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Jacobs & Brichford “Adair”
You know you’re in for something great when you bite into a piece of ice cold cheese (because you couldn’t wait for it to come up to room temperature) and that cheese, despite its muted flavors, still bursts with flavors of salted cream, butter, and mushrooms. Meet Connersville, Indiana-based Jacobs & Brichford’s “Adair.”
The family cheese operation first got on my radar as it did many others’ at the American Cheese Society conference in Raleigh in 2012. There, the farming-cheesemaking family was sampling their goldenrod-colored creamy washed-rind beauty called Ameribella. If I’d had my own spoon, whatever remained of the Ameribella would have landed in my mouth and mine only. It was that good.
Fast-forward to the American Cheese Society conference held in Providence, Rhode Island in August 2015, and this time I knew to make a beeline for the Jacobs & Brichford cheeses. What I did not know was that their newest cheese called Adair would stop me dead in my tracks. Truth be told, all their cheeses did. My hastily-written notes about their Alpine-style cheese called Everton had no shortage of exclamation points either.
Matthew Brichford, the farmer/cheesemaker/father member of the Jacobs & Brichford team, says the inspiration for Adair was a cheese research trip to the Savoie region of France and that region’s heralded Reblochon cheese. That pungent washed-rind cheese is unavailable in the United States because of our law mandating an aging period of at least 60 days for a raw milk cheese. Reblochon is typically aged about 54 days. Close but not close enough according to the FDA. Luckily for cheese lovers, a cheese made closer to home can spend those extra few days on the aging shelf before having to be shipped. In turn, this means a raw milk cheese can be made using Old World techniques and still meet our government standards.
All the Jacobs & Brichford cheeses are made with the raw milk that comes from their pasture-grazed and 100-percent grass-fed cows (read: zero grain). The cows themselves are Tarentaise, Normande, and Jersey crossbreeds, the milk from which is prized for its high butterfat and protein. In combination with the grass-based diet, the milk transforms into a cheese whose interior (called the paste) is preternaturally golden in color.
As a washed-rind cheese, Adair is partly dependent on so called b. linens (salt-loving bacteria) to create the more assertive flavors and pinkish color of the rind. Brichford explains that he doesn’t have to add any during the make process of Adair because their milk as well as the aging room abounds in natural b. linens. It probably doesn’t hurt that the cheese is aged in the same room as Ameribella, which is in the same family of b. linen-developed washed-rind cheeses.
In addition to the beneficial bacteria, Adair is exposed to geotrichum yeast and penicillium Candidum mold by way of a brine bath. The latter not only results in a fine white dusting of mold on the surface of the cheese but the combination of the two also helps to ripen as well as bring about various flavor components in the cheese.
The 1.5-pound wheel generously sent to me by Matthew and his wife, company marketing chief, Leslie Jacobs, is the smaller of the two sizes Matthew makes. The larger wheel is closer to about 4 pounds.
When I first unwrapped the cheese (this time at room temperature), I got a heady scent of mushrooms, which for me is the cheese equivalent of catnip. There was also an expected funky aroma – expected because that’s what most washed-rind cheeses will emit – but it was tamped down and oddly satisfying.
Cutting into the cheese was akin to slicing a piece of dense fudge, and the mouthfeel is not much different. Adair is creamy, almost thick, in the mouth. The rind is a bit tacky to the touch and has compelling micro-crystals that crunch with each bite. Washed-rind cheeses tend to be saltier than most other cheeses – after all, they’re washed with salt – and Adair is no exception. But the cheese is beautifully balanced by mushroomy, meaty flavors and a slightly sour but entirely pleasant finish.
Because Adair is newer in the Jacobs & Brichford repertoire, word is just getting out about it. That means that while you might have a little trouble finding it now, I’m guessing it won’t take long before it starts showing up on shelves at your favorite cheese shop. Or at least, let’s hope that will be the case. This is one great cheese.