"Look at the natural rind. You can see an immense amount care went into making it so thin and even. To get the rind like that, the cheese has to be washed, brushed and flipped very regularly. Otherwise you'd develop abnormalities, like rinds that start moving into the paste of the cheese, maybe thicker rinds in some areas. This is about as picture-perfect as a natural rind cheese can get."
No one but Lydia Burns, cheese monger at Marion Street Cheese Market, could go on like that about the rind of a cheese. She holding Rupert, a cow's milk cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm, Vermont.
"It's an Alpine style," Burns said, "like Comte, Beaufort, or Gruyere. What I like about the Consider Bardwell cheeses is that they're so exceptionally made. They cut the curds very small and then recook them at low temperatures to expel all the moisture. What you get from this process is a very tight knit, elastic paste. It melts very easily, and it ages without developing little fissures where molds and other organisms can live."
Many cheese makers – and food producers in general -- strive for consistency, for the same flavor batch after batch, bottle after bottle, unit after unit. But that's not the way of nature, and it's not the way of Rupert.
"What I really like about this cheese is that it's a little different depending upon the time and the season and what the animals are eating. To me, it's got a little bit of a salty-sweet component, predominantly savory, a sort of sweet onion sort of flavor, which I find delicious.
I have long been a fan of Pleasant Ridge, a Wisconsin cheese maker that twice has won the Best of Show for their Pleasant Ridge Reserve at the American Cheese Association's annual judging (no other cheese maker can claim that distinction). Yet…I liked Rupert quite a bit more. Perhaps it's because the cheese-makers are not trying for consistency; they let the cheese go the way of the milk, bringing out the best they can from every batch and not trying to make the cheese taste the same as it did last time.
"As someone who stands around and eats cheese all day," Burns says, "I love difference in a cheese. Every time the Rupert is unwrapped, I want to try some of it."
Rupert is $29.99/pound at Marion Street Cheese Market.