Just in case you haven’t noticed yet, we’re kind of into ‘of the month’ clubs. We’ve carried over last year’s Jelly of the Month endeavor, and we’ve added Bacon of the Month, all of which leaves only one remaining ‘of the month’ to help me in my lifelong aspiration of becoming a master charcutier: Cheese of the Month.
Thankfully, Pittsburgh has a local cheese-mecca that can help in these goals: The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company (known as simply PennMac among us Yinzers). And if you, like us, want to experience new cheeses every month, you can join their Cheese of the Month Club and have a variety of cheese delivered to your door every 4 weeks!
Each month’s cheese arrives in a refrigerated box via FedEx. You even get a helpful email to alert you that there’s a box of cheese on your porch so you can bring it out of the elements right away. Every month has a different theme, which PennMac tells you about in advance.
The first cheese was a Vlaskaas from Holland. I like this cheese because it’s got a story: originally, this was only produced once a year for the flax harvest. But, people loved it so much that they decided to make it year-round now. The flavor is something like a creamier cheddar, with a hint of smokiness on it that made the pairing with a petite sirah a pretty amazing matchup.
The petite sirah was also a good match with the Bra Tenero cheese. Made in Italy (and named for its home: the town of Bra in the Provence of Cueno), this cheese was REALLY creamy. While it’s got holes that resemble a Swiss cheese, it’s much softer and creamier. (My cheese-mongering research tells me that the Tenero is a younger Bra cheese, and the more aged ones have a firmer consistency.) This tasted like dessert when paired with the strawberry champagne jelly.
The Alta Badia is another Italian cheese, from the Dolomite Mountains (author’s note: Dolomite is not, as I first thought, a word from the Men at Work song “Down Under,” it’s apparently a crazy mountain range that has all sorts of skiing and probably goats, and also clearly cows, as those are the fine ladies who make the milk for this cheese). This cheese had an almost saltiness to it, which lent it to pairing with the mustards, but it wasn’t so salty that it didn’t go with the jelly. Apparently, you can also melt this cheese pretty well, so I see some grilled Alta Badia sandwiches in our future!
Finally, we had the ‘Leroy Pyrenees’ cheese from France. (Took me awhile to find this one online; it’s made by these people called Onetik and has an amazing cow on the front of the package.) This cheese has dried peppercorns in it, but it’s such a milky and creamy texture that it feels almost like brie. This I thought was best on the baguette, with the peppercorns giving it an almost herbal quality. The Pyrenees are a mountain range in France, so guess what we’ve learned this month:
Cows love to live on mountains.
And also, charcuterie, while beautiful and delicious, is hard to make. It took me well over half an hour to prepare this plate between slicing and measuring all the cheese, putting together all the dippy sides, cutting up the bread, and preparing the meat (I had prosciutto, hot capicola, and a few slices of that smoky bacon from Marty’s Market). The wine is a petite sirah from Field Stone Winery in Healdsburg, which we visited last year on our trip to California.
If you’re interested in trying out any of the cheese we mention in our monthly posts, please head down to the Strip District and check out PennMac! You can also order online from their website and have fresh cheese delivered right to your door.