Winnimere: Fun, Messy & Delicious

February 26, 2011

Winnimere is a first class cheese for an inelegant party among friends.  When out of refrigeration, Winnimere relaxes into a gooey ooze.  Even when eating with spoons, this cheese was messy.  Winnimere is fun to eat and has a flavor similar to another bark-banded cheese, Forsterkase.

winnimere-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011Winnimere is a soft washed rind cheese, farmstead produced by Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont.  It is made from raw cow’s milk.  The cheese is produced in a flat disc format, banded with spruce bark, and washed with local beer.  Like Forsterkase, Winnimere’s spruce band gives the cheese structure, flavor and a distinctive aroma.  It is aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill for 60 days before market.

Winnimere is a rustic beauty.  Its bark band gives this young cheese a weathered appearance.  The bark ring looks like damp old leather; it is flecked with white and blue-green surface molds.  Winnimere has a salmon pink rind that is thick, bumpy and pliable.  Its interior paste is pale, wet and soupy.

Winnimere has a pervasive perfume, but it is not offensive.  Its dominant scent is woodsy and reminiscent of freshly ground mulch or a cedar-lined chest.  The rind has a barnyard odor, while the cheese paste smells like smoked nuts.

Winnimere has strong flavors.  Its flavors are smoky, herbally, softly nutty, woodsy and sour.  It leaves a long smoky and woodsy aftertaste.  Winnimere’s texture is like thick glue; the cheese coats the tongue with a pasty cream.

We all liked Winnimere and had a lot of fun eating it.  Its flavor reminded us of Forsterkase, yet Winnimere’s texture has a soupier consistency.  Unlike Forsterkase, Winnimere is a cheese one ought to purchase whole, remove its top rind, and dip into with spoons.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Winnmere at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco); it is available January-June.  Winnimere should be purchased as a whole cheese; if purchasing half a cheese, get home quickly before it relaxes too much.


13 Responses to “Winnimere: Fun, Messy & Delicious”

  1. Paul Says:

    For the sake of credit attribution:

    The försterkäse seems to be a copy of an older cheese vacherin/mont d’or, currently protected in the EU as “mont d’or”, in Swtzerland as “vacherin Mont d’Or”.

    And winnimere is a copy of forsterkäse or directly of vacherin mont d’or.

    The producer does not give credit to any on its website.

    But cowgirl creamery does mention the mont d’or (well they use the name vacherin d’abondance, which may be a mistake).

    Also 60 days is on the longer side maturation for such a cheese (I am estimating it has the size of a medium/small mont d’or at most, <500g).

    Finally and most importantly you may enjoy knowing that in Europe this cheese (the mont d'or) is very popular (4500 t per year) and it is marketed in a box to put in the oven.

    Here are links with videos, recipes:

    The undulation of the upper part of the rind which is not sought on försterkäse nor on winnimere it seems, is obtained slightly shortening the diameter of the cheese at boxing time. The videos are great.

    My wife and I like it both cold and hot (beware that the recipes really cook it -we only melt this raw milk cheese), with most kinds of wines (dessert wines may be nice or not to you). Garlic appropriately used is nice too.

    • Thanks for the links to Mont d’Or. I enjoyed watching the dinner party video–I’ve been really curious how best to eat these soft, runny cheeses and the video provided a good idea. My cheese books suggest removing the top of the cheese, but I’ve found this method challenging with such sticky cheeses.

      We tried another US cheese, Rush Creek Reserve, that also claims inspiration from Vacherin Mont d’Or. This is a new cheese to market. It, too, was made with raw milk and was aged for 60 days (which just meets the aging requirements for US raw milk products). We haven’t tried Vacherin Mont d’Or yet, but I am looking for it.

      And yes, Winnimere is about 1.5 pounds whole, which is similar in weight to the cheeses you described.

      • Paul Says:

        Thanks alot for the further info.

        I have read a little more about raw milk.

