Glorious winter cheeses
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Spring has an unfair advantage over winter in the cheese world. Conjuring images of just-born lambs and kids clumsily prancing about emerald fields, spring scores points on cuteness alone. Add that to the freshly sprouting grasses and herbs flavoring its milk, and some would say the season was born with a silver marketing spoon in its mouth.
Winter cheese, on the other hand, has to work harder to beguile. Its milk doesn't have sexy herbal notes, and creamery visitors don't think the full-grown animals look as cute when rushing to feed as the spring babies do. But it has things that other seasons do not — Vacherin Mont d'Or, Mont d'Or, Vacherin Haut-Doubs, Försterkäse, Winnimere and now, Rush Creek. Winter cheese is the stuff that caseophiles dream about all year long.
Available three to five months of the year, these cow's milk cheeses start emerging in late November or December. When they don't sell out (like the Mont d'Or and Haut-Doubs did this season), they can be spotted in specialty shops until February to April. About an inch high and weighing roughly a pound, the wheels are tender to the touch and have centers soft enough for drizzling or scooping.
In Europe, milk from different seasons has long had different cheese-making purposes. Spring and summer milk in the French Comté and neighboring regions in Switzerland, for example, traditionally goes to cheeses like Comté and Gruyère. The large wheels provide nourishment and tastes of lush pastures to families in winter.