It's scorching hot in New York City. Not exactly the kind of weather that invokes cheese cravings. Or is it? Leave it to a cheese from Texas to fit the bill during this crazy hot weather. The details: lemony, light, and refreshing — yes, refreshing — cute-as-can-be in its leaf wrapper. I was alarmed to realize that I have yet to profile this gem, because while it's a cheese that feels especially appropriate in hot weather, it's entirely craveable year round, and it is, without a doubt, one of my favorite cheeses ever.
This star hails from Dallas, if you can believe it. The Mozzarella Company, founded by American cheesemaking pioneer, Paula Lambert, is best known for their fresh cheeses, inspired mainly by Italian cheeses, like burrata, scamorza, ricotta, caciotta, and crescenza. Oh, and mozzarella, too, obviously.
Their hoja santa cheese, though, is entirely its own creature. Its flavor is altogether different, due primarily to its wrapper. Each disc of pasteurized goat cheese is held within the folds of an hoja santa leaf, from the hoja santa plant, native to Mexico and parts of Texas. You'll see the leaves used to wrap fish or chicken, before grilling.
The leaf smells and tastes a bit like sarsaparilla, which has infusing properties on the goat cheese itself. Sounds strange, but it's straight-up delicious. You'll taste mint, too. It has a really pleasant, almost bitter herbaceous quality. The rind is entirely edible. The cheese is excellent plain, but try serving it with rounds of cucumbers or even summer stone fruit.
And while for the most part cheese should be eaten at room temperature, this one's an exception. Eat it cold, straight from the fridge. We won't tell.
'Tis the season for goat cheese, after all. Goat milk is higher in acid than cow or sheep milk, so goat cheeses taste crisp and light, almost refreshing. Just try finding a sheep cheese that you could describe using those three adjectives. Hoja Santa is probably one of the best cheeses out there to illustrate that punchy brightness that only goat milk cheese can deliver.
And if this isn't a cheese fit for a picnic, I don't know what is. What tremendous camouflage potential!
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a Cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Image: Artisanal Cheese)