Ode To Exact-Weight
I always look forward to the holidays, especially since one of our family traditions is to go to the specialty cheese shop on Christmas Eve to select a diverse assortment of cheeses and cured hams from varied producers for our holiday party. Over the years I was usually nominated to make some interesting selections based on my extensive knowledge and love for cheese. Now that my girls have grown up, it is nice to see them requesting specific cheeses for the “cheese haul”, and tasting and making choices based on what they like too. It is such a treat to visit a genuine cheese monger like Formaggio’s Kitchen in Boston and being given the opportunity to sample some of the unique cheeses before buying a freshly cut wedge.
This year, I also included in my cheese-a-thon the Mature Jersey Gouda I collected on my trip earlier in the year to the Netherlands to visit the cheese maker and affineur Vandersterre (see story in this issue). My wife had that look of doubt on her face as I opened the vacuum-packed exact-weight wedge that traveled without refrigeration through Germany and back to Amsterdam before the return trip home to the states. I immediately cut a small piece to sample myself. It was as fresh and tasty as the day it was cut! Pretty amazing if you consider what it went through to arrive in my mouth. In classic reverse psychology, I turned to my wife and suggested she wouldn’t like it, as I quickly grabbed another piece for myself. I also added that the Jersey breed of cow only represents about half a percent of the cow population in the Netherlands, and the milk is naturally higher in protein, so it’s pretty special. That’s when curiosity won out, and my wife took a piece for herself…and another…with a third taste accompanied by an admission that it was really delicious.
Exact-weight wedges like those from Vandersterre are game changers for this business in my opinion. The packaging technology allows some very special cheeses to be retailed in environments where the ability to cut and wrap large wheels is non-existent, and they seemingly have an incredibly long shelf life. Retailers of all shapes and sizes now have the option of expanding their assortment for the benefit of their customers, and increasing the variety and interest in their specialty cheese departments. As more and more producers from all over the world introduce exact-weight options, the choice is really getting quite exciting.