        It seems that certain mont d’or are imported in the US. Those may be the larger ones, diameter up to 33cm, almost that of brie (de Meaux), or the swiss ones, made from thermized milk. However it seems the restriction is the same for thermized milk as for raw milk cheese.

        I would not lose sleep on trying to taste mont d’or though. They are delicious cheeses usually but I am pretty confident that försterkäse, winnimere, rush creek are just as good and you may find them cheaper, in better conditions.

        Often the care with which cheese has been handled out of the factory is as important or more than how well it was designed and aged by the cheesemaker. Especially for more sensitive cheeses.

        If you let winnimere sit 20 days at room temperature (20ºC), or in a badly refrigerated display, you will have a bitter cheese (which I may enjoy, but few others).

        It is also difficult for cheesemakers to know in what state to ship their product. You have to second-guess them at times. I have noticed useful patterns, for instance certain small abbey-type cheeses here in Belgium all come very little matured, super clean, mild taste: they seem aimed at the same market, and such cheeses could grow quite strong if kept at rather high temperature, so rather than put off a buyer that takes the cheese near the BB date they design a cheese with little chance for maturation which they ship little matured anyway.

        But if I go to washed-rind cheeses like Haxaire’s munster, or even Le Rustique (they have just released a raw milk munster, which is very surprising if you know them a little), or whatever époisses, cheeses for connoisseurs, then they would usually be fine the day they arrive at the store.

        For mont d’or it is usually easy to pick because they are in transparent packaging, then you can see if the rind is super uniform orange with unscathed duvet. I may in any case keep the possibility to keep the cheese in my cave for 2-3 extra weeks.

        My cave by the way is a regular fridge, with a plastic bag in it where I keep cheese. Seriously cheese does not need fancy surroundings, only high humidity (apart from this the composition of the air does influence its evolution but relatively little especially at lower temperatures). A plastic bag with the opening folded below the cheese will keep >80%RH very efficiently and in my fridge it is at a place about 8ºC.

        About raw milk, it seems it usually provides a general increase in maturation speed, for a variety of reasons I think. I am more and more convinced that claims on the strength of flavors, and complexity of raw milk cheese is usually greater than for pasteurized milk cheese.

        For crémeux du Jura I remember the cheese quite beautiful, it was well matured, potent, straightforward. It may be that it was a little simpler than equivalent mont d’or, but those cheeses are usually strong on the spruce flavor, and complexity is not always important. Sometimes a simple/pure flavor is desirable. Also, I have seen many young mont d’or, even by award-winning cheesemakers (it is probable that all mont d’or cheesemakers have won awards though :)), which had little taste.

        1.5 pounds for winnimere is more than I thought. I mean, I was mistaken, I thought 1 pound. 🙂

        Removing the top of the cheese, I don’t remember seeing that on a mont d’or (you would take off alot of paste with it). And the rind is so delicious -and quite thin on mont d’or. What we do for whole-cheese fondues is cutting the rind a little (like in squares) before warming, so as to have easy pieces for the spoon.

        I think the top removal is more for “tortas” (casar, serena, etc. -thistle/vegetable rennet coagulation). But please that is still something to eat, not to discard, like a delicious minipie.

      • Paul Says:

        Correction to my comment:

        Le Rustique’s munster is not raw milk but pasteurized milk.

        I am really sorry about that mistake.

        It was quite good but with a surprising chemical/chlorine odor. I only tasted one.

  2. Paul Says:

    I should have said that the cheese looks really beautiful and thank you for reviewing it.

  3. Paul Says:

    Actually I have found the great blog Taste Cheese and they have reviewed the crémeux du Jura by Fromagerie Badoz, which I happen to have eaten this winter.

    It is pasteurized so you may find it in the US. Ours was flatter than a mont d’or, approximately the same dimensions as winnimere and försterkäse. We purchased a piece, without box.

    Badoz make good cheeses and this one was, it tasted like many mont d’ors we have had, on the runnier side of the range, like your winnimere it seems.

  4. Paul Says:

    Actually if the cheese is very very ripe and the rind flat, it is not hard to remove the top as shown in a video here:

    Mont d’or boxes do not come quite so ripe at the supermarket, even when reaching the BB date, but you can certainly let them mature until they are. And/or warm them to help.

  5. Hi Paul. Thanks for all of your cheese information and advice about storing cheese at the home “cave”(the plastic bag in the fridge technique). I’m going to give your technique a try. Storage is something that I have received various advice from cheesemongers about ranging from keep the cheese wrapped in special cheese paper (which, of course the shop also happens to sell), keep cheese on a plate under a ceramic or glass bowl, and don’t bother with the fridge because it is too drying– just eat the cheese straight away.

    Availability is a big issue with the cheeses I mentioned (Forsterkase, Winnimere and Rush Creek). You can correct me on the Forsterkase, but the 2 US cheeses are seasonal and not widely available. For all 3 cheeses, I purchased them when I had the opportunity. I don’t know if they are rare everywhere in the US, but in San Francisco I do not see these cheeses regularly. So, if I can find some of the European cheeses you mentioned, I hope to try those cheeses, too.

    You noted once before the growth in US artisanal cheese producers. Indeed, it is because of their efforts that we (in the US) have access to such a variety of well-crafted domestic cheeses. Winnimere is just one example. It is our good fortune that we stumbled into this cheese renaissance.

    • Paul Says:

      I’ll just comment a little more on the bag now since you were interested.

      We have transparent plastic bags to take vegetables at the supermarket. This is what I use here. I think you have the same kind of thin impermeable plastic bags in the US, at least they had in Canada.

      As was commented to you what matters is not to dry the cheese, high humidity. The fridge temperature is ideal to keep cheese, but it is too dry. Now an impermeable plastic bag (not the white Safeway kind), thin so as to fold well and not leave appertures, really keeps >80%RH here (you can use a weather station to check).

    • Paul Says:

      I should comment still a little more and justify myself, I will later but for now: I use 1 transparent plastic bag in which 1 large cabbage fits (3kg/7lbs). It is a HDPE (high density polyethylene) bag, those that are less deformable (those that would rather break than stretch super thin).

      I may have something like 15 supermarket-bought cheeses now in there (this is on the upper limit for us), something like 2.5 kg. We have a few out of the bag, unopened. All the opened cheeses are in their original wrapping, in which we cut them, and in the plastic bag, with the opening twisted and folded below them.

      Again I should write more, especially since there does not seem to be appropriate reference.

  6. Paul Says:

    I mean:
    (cut cheese) each in (original packaging) all in (1 plastic bag) in (fridge)

  7. Paul Says:

    Further comments: mont d’or PDO can only be produced from august 15 to march 15 and sold from september 10 to may 10.

    I cannot say for crémeux du Jura nor försterkäse, those cheeses are produced by single companies (Badoz for the former), or a few, at their discretion I suppose.

    It is possible but tedious to justify that a HDPE plastic bag will not release much moisture if opened only a few times to take cheese out.

    I never had any problem with odor contaminations from keeping cheese as I do. A related remark: certain producers’ plastic wrappings give taste to cheese, which is usually not nice.

    Right now we have mostly supermarket cheese (only actually) in the “cave”. Cheesemonger-cut cheese are usually in poorer packaging, the various kinds of parchment papers, which do not fold well around cheese and let moist air created by water released by the cheese escape. Obvious fact: the greater the gradient the faster the cheese dries, at 100% humidity no drying, if the container is closed tightly and impermeable, no drying.

    Cheese matures faster in atmospheres with gases that are basic in water, like ammonia. This is used to control maturation. Therefore camembert in small space (a bag) will mature slightly faster than in a large/real cave (but there it’s harder to control humidity).

    There is the question of what to put in contact with the rind, beyond how much humidity is surrounding the cheese. The typical issue is smear cheese, keeping the rind sticky/moist or having it rather dry.

  8. […] has been written about Winnimere since our first review two years ago — and deservedly so. Have you tried the […]

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