

And now for something completely different, let’s go to the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. Unlike the Harbison, which is made at Jasper Hill from the milk of their own cows, this superlative cheddar is made by the Cabot Cooperative of Vermont. Cabot wanted to expand into the artisanal sector, so they send in their 32-lb wheels of freshly molded cheddar to undergo affinage (aging) at the Jasper Hill Cellars.

Now, let’s talk about that word “clothbound”. Unlike most cheddar, which is coated in wax, clothbound cheddar means that the wheels are literally bound up in cloth. Because cloth is more porous than wax, this allows some of the moisture to evaporate, leading to a crumblier texture with a more concentrated flavor. Clothbound cheeses tend to be more finicky to make than wax-rind, so it often means they are from small-scale producers who use higher quality milk—so you can be assured that this really is the good stuff.  Complex and savory, it's got a slight lactic tang and almost caramel-like notes that you might more likely associate with an aged gouda. As a friendly and flexible cheese, it’s great for nibbling, cooking, and pairing. The drier texture means it crumbles readily, so it’s perfect for nugetting (basically crumbling into bite-sized bits). But don't be fooled into thinking this cheddar tastes dry—it still melts in the mouth. Cheddars go great with apples, so if you have any apples or cider lying around, we encourage you to pair it together.

Cabot's Clothbound Cheddar from The Cellars Jasper Hill and the Petits Poivrons (aka Sweety Drops) from Trois Petits Cochons

Cave-Aged Kaltbach Emmentaler AOP by Emmi

Lastly, we have Switzerland’s Emmi, with their AOP Kaltbach Cave-Aged Emmental. Emmental is the original Swiss cheese, with the earliest written record dating until 1293! While Emmi has only been at it since 1782, they’ve still had at least a couple of centuries to perfect their craft. First, let’s walk through the name of this cheese so we can be sure exactly what we’re dealing with. “Cave-aged” isn’t just a marketing ploy, this line of cave-aged cheeses are literally aged in 22-million-year-old natural sandstone caves outside Lucerne in Switzerland. Kaltbach means “cold brook”, and that’s not just for imagery, either—there’s an actual river running through these caves which are integral in keeping a constant humidity needed to age these properly (we’ve had another from their Kaltbach line,  Le Crémeux in a very early box). The “AOP” means it’s made in the traditional method—basically, the old and hard way, without cutting any corners. One thing that the this title doesn’t tell you is that the wheels themselves weigh 200 lbs!

Emmi's Kaltbach Emmentaler AOP with RedCamper's Cherry Fig Mostarda

Basically, this glorious wedge before you is a classic Swiss alpine cheese—with the holes and everything. It you’ve only had the flabby, tasteless slices of Swiss cheese at a deli counter, then forget everything you think you know about Swiss cheese. It’s nutty and earthy, with just a slightly herbaceous flavor from the grass-rich diet of the cows. As a smooth & melty cheese, can be sliced with ease, and melts into a glorious golden puddle—in fact, it’s one of the staple ingredients of that other famous Swiss food: fondue.

For pairings, we’ll start with our fire-colored peppers. Though you may be mistaken for thinking these Petits Poivrons from Trois Petits Cochons are French, this is actually a New York company bringing you a Peruvian pepper. Known as “Incan Red Drops or “Sweety Drops” because of their sweet flavor, these peppers are both sort of sweet and sort of sour, which is a mouth-watering combo both on and off the cheese board. It brings a vegetable freshness while it rounding out the salty and umami flavors from our cheeses—especially from the cheddar and the Emmental. Also, maybe you noticed that they’re gorgeous? Definitely an eminently ‘grammable addition to the board.

Next we have the Okina Savory Cheese Biscuits. Now, here at curdbox we’re picky about crackers or cracker-like pairings—we don’t just throw them in as an afterthought because, hey, you gotta have a cracker. In fact, we don’t normally even include crackers at all unless they really add something interesting to the box, either texturally or flavor-wise. Which is why we were so psyched to stumble across this ridiculously delicious cheese biscuits straight from the heart of French Basque Country. Pastry chef Hervé Lanouguère is the creator behind these delectable biscuits, and with Okina he brings the taste of Basque country in cracker form using all local ingredients. Rich and savory with sheep’s milk cheese, but also with a touch of sweetness, these crackers provide the perfect crunchy foil, especially for our mini Harbisons.

And finally, RedCamper’s award-winning mostarda. If you aren’t familiar with mostarda, it’s an Italian condiment that mixes fruit and mustard—sort of like a sweet and savory jam that, though made to go with meat and cheese, is endlessly versatile. For this particular version, RedCamper was meticulous about each ingredient, bringing together the best ingredients from across (the west part of) the country. California figs and Michigan cherries are melded together by being cooked low and slow in dry apple cider. Black pepper, red pepper, and two kinds of mustard seed are added in to give complexity and a little bit of heat, and the real pièce de resistance are the cocoa nibs added into, for a slight bitterness and chocolatey depth.

Really, this board is killer. and we hope you love it as much as we do. May it delight you with new and exciting flavors, and be a jumping off point to more exploration—add in your own pairings that you may have around the house, try buying the mini Harbison again at a different age to see how it’s different, or join us in the marvelous world of mostarda mania! The cheese world is your playhouse. Until next month, cheese lovers!  


Did you take some photos for the 'gram while enjoying this box? Please tag us @curdbox, along with our cheese and pairing partners @jasperhillfarm@emmicheeseusa@redcamper and @3pigspate. We love to see our cheese lovers enjoying their boxes!

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