Cowgirl Creamery Bleues

In Vol. N° 6, The Grocery Store, there is a wonderfully simple recipe for Blue Cheese with Black Pepper. It's just butter and blue cheese and fresh ground black pepper all mashed together. There are some cheeses you should never mess with. They are sublime and exactly as the cheesemaker intended for them to taste. But we choose Maytag blue cheese, available in our local grocery store. We've been fans of this beautiful blue for years. It's a sensible Midwestern cheese that's not opposed to a cracker, unlike some of its fancier cousins, who require no less than a crisp croustade and wouldn't be caught dead on a saltine. Maytag blue cheese has been made in Newton, Iowa, since 1941 by four generations of the Maytag family. These cave-aged, small-batch, cheeses are handmade with milk from local Iowa dairy farms. It's an American classic.

There has been an artisan cheese revival in the past ten years and since we love blues, we checked in with our friend, cheese guru Sue Conley (see below), for her valued opinion and for some of her favorite blue cheeses. Here’s Sue’s advice:

"Back when we were just starting to pay attention to sourcing good ingredients, Maytag was the best blue around. Today, great American blues are made in every part of the country. Some of the best include Point Reyes Original Blue made just a few miles from Cowgirl Creamery in California, Rogue Creamery Blue from Oregon, and Ewe’s Blue made in New York by Old Chatham.

Wisconsin boasts a handful of extraordinary artisan blue cheeses including Bohemian Blue from Hidden Springs and Buttermilk Blue made by Roth Käse. On the natural rind front, Vermont’s Jasper Hill makes Stilton-like Bayley Hazen Blue and on Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts, Great Hill Dairy makes a magnificent creamy blue, reminiscent of early Maytag in its flavor notes. American cheesemakers have also been experimenting with a goat blues over the years, the most famous being Hubbardston Blue and Classic Blue Log made by Westfield Farm in western Massachusetts. And Firefly Farms in western Maryland makes a delicate goat blue called Mountain Top Bleu. So you see, we have many delicious choices these days, but I will never forget the first time I made a creamy Maytag Blue Cheese dressing served on crisp romaine leaves with a squeeze of Meyer lemon.

Though the Maytags operated a dairy in Iowa (which is where the cheese was developed and is still made today), there is an important connection between the Midwestern family and San Francisco. Fritz Maytag III, grandson of the founder, moved to San Francisco back in the sixties, and in 1965 purchased Anchor Brewing Company. He is credited with revitalizing craft beer in the United States. Fritz also helped to establish the American Cheese Society, an organization formed in 1983 to help small-production cheesemakers learn to make better cheese. The Maytags, by the way, are the same family that built the washing machine empire.”—Sue Conley

Why bother to say it when they said it best themselves…

In 1997, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith opened Cowgirl Creamery in Pt. Reyes Station, a picturesque postage-stamp-of-a-town on the coast about an hour north of San Francisco. They started with an old barn, made it beautiful, put in a small plant for making hand-crafted cheese, bought organic milk from the neighbor, Straus Family Creamery... and before long the world found them! From the beginning, they wanted to make delicious, artisan cheese, to be environmentally responsible, and they also wanted to support their cheesemaking friends in being sustainable land stewards. Today, Cowgirl Creamery continues to make just a small collection of cheese — four, soft aged and three fresh, totaling about 3,000 pounds per week. However, their circle of cheesemaking friends has grown like wildfire and they now distribute extraordinary artisan cheeses from over 60 of America’s and Europe's most prized producers. —from the cowgirl creamery website