It’s berry picking season, and that means one thing: cheese and fresh fruit for dinner. I love nothing more than loading up on cherries, strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries and setting out a cheese board to match. Add a plate of smoked fish, a light salad, some white wine, and you’ve got a glorious feast. No fuss. No hot oven.
Haystack’s Queso de Mano is one of my favorite summer cheeses for berries. It’s a raw-milk goat cheese – very gentle but nutty and herbaceous – from Longmont, Colorado.
Cheesemaker Jim Schott produces this cheese with his family, and he puts a lot of passion into it. He left his job as an educator in the late ‘80s and bought a handful of goats. Just as he was getting started, his wife died of ovarian cancer and his college-age daughter, Gretchen, stepped in to help. Their beautiful cheeses quickly won awards.
Today, Schott supports a prison work program by purchasing milk from the state pen in Canon City, where inmates raise goats. Unbelievably, the Colorado Department of Corrections runs the largest goat dairy in the state.
Traditionally, Queso de Mano refers to a Venezuelan cow’s milk cheese similar to mozzarella, but Schott chose the name because it means “handmade cheese.” He also produces a variety of other aged cheeses, including Red Cloud and Haystack Peak. The latter was included in Saveur Magazines’s 2005 list of 50 Best Artisanal Cheeses in America.
If you’re curious to try other cheeses that pair well with berries, look for soft to medium-aged cheeses. Figs, apricots, honey, and homemade preserves are always good mates, too. Here are a few of my favorite combinations:
With raspberries or blackberries:
With cherries or strawberries:
For more summer matches, please visit Madame Fromage.