I recently met Kurt Timmermesiter, of Kurtwood Farms, located on Vashon island, near Seattle. He showed me a cheese that's made on his farm, from his small herd of 16 cows. With a production of only about 300 small wheels a week, distribution is pretty limited, but if you live in Seattle, this cheese is your next must-have.
Kurt is sole cheesemaker at Kurtwood Farms, the land he purchased in the midst of a cheffing career. After more than a decade of working the land and making the farm habitable to animals, plants, and crops, he left restaurant life behind and turned entirely to cheesemaking. He's been making cheese for about two years now, and the results are pretty tasty. No, very tasty. That's better.
Dinah's Cheese is a bloomy rinded cheese made exclusively from the milk of Kurt's Jersey cows, a breed with a higher butterfat content than any other. I asked him if the wheels were aged in a cellar or cave and was surprised to hear that they weren't; each earthen bite tastes like hay and wet stone and mushrooms, remarkably similar to those same earthy characteristics of an English farmhouse cheddar. Pretty unique.
When perfectly ripe, the inner paste is soft and gooey like room temperature butter. And it shares a similar flavor, too. (We can't complain.) After being inoculated with a combination of geotrichum candidum and penicilium candidum molds, wheels age for about 25 days, and then make their way to grocery stores, some specialty shops, and restaurants around Seattle.
The rind is soft and yielding, not chewy in the least, and incredibly flavorful, without one hint of that bitterness so often living in the rinds of bloomies. But what may be best of all is the story behind the namesake of the cheese: Kurt named it after his very first cow, Dinah.
It seems as though the cheese itself has a personality, too. When I asked for some kind of anecdote, Kurt quickly said with exasperation that the cheese can make him crazy. Cheese, so volatile! But then, like a proud father, he warmly conceded — with no shame — that he could easily put away an entire wheel in one sitting. I don't think he's alone.
• Find it! Dinah's Cheese can be found at Metropolitan Market in Seattle. A list of other retailers and restaurants can be found on Kurt's website.
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 TV chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Images: Kurtwood Farms, used with permission.)