Cheese makers in the south have come into their own in the last decade. They are making a diverse array of cheeses that, in some cases, rival their European cousins.
Dancing Fern is a great, award winning Reblochon style cheese made by Sequatchie Cove Farm in Sequatchie, Tenn. The farm sits out side of Chattanooga and besides cheese they produce grass fed beef and lamb and even heirloom pork.
What makes Dancing Fern special?
Well, for years importers tried to bring French Reblochon into the U.S. but the 60 day raw milk rule always caused problems with the cheese. The cheese just can’t age for sixty days and make the hop across the pond and still be good. About ten years ago the FDA decided it was just “safer” to ban the cheese.
For safety — this is debatable — the FDA says that those cheeses made from unpasteurized milk cannot be sold in the US without being aged for 60 days or more. This puts a damper on our ability to get some of the great traditional soft cheeses of Europe. That’s where the specialness of Dancing Fern comes in.
Dancing Fern is made with raw cow’s milk and the cheese makers at Sequatchie Cove do a great job making a cheese that withstands the 60 days of aging quite nicely. The one-pound wheel has a washed rind with a dusting of white mold. If you have ever heard a cheese described as “barnyardy,” Dancing Fern fits the bill — in a good way. The aroma is straight off the farm.
Don’t be afraid of the smell. It is present in the flavor but the cheese is actually pretty subtle. It has vegetal flavors as well as a little meatiness. The salt is very minimal allowing you to taste the flavors of high quality raw milk.
Green Hill is another treat we have at the store right now. It’s a cheese that was recently dubbed the Huffington Post’s “new favorite
” in June of this year. You can check out the article to learn more about Green Hill.
Sweet Grass Dairy makes Green Hill in Thomasville, Ga., from their herd of grass fed cows. The cheese is handmade in the style of Camembert and every cheese is hand-ladled — it actually makes a difference.
Green hill is also a “double cream” cheese. What does that mean? It means that a regular full-fat cheese will normally have 45 to 50 percent fat in the dry matter of the cheese but a double cream has over 60 percent. The extra fat definitely lends to the richness of Green Hill.
Flavors of butter and mushroom are present in Green Hill but there is also a little tanginess that offsets the rich creaminess. The fluffy, thin, white rind is a great contrast with the rich yellow of the paste of the cheese.
These two cheeses showcase the quality of farmstead cheese being made in the South. I don’t get these two Southern gems at The Better Cheddar often, so stop by the shop in Prairie Village and ask for a taste. You never know — you might find your new favorite cheese.
Lincoln Broadbooks loves cheese. He is one of the first cheesemongers in the United States and Canada to become an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional. He is the manager and buyer for The Better Cheddar in Prairie Village. You can check out his monthly Cheese Wiz column in Tastebud Magazine and find him on Twitter @LincolnBbook and on Instagram @lincycheese.