The New Englandah | June 2021 curdbox

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Hold on to your sunhats, because we’re kicking off summer with another collaboration! This month we’re working with Michele Ragussis, aka @ChefMichele, a Food Network star and all-around amazing chef and person. Michele is an old school diehard New Englander, and on her various Food Network appearances she’s made a name for herself by showcasing New England cuisine. We at curdbox are NE-based ourselves, so, what would be better than to work together to make an all New England box that we’re calling…The New Englandah (natch). Be sure to listen to this month's podcast episode with Michele, where she spins off ideas for how she'd use all these cheeses + pairings in the kitchen.

Melinda Mae by Mystic Cheese Co.

Our first cheese is the bloomy & brainy Melinda Mae by the Mystic Cheese Co. out of Groton, CT. The Mystic Cheese Co. is a collaboration between cheesemaker Brian Civitello and cheesemonger Jason Sobocinski, and they are known for pioneering the use of refurbished shipping containers as affordable and efficient cheese production sites. They use single herd cow’s milk from nearby Sunny Side farm in Voluntown, CT for all of their cheeses, many of which are inspired by Italian cheeses—Melinda Mae was inspired by Robiola, though it’s much more docile. Its bloomy rind is mushroomy and savory, while the paste inside is buttery and a bit yeasty—like buttered bread. This month's batch is super ripe, so be prepared and put this in a little dish, otherwise it might just run off your cheeseboard. Fun name fact: the name comes from a Shel Silverstein poem about a little girl who eats a whale, starting with the tail.

Michele loved this cheese, saying "this cheese makes me want to smash things, in a good way." One of her ideas of how to use it in the kitchen was to starting out like you're making an eggplant parm, but instead of parm, use Melinda Mae. It would also go great with lamb!

Womanchego by Cato Corner

Next up is Womanchego by Cato Corner, a farm in Colchester, CT that makes raw farmstead cheeses and is run by a mother-son team: Liz MacAlister is in charge of the herd (~45 Jerseys), while her son Mark Gillman is in charge of the cheese. You can probably guess what the inspiration for this cheese was—Cato Corner wanted a sweet and nutty all-around cheese, like a young manchego. In our opinion? They totally nailed it. It’s mild and moist, a little fruity and a little nutty, pairs well with pretty much everything. It can slice, grate, or melt and you can even eat the rind (but it's pretty crunchy)! 

Michele's idea: bread and fry this up and then cover it in lemon and herbs. Yes, please!

Shelburne Farms 2-Year Cheddar

Shelburne Farms is a titan of American cheddar, having racked up 39 medals at the American Cheese Championships since 1990 for their farmstead cheeses. But Shelburne Farms is more than just a farm and creamery, it’s also a nonprofit and education center dedicated to teaching people from all walks of life to be stewards of the land. Practicing what they preach, they have a grass-based dairy, an environmentally-friendly way of farming where their cows rotate through small sections of pasture, which is better for the land, which is then better for the cows. This month’s version, made with raw milk and aged two years, is sophisticated, rich, and savory, with just a hint of complex sweetness. The raw milk leads a wonderfully long-lasting finish. 

One of Michele's ideas for this cheddar (she could hardly decide because "it could go anywhere in any kind of food"): a sandwich with whole roasted butternut squash, apple, and this cheddar on a good sourdough. 

Smoked Onion Cranberry Mustard by Butterfly Bakery

This is our first ever made-for-curdbox pairing! Michele and the curdbox team worked with Butterfly Bakery in Barre, VT to create a small-batch, New England-themed mustard specifically for this box. The result is a whole-grained mustard that has both cranberries and maple syrup. It's both savory and fruity, with the tartness of the cranberries shining through for an an extra zing.

Michele said she'd add to this to a sauce for ravioli with gorgonzola, roasted apples and pears. 

Walnut & Cranberry Biscuits by Effie’s Homemade

Our fellow Massachusettsans over at Effie’s Homemade have just come out with a brand new flavor to add to their stellar lineup of sophisticated, just barely sweet biscuits. These Walnut & Cranberry variety are hearty and nutty, yet still delicately buttery with fennel adding a sweet herbal note. And, it even has cranberries! Which add a bright pop. 

Penobscot Trail Mix by Lucy’s Granola

Lucy’s Granola from Maine has the classic happy accident tale of food business: Lucy forgot to bake a cake for a bake sale, and so jarred up some freshly made granola instead, and it was a hit! For this month, we’re featuring the Penobscot Trail Mix, a classic trail mix without any distracting chocolate to take away from the excellence of each and every one of the 11 fruits and nuts and seeds. With all those nuts and seeds, it's almost like 11 pairings in one, with innumerable combinations with each of the cheeses. Trail mix isn't considered a typical cheese board component, but why not? It's got the nuts and the fruits, what could be easier! We liked sprinkling the trail mix on the river of gooey cheese that is the Melinda Mae.

So there she is, our little New England sampler—we hope you enjoy!


Did you take some photos for the 'gram while enjoying this box? Please tag us @curdbox, along with our cheese and pairing partners @mysticcheeseco, @catocornerfarmcheese, @shelburnefarms@butterflybakeryvt@effieshomemade, and @lucysgranola. We love to see our cheese lovers enjoying their boxes!

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