One of my fondest food memories growing up in upstate New York is the cheese. And my favorite cheeses, even as a child, were those with a good kick. Place a sliver of sharp, aged cheddar on top of a slice of crisp Empire apple, and I’m transported to snack heaven. I like my cheese assertive, sharp enough to make my lips tingle.
Whenever I go back to visit, I try to bring home a bite from my past: cheese. During our recent trip to visit family, Big Papa and I took a side excursion to the Ithaca and the Finger Lakes. The Finger Lakes, like much of upstate New York, is home to a lot of cows, cows who provide delicious milk that’s ideal for making delicious cheese.
Bier Meck was the cheese we carried back across the country with us. It’s a gouda-styled farmstead cheese soaked in brine made from Ithaca Beer Company’s Gorges Smoked Porter Ale and then aged for at least 60 days. Bier Meck is one the cheeses made by Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese. They make raw milk cheese from their family-owned Holstein cows in tiny Mecklenburg, New York. In fact the ‘Meck’ in Beir Meck refers to Mecklenburg, which is a located about twelve miles west of Ithaca.
All Finger Lakes Farmstead cheeses are made from raw milk that is free of growth hormones or antibiotics. Their cows are always in pasture, in season and during the winter they dine on winter forage grown on the farm. The cheeses are called “farmstead” because they are made from the milk of one farm only.
Just as Memorial Day weekend was getting started, our replacement bottle of Seneca Drums gin arrived. I mixed up a couple of gin and tonics for me and Big Papa before taking the cheese out of the fridge.
Maggie, our cat and cheese aficionada, was beside herself with ecstasy before I even got the package of cheese open. Her eyes opened wide, and her head bobbed and weaved as I sliced it up to put on crackers.
I can’t imagine a finer pairing. The creamy-in-the-mouth cheese had a touch of smoke and nut-like flavor which perfectly balanced the fresh juniper and herbal notes in the Seneca Drums gin. Let’s just say that the cheese didn’t last long.
And Miss Maggie? What a lucky kitten: a cat-sized piece of cheese was just the right accompaniment for a bite of catnip, snipped fresh off the plant on the back deck. She lay in the sunshine, purring. We sat on the bench next to her sipping and noshing, all three of us in an upstate New York state of mind, even though we were 3,000 miles away in Seattle.
Want more to put on your cracker? Check out Wanderfood Wednesday!