Name: Mountain Top Bleu
Producer: Firefly Farms (Bittinger, MD)
Milk: Pasteurized Goat's Milk
Age: 5-8 wks.
As anyone who has tasted an alpine cheese, such as gruyere, can attest, much like rough terrain can produce fine wines, high altitudes are the source of many fine cheeses. Located in Maryland's Allegheny Plateau, Firefly Farms represents the cooperative effort of Mike Koch and Pablo Solanet, who founded the farm back in 2000. They were later joined by neighbors Ron and Beth Brenneman, who together make up the core of Firefly Farms.
In 2006, they made their biggest change yet. With growing demand for their cheeses (and many of the team still holding down jobs not related to the farm), they sold their entire herd of goats and began sourcing their milk from nearby Amish dairies. This allowed them to concentrate more on cheesemaking itself, including working on some new aged tomme-style cheeses.
Mountain Top Bleu is a mish-mosh of styles. It's a mountain cheese, yet it is shaped the style of a valley cheese, Valencay. Instead of being ash-covered, they choose to go with a bloomy-rind. For even more fun, Firefly Farms added a little blue to the mix. Interlaced throughout the cheese are small dots of mold. For better or worse, the veining is very small and not full blown like other goat blues such as Lively Run's Cayuga Blue. It comes as no surprise that this hybrid was produced by accident, when a bloomy-rind cheese they produce became cross contaminated with a nearby experiment in blue cheese.
The rind of the cheese is definitive bloomy-rind: slightly chewy with a musty, damp smell and rippling with that signature white mold. As you can see in the picture, the one I tasted was very ripe. Because it ripens from the outside inwards, the closer towards the center you get, the denser a cheese becomes. In this case, even the center was the consistency of warm butter (with the outside being a gooey mess). I've seen examples where the center is more dense and chalky, as well. The taste is only mildly goaty, with a sharp and slightly astringent bite. The blue molding lends a subtle funkiness that, personally, I'd like to taste more of. The finish is light and spring-like, perfect for enjoying with friends on a picnic.
For a partial listing of stores that carry this and other Firefly Farms cheeses, check out their website. Prices for Mountain Top Bleu seem to range from $13 and up. Keep in mind that this is a hefty hunk of cheese, weighing in at slightly over half a pound. Over at Cobblestone Foods, we'll be carrying it (for a short time) for $15.00 ea., available by the whole or half wheel.