I’ve always thought that Kansas City needs someone making small batch artisan cheese in the metro.
Maybe the West Bottoms or maybe downtown Overland Park, but if the cheese was good it really would not matter. That dream may have to wait for Kansas City, but while in Charleston, S.C., a couple weeks ago I got a chance to check out Charleston Artisan Cheesehouse.
Situated in between a pool supply store and a “we buy gold for cash” place, Charleston Artisan Cheesehouse has been making cheese for six years. Originally the concept was started by a local restaurant group owner and his son.
Greg Tatis was tasked to help develop the cheese production for the start up. A long-time chef and restaurant manager, Tatis quickly found a passion for cheese making. Years later he took over the business and brought some long-time friends to partner with him to buy the business.
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On my visit I was struck by the small size of the operation and the willingness to experiment and not be held down by the traditional when making a traditionally French cheese.
They source the milk from Hickory Hill farm where the cows are pasture fed for 18 hours a day. At this time they do not have a large tank to haul milk in so they buy the milk by the gallon and pour 120 gallons of the milk into their large vat by hand.
“We pour four gallons at a time — two in each hand,” said Pete Holmes, one of the new business partners.
The aging of the cheese is done in a normal walk-in cooler and in order to keep the humidity high enough to ensure that the cheeses grow their bloomy rinds, the cheeses are kept in plastic containers to ripen. This technique is seen in home cheese making when high humidity is needed and no state of the art cheese cave is available.
As for making a traditional French cheese, their recipe for a Brie style deviates in a way that I had never seen. This includes the brining of the small rounds of cheese before they are ripened. Traditionally this type of cheese is dry salted or, in other words, just rubbed with salt.
Their original cheese is a soft-ripened Brie-style cheese called Battery Park, named after The Battery and White Point Garden at the mouth of the Ashley River and Charleston Harbor. The cheese is creamy with a dense center and a thin white fluffy rind. The flavor is mushroomy and mild with a flavor compound slightly reminiscent of blue cheese.
While I was there they were aging their Brie style cheese that they made with local peaches in the cheese. They then were gently rubbing the rind of the cheeses with local High Wire Rum. The flavors were subtle but it added a little more local terrior to the cheese.
In addition to that they have other cheese based on the same recipe. Soft-ripened with a kick (Spice Must Flow), Soft-ripened with Herbs de Provence (French Quarter), soft-ripened with Black Truffle (Wild Boar) and soft-ripened with chocolate (Dutch Chocolate).
With the addition of hand pulled Mozzarella, their line of cheeses has been growing. The dream is that they may be able to expand into hard cheese making. They expressed they want to make an artisan cheddar but this has not been fully realized yet because of the expensive nature of making a cheese like that.
Charleston Artisan Cheesehouse sells their cheese at the local farmers markets and it is available at many local Charleston retailers as well. They have plans to move their cheese-making operation to a more suitable spot soon. They will then turn the storefront cheese making operation into a retail shop to sell their cheese and other local products.
With plans to expand, it’s possible we could see Charleston Artisan Cheesehouse cheese in the Kansas City area soon. So keep an eye out for these unique and delicious cheeses from the south.
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 find him on Twitter @LincolnBbooks and on Instagram @lincycheese.