Our Cave to Co-op for August 2020 is Verano — a raw sheep-milk cheese aged 3-5 months from Vermont Shepherd in Westminster West, Vermont.
Vermont Shepherd cheeses are the oldest and most well known of the country’s sheep and mixed milk cheeses. David and Yesenia Ielpi Major and their family pasture and milk the sheep, make and age the cheese on a 250-acre farm in Westminster West, Vermont.
Vermont Shepherd cheeses descended from a variety of Pyrenees mountain cheeses, which is fitting because a large half of their family is Spanish. The cheese has won awards for Best Farmhouse Cheese in the country and Best of Show in the American Cheese Society’s annual competition since 1993. Today their family makes cheese in small, 10 to 30 wheel batches. Vermont Shepherd was featured in The New York Times, Gourmet, Food and Wine, Esquire, and more.
Yesenia grew up summer’s milking cows on her dad’s farm in the Dominican Republic. David grew up tending his dad’s sheep in Vermont. Together, they make a mixed milk cheese called Invierno (winter) and a classic pure raw sheep milk tomme called Verano (summer). Verano has won many awards, including Best in Show at the American Cheese Society. The Robb Report called it “possibly the best sheep milk cheese in America.” Verano is a smooth and creamy, semi-hard cheese with a sweet, rich, and earthy flavor. The rustic wheel has a rough, golden brown rind. David and Yesenia make cheeses only during pasture season when the sheep graze on clover, grasses, and wild herbs.
Verano is superb on a cheese plate with some rich and tart cherry preserves, tomato jam or quince paste, and some crusty wheat or olive bread. Here are a few recipes to try as with this fine summer seasonal cheese.
Mixed Baby Greens Salad w/ Verano & Dried Cherries
2 T Champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
5 T extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
9 cups mixed salad greens (such as baby arugula, frisée, mâche, and watercress)
1¾ cups ½ -inch cubes Verano; about 8 ounces
½ cup dried tart cherries
1. Whisk together vinegar and Dijon mustard in a small bowl, then whisk in honey. Gradually whisk in oil. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and white pepper. Vinaigrette can be made 3 days ahead. Cover; chill.
2. Bring vinaigrette to room temperature before using to dress the salad. When ready to serve place greens, cheese, and cherries in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Pasta, Verano Cheese & Eggs
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, diced
1 lb bucatini or thick spaghetti
4 large eggs
1 cup Verano, coarsely grated
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
Optional: 4 of the very freshest eggs yolks for serving. (Raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies or young children, or anyone whose health is compromised.)
1. Fill a large pot with 8 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 3 tablespoons salt and return to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, in a very large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft and lightly golden, 7 to 9 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
3. Add pasta to boiling water and cook, according to package directions, until almost al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking water.
4. Transfer pasta to skillet, along with 1/2 cup reserved cooking water. Place skillet over medium heat. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and season with salt and pepper. Add eggs to skillet along with the Verano cheese; gently mix to combine. Let cook until eggs just begin to set, but not scramble. Remove from heat and add parsley and Parmigiano.
5. Divide evenly between serving bowls. Top each serving with an egg yolk, if desired, season with pepper; serve immediately.