Look closely. It's as if I had a premonition that this cheese was rip-open-worthy. See those tear marks on the packaging? They're for good reason: if you had a hunk of this, you'd be opening it as fast as your little fingers could muster, too.
The cheese is Appalachian and it's made in Galax, Virginia, at an elevation of 2800 feet in southwest Virginia. A farmstead cheese made from Jersey cow milk of the highest caliber, it's the specific goal of the cheesemakers to showcase that the milk is just about as pristine as the pasture on which the cows graze. Absolutely no herbicides or pesticides are used, and the cows get a fresh dose of the grass every day. All of their cheeses are made from raw milk.
And here are the cheesemakers themselves, just last night at a Martha Stewart industry event honoring American cheesemakers. Helen and Rick Feete of Meadowcreek Dairy have been making Appalachian for 11 years now. It's the first cheese they ever made, actually.
Helen studied cheesemaking at Cal Poly, where she learned how to make Monterey (of Monterey, California, get it) Jack-style cheese. So Appalachian was originally of this style. It's become more of a classic tomme style cheese over the years, with a natural rind.
The cheese ages anywhere from 60 days to 5 months. When I told the Feete's just how great their cheese is right now, they replied that what's out on retail counters right now is most likely in the 60-day range. If you can, get it now to taste how delicious a cheese made at the height of a Virginia summer can be. Each bite is lactic and bright, but also has that earthy intensity only found in cheeses that are cave-aged. While Grayson, the Meadowcreek cheese with a devoted following, takes on much of its personality from the b-linen bacteria growing on the rind, the Appalachian is designed more to showcase the milk, and therefore, the seasons.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a Cheesemonger and the Director of the Cheese Course at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
Related: Why Don't Pigs Make Cheese?
(Images: Nora Singley)