As summer fades and the nights catch up to the days in length at the onset of autumn, we seek comfort in hearty food and drink that can stand up to the colder weather. ‘Tis the season for meaty stews, full-bodied red wines, earthy wild mushrooms, fibrous nuts and seeds, and dense fruits and vegetables. It’s also a perfect time of year to indulge in those rich, beefy cheeses that we pass over during the hotter months, when we instead gravitate towards feta, ricotta, and fresh goat cheeses that pair well with watery summer fruits, light salads, and crisp white wines.
The denser foods of the autumn harvest are rich in nutrients, giving our bodies the concentrated energy we need as the seasons change. Historically, light, watery foods were not readily available in the winter, so genetics may also play a role in our food choices at this time of year. Heavy, nutty cheeses satisfy our cold-weather cravings, and the big flavors pair well with autumn accompaniments, such as nuts, smoked meats, preserves, and orchard fruits.
Amanda Bernhardt, Cheese Cave Team Leader at DiBruno Brothers in Philadelphia recommends beefy, washed-rind cheeses, such as Époisses, taleggio, vacheron, and aged Gouda for an ideal fall platter. “They’re more filling and rich,” says Bernhardt, who manages buying and product selection at the store’s famous cheese counter.
So dig up your favorite leather jacket and enjoy a last-minute picnic under the falling leaves with a big, bold red and a rich, beefy hunk – of cheese, of course!
L’Amuse Signature Gouda (cow’s milk, hard, Holland)
Aged Gouda is the one of the most nutrient-dense cheeses, making it a perfect choice for fall. It is high in vitamin K2, which promotes bone and immune system health, and the K2 content only increases as it ages. L’Amuse signature Gouda is pressed, aged in brine, matured for two years, and sent out from its home in Northern Holland at its optimal age. It’s made in a cooperative dairy located in the Beemster Polder, which was converted into pastures in the early 17th century after the land was reclaimed from a lake. The mineral-rich clay soil left behind yields long, thick, fertile grasses that lend themselves to sweet, creamy cheeses. Unlike most mature Dutch cheeses, L’Amuse Gouda is not aged in cool temperatures. Instead, the hand-selected wheels mature and ripen in mid-temperatures and a humid environment, which Bernhardt says allows the cheese to age more quickly, stay moist but crystalline, and develop a fully rounded flavor with a deep, complex finish.
This cheese is a harmony between opposites – it’s creamy, but also full of crystals that crunch between your teeth; it’s sweet and salty, with nutty and meaty notes that blend with hints of butter and caramel. Its hearty flavors, combined with the amber color of its paste, makes it a perfect and beautiful addition to a fall platter. This Gouda is made year round, but cheesemakers claim that wedges made in September are the creamiest. This cheese belongs with accompaniments that aren’t so much on the sweet side, like apples or toasted nuts. Berhnardt even recommends grating it on homemade macaroni and cheese. For liquid pairings, try a stout, porter, or dark ale, or a big red Burgundy.
Adelegger (cow’s milk, semi-firm, Germany, organic)
This Bavarian block may not stink up your refrigerator, but you’ll sure feel it in your nose after you’ve had a bite. This unassuming cheese is mild at first, until the funk kicks in and takes you by surprise, with a nasal quality that lingers even after you’ve eaten it. Adelegger is carefully crafted by Evelyn Wild, master cheesemaker of the small Käskuche Isny dairy in Isny im Allgäu, in the Bavarian region of Baden-Württemberg, southwest of Munich near the Liechtenstein border. A small cooperative of nine farmers in the region have been providing the organic milk used in Wild’s six different cheese varieties since 1998. Wild’s operation is eco-friendly, using green technology and organic methods of production throughout the process. Adelegger is repeatedly washed in herb-infused white wine and aged for 18 months, making this fudgey-textured hunk acidic, nutty, and bold enough to weather the increasingly chilly autumn nights. Bernhardt recommends pairing this cheese with an IPA or spicy red wine, and apples or smoked ham as accompaniments. She also suggests it as a good choice for melting or fondue.
Époisses (cow’s milk, soft, France)
When cheese is good, it’s very good – but when it’s bad, it’s even better. This naughty French stinker is a fugitive in its home country, where it is rumored to be illegal to carry it on trains. Époisses is certainly not for the faint of heart – it’s so pungent, I caught a whiff of it on myself an hour after I ate it. But for those of us who love a little stink, Époisses is sure to satisfy your cravings. Originally created by Trappist monks in Burgundy who needed a meat substitute to supplement their vegetarian diets, Époisses is certainly one of the beefiest cheeses around. The dark orange rind is washed in brine for several weeks, and then in Marc de Bourgogne, a local pomace brandy, giving it a salty flavor and deep hue. The paste is creamy and runny, and some wheels are so ripe that they can’t even keep their shape. So crack a window, let in some crisp fall air, and enjoy this bold cheese with some hearty oat or pumpernickel bread, and a Trappist-style ale or Burgundy wine.