The Cheesemonger: Ascutney Mountain

[Welcome Nora, a veteran of the cheese world and an avid New York farmers' market shopper. She'll be trying her hand at the Cheesemonger series on Wednesdays and the NYC Farmers' Market Report on Fridays.]

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One of France's most revered cheese conoscenti once told me that the best cheese I would ever taste would be made from raw milk. In his next breath he cautioned that the worst cheese I would ever taste would be made from raw milk.

If you don't know the back-story on raw milk cheese, this may make as much sense as someone telling you on your wedding date that it's sure to be the best and worst day of your life.

By nature of their very rawness, unpasteurized milk cheeses are more variable. They are rife with active bacteria, expressing the ever-changing dynamic of the land from which they come—for better or worse. Insider's tip: avoid the wheels from Bessie's romp in the wild garlic patch.

While their sub-par production earlier this year surely wasn't the worst cheese I've ever tasted — two words: yak cheese — Cobb Hill Farm in Hartland, Vermont, may now be producing one of the best.

Their Ascutney Mountain alpine-style cheese has emerged in recent weeks in perfect raw ripeness, showcasing like never before the uber-nutty and sweet winter (read: fatty and rich) Jersey cow milk (read: fatty and rich) from November 2006.

With only 30 cows, Cobb Hill farm is perfect demonstration of raw milk's sensitivity to small production cheesemaking. Thankfully for us, they excel at it.

Cobb Hill Ascutney Mountain is available at Murray's Cheese for $21.99/lb and Formaggio Kitchen for $23.90/lb. For a full listing of where to buy Cobb Hill cheeses in the Northeast, click here.

(photo: Formaggio Kitchen)

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.