A cheesemonger friend of mine and I were at a great little vegetarian café, chatting about cheese (of course!), when a woman walked up to us and said, “I’m sorry. I just heard you both talking about cheese, and . . .” I thought she would finish her sentence, but then she must have gotten shy, because she walked away. I wonder what she was going to say.
I know what I am going to say about this cheese that my friend handed me as we said goodbye. It was a hunk of Beekman 1802 Blaak!
Because I don’t have a television set at home, and I spend most of my life in a cave, I had no idea what this “Beekman 1802” business was. But, I thought the cheese was worth writing about, so I did my research! It turns out, the guys behind this cheese are hitting the mainstream in a big way!
It turns out that the men of Beekman 1802, Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, began their farming adventures to, supposedly, return to a simpler way of life in rural New York. They fixed up their farm mansion, hired a local farmer to manage their farm and bring in his goat herd, started making some cheese and soap from goat milk, got a reality show, and now, they are working on making this their full-time gig. Maybe by now they have succeeded. The name “Beekman 1802” is derived from the name of William Beekman, original owner of the house, and the year 1802, when construction on the mansion first began.
The men have been busy building their brand, so now, not only can you visit their website to make purchases, read their blog, and learn about life during the times of their resident ghost, you can watch them on TV as they engage in projects like decorating port-a-potties, painting their barn, and playing with goats.
The cheese, I learned, is made from a combination of goat and cow milk, with a 60:40 ratio. It is aged about 4 months, and rubbed with ash at each turning of the cheese. The Beekman boys do not make the cheese on the premises, but nearby, at the Cooperstown Cheese Company.
The Blaak cheese lives up to its name in that it’s coated in a smooth black ash rind (I couldn’t find out what type) that catches the light . There are small ridges in concentric circles all over the cheese, giving the rind an almost jewel-like quality. The paste is a medium straw yellow. It’s a great piece to present, thanks to that contrast between the rind and the paste. In terms of texture, the past is semi-hard with small eyes throughout. Aroma-wise, I found it quite mild. There was a whiff of hay and what reminded me of stone.
At this point, Mr. Cheesemonger was telling me to hurry up and just serve the darn cheese, so finally, I tasted. The mouthfeel was a little slick, with a bit of a fine sandy crumble. So far so good. The taste—it was extremely mild, bordering on dull. The balance between the saltiness and flavor was good, but the overall flavor was so mild, the balance didn’t really matter that much. Maybe this flavor choice is deliberate. To appeal to a large potential market, maybe they’ve decided to go ultra-soft on flavor. Maybe they haven’t mastered their cheese recipe yet. Maybe they personally just enjoy mild cheese.
Mild flavor notwithstanding, Mr. Cheesemonger and I drizzled some clover honey over it, and counted our cheese blessings.
Bottom line–it looks gorgeous, its taste leaves much to be desired. I was very glad for the chance to taste this cheese and read up on this pop phenomenon. I probably won’t watch the show, but if they come out with new or improved cheese recipes, I’d be up for a taste.