Brandon Ancil is a digital content producer for CNN.com
Artisan cheese - it’s not as scary as you may have thought.
“It’s blue, it’s green, it’s furry, and it might smell funny. That’s what people think when they don’t know about artisan cheese.” Says Liz Thorpe VP of Murray’s Cheese in New York and author of ‘The Cheese Chronicles. “But artisan cheeses, which by definition are hand-crafted in small-production, are made in every type of cheese style.”
Nathan Arnold, a cheese maker from Tennessee, knows people can be intimidated by artisan cheese, but he says they'll end up liking it.
“It tastes like our farm. It’s got hints of the open air and grass from around the Cumberland Plateau where we live.”
Like most artisan cheese makers, theirs is a small-scale production that uses their own farm’s dairy animals.
“We produce around 400 lbs. of cheese a week and two kinds of cheese,” Padgett says. Their number one seller is ‘The Cumberland’ which is distributed in five states across the southeast.
The Cumberland is a French alpine style cheese. It’s got a buttery flavor with a grassy note. It has a washed rind and looks like an unassuming wheel of cheese. It’s far from the mold scored, smelly, very soft cheeses many may think of when they're contemplating the notion of artisan cheese.
Nathan and Padgett made the drive down from their Tennessee farm to Atlanta to show off their cheese at a blind cheese taste-testing event at Restaurant Eugene.
Liz Thorpe of Murray’s Cheese hosted the event and says it’s a win-win deal for the farmers and the consumers. “A supermarket picking up a small farm’s cheese can mean the difference between keeping the farm open and shutting down,” she says. “And the response to artisan cheeses is growing.”
Thorpe adds, “Blue, green, orange sticky, the stuff that looks the worst, and the stuff that smells the worst, usually tastes the best. I don’t know if people are going to grab it up, but with more artisan cheese available, they may.”
Nathan and Padgett hope that’s the case. As of now, they sell two kinds of cheeses through their creamery: the ‘Cumberland’ and ‘Coppinger.’ With two more cheeses in development, they hope to continue increasing their production.
“We’re comfortable with year one under their belt.” Nathan says. “10 years from now, 20 years from now - I don’t know. We could be a bakery or candlestick maker.” We’re keeping ourselves open.” But for now, they’re pleased with cheese.
Liz’s fun facts for identifying your artisan cheese at first glance:
Liz busts three misconceptions about artisan cheese:
Liz’s cheese wheel tip: