For many cheesemakers, the arrival of spring means the return of fresh cheeses like chevre, ricotta and surface-ripened styles. Even if they’ve been making cheese throughout the winter (due to a staggered breeding schedule, which is what Haystack Mountain relies on for its milk sourcing), kidding, calving and lambing season peaks this time of year and with that comes a surplus of milk.
Our cheesemaker Jackie Chang, is busier than ever, starting new batches of washed rind cheeses (which sold out over the winter). What we’re really psyched about now, however, is using our chevre and bloomy-rind cheeses such as Cashmere and Snowdrop in simple dishes that sing of spring.
One of my favorite ingredients is rhubarb. It grows abundantly in the wild in Colorado, and has greener stalks than cultivated varieties, which makes the latter more popular for use in desserts. A relative of buckwheat and sorrel, rhubarb is best-known as a pie ingredient paired with strawberries, but its appeal extends far beyond pastry (note that it should always be cooked; the leaves contain toxic amounts of oxalic acid, although the stalks only have trace amounts).
I love rhubarb prepared as a savory or sweet quick-marmalade, which makes for a beautiful- and unusual- condiment for pairing with fresh or bloomy-rind cheeses or a topping chevre or ricotta cheesecake or ice cream. You can also poach the stalks until tender in a simple syrup and use them in a salad paired with aforementioned cheeses (alternatively, try them with a mild, creamy blue) and toasted hazelnuts.
Recipe: Rhubarb Marmalade
¾ cup water
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated, peeled ginger
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
1 pound rhubarb stalks, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
Pinch of kosher salt
>In a saucepan, combine with water, sugar, ginger, allspice, and vanilla bean and seeds. Add rhubarb; bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is jam-like, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with a pinch of salt, discard vanilla bean.