The concept of “winter” cheese usually refers to cheeses that are produced during the winter months, often taking advantage of rich, high-butterfat winter milk. However, another way of looking at winter cheese is what cheeses best suit winter menus. These are often cheeses that are produced in the spring, such as Comté and Gruyère, large wheels of which provide much needed sustenance in the cold winter months. These are traditionally known as “mountain cheeses” and the style hails from the Alpine regions of France and Switzerland. As the snows recede in the spring, cows from the valleys are gradually herded up the mountainside, and the resulting milk is turned into large, cooked and pressed wheels of cheese that are then transported back down and aged just in time for the deep, dark winter months. The resulting cheeses tend to be firm, very dense and smooth, sometimes with holes, and usually featuring nutty, sweet and caramelized flavors.
The mountain cheese style is reflected not only in the classics such as Comté and Gruyère, but also in Swiss Emmentaler, another cooked and pressed cheese. Consider Nicasio Reserve, an organic alpine-style cheese made right here in California. All of these are superb winter menu cheeses. Their low moisture-content ensures beautiful melting qualities, they pair exceptionally well with a variety of red and white wines, they are wonderfully savory additions to winter favorites like baked pastas and gratins, and they bring a touch of springtime to an austere winter table like no other ingredient can. Call GreenLeaf today for availability and pricing!