So many award-winning cheeses are made in Vermont these days that it’s easy to feel Green State envy. One Vermont cheese that’s got cheesemongers buzzing this winter is Reading Raclette. Now, the Swiss make Raclette and so do the French, but until Spring Brook Farm introduced its artisanal version from Reading, no American cheesemaker had come forward with a melt-away Alpine stinker this good.
Reading Raclette has another thing going for it. All of the proceeds go to a Vermont nonprofit called Farms for City Kids that offers urban school children a chance to explore farming and cheese making. The foundation was established at Spring Brook, and it’s connected to the school system in New York City; school teachers can apply to bring their students to the farm as part of the curriculum.
Pretty awesome. Hence, a nickname for this cheese: “righteous Raclette.”
Reading Raclette is made in small batches, by hand, using raw milk from a herd of 40-some Jersey cows. In line with Alpine tradition, cheesemaker Jeremy Stephenson stirs the curd in copper vats, then ages this semi-soft cheese for at least three months. The result is a smooth, nutty cheese that turns creamy on your tongue, releasing wonderfully sweet baritone notes.
In terms of funk, it’s down a beat from European Raclette, which can be very aromatic.
Along with pickles, cured meats, and boiled potatoes, this cheese really shines. Recently, I made some open-faced sandwiches that became a house favorite. The creaminess of this sharp cheese is just spectacular; and toasted or cold, these Reading Raclette Rounds are great nosh for an appetizer or snack:
Reading Raclette Rounds
- ½ pound Reading Raclette
- ¼ pound speck (a smoked ham, lightly flavored with juniper)
- Half of a small purple onion, minced
- Grainy mustard
- 12 cornichons
- Black pepper
- 1 baguette
Slice baguette into rounds and toast or broil until lightly browned, then top each round with a shmear of mustard, a thin piece of speck, a teaspoon or so of minced onions, and a couple generous slices of Raclette (in that order). Broil until cheese bubbles, then top with black pepper, halved cornichons, and serve. Yodeling music or Alpenhorns round out the experience. So does a crisp pilsner.
For more cheese envy, please visit Madame Fromage.