Disclaimer: I’m not being paid to talk about these products, nor am I affiliated with the producers in any way. I just really like them and want to talk about them!
Despite being a naughty, spoonable, almost fondue-like cheese, Jasper Hill’s Harbison has surprisingly wholesome origins. Originally named for Anne Harbison, a resident of Jasper Hill Farm’s hometown in Vermont and nicknamed the Grandmother of Greensboro, Harbison is a soft-ripened, bloomy-rinded cheese made from the farm’s own pasteurized Ayrshire cows’ milk and wrapped in spruce bark harvested from the local land.
The cheese has a white brie-like mold, with occasional blue-green molds sometimes forming on the dark brown bark. Once the curds are molded, wrapped in spruce, and aged for at least 6-13 weeks, each 9-10 ounce wheel is ready for enjoyment. Much like its European forebearers, such as the bark-wrapped, decadent Vacherin Mont d’Or, Harbison is best enjoyed by removing the top and just digging into the creamy interior like a dip. (When young, the bark can be removed and the cheese cut for portioning, but in my opinion this is a less fun way to eat it.)
Did I mention that it was also the winner of the American Cheese Society’s Best of Show category in 2018? I mean it’s pretty gorgeous, so it makes sense.
What does all this mean for me, a casual cheese eater?
Well friend, this means that the flavor and texture of this cheese is phenomenal.
The paste of the cheese reminds me a little of brie taste-wise, but without the mushroomy flavors that tend to turn me off. It’s all earthy, vegetal, with some creamy sweetness and maybe a smidge of funky aftertaste. The spruce lining adds not only structure, but sometimes tannin flavors imparted from the bark.
This cheese has a LOT going for it.
Sounds delicious! What do you pair it with?
When I first tried this cheese, I included it as part of a dinner spread with Hohberg Steiner raclette, spicy sopressata, raw baby carrots, red seedless grapes, Granny Smith apples, and whole wheat Mini Croccantini from La Panzanella. I had fun dipping the carrots, but Jasper Hill’s Harbison really shined when paired with tart green apple on the Mini Croccantini.
The unnecessary cherry on top?
A dollop of Nuts and Honey from Bonnie’s Jams, a combination of roasted nuts bathed in luxurious golden honey. The nuts add extra crunch and the honey brings out some of the sweetness in both the apple in cheese. In the end I’ll admit it’s not necessary because Granny Smith and Harbison are still a great combo, but was it worth it?
What about you? Have you had Harbison? What did it taste like to you? Let me know in a comment below!
Harbison can be found in various local specialty cheese shops, major supermarkets, and online. Alternatively, you can purchase it directly from the producers here!
If you’re interested in learning more about artisanal cheese making, American cheese terroir and microbiology, and landscape preservation and sustainability, consider checking out Jasper Hill Farm.
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