Gin and Munster Gerome
It feels auspicious to start out the New Year with Munster Gerome. Before sitting down to write this, I did ten minutes of stretching in the dark, made myself a cup of hot vinegar tea, read the top food stories of 2013 in The New York Times and considered (briefly) a post on cleansing. Or cheese highlights of the past year.
Then I yawned.
Who wants to talk about digestion or reflect back on epic feta? (Kidding, there was no epic feta.) Moving forward, I want to eat more Munster Gerome with a chaser of gin.
This is going backward: over the holiday, I drove to Wisconsin with 12 cheeses to meet my brother for our last epic tasting of the year, and one of the cheeses in my cooler was, yes, Munster Gerome. We planned to studiously pair some of our favorite hunks and libations. Nerds do this.
We are nerds from birth. Even in childhood, we forced our parents to leave the house on Saturdays so we could tear the kitchen apart, then chose the most difficult recipes in our mother’s cookbooks to prepare for them as a “surprise.” This resulted in a lot of tortes.
I brought my brother Munster Gerome because it’s a fierce little cheese – the kind we love – and my brother has been on an Alsatian kick. He wanted to pair Gewürztraminer. I feel “meh” about Gewürtztraminer, but that’s probably because I spend all of my money in the dairy aisle and drink inexpensive hooch, while my brother spends all of his sheckles on wine — and pennies on cheese.
Our goal for 2014 is to teach each other to appreciate one another’s obsession.
Munster Gerome is a fudge pie with a rind that looks like leather from a burnt orange crocodile. Its taste is just as nasty: braised beef, boiled cabbage, sautéed onions, bacon. It’s basically a boiled dinner – but delicious.
I love a fudgy texture, and Munster Gerome is like raunch fudge. Between bites, you definitely need a swish of something bright and cleansing, especially if you eat it unadorned – assumably, the monks who developed this cheese in the 7th century ate it with beer.
After one bite, I knew we needed something bigger than wine. We’d run through a quick gin tasting upon my arrival – I’d sent my brother some Barr Hill as a gift, and he wanted to introduce me to a fave: Botanivore. A sip of those beauties had soothed after the long drive and left me feeling very settled against a caramel leather banquette.
And so, for a stinky cheese chaser, we shared a nip of Botanivore, a craft gin from St. George Spirits in California.
Lo, the stink dissipated. The taste of anise and mint minglied, turning my mouth from an onion drawer into a bud vase. It was a revelation!
And so, I share it with you. If you like strong cheese, ramp up from your Taleggio and your pretty Red Hawks. Pick up a pie wedge of Munster Gerome. Make sure it is quite ripe. Bring it home and stick it in a jar so that the fumes don’t kill your family.
Then, in late afternoon, when the sun is going down and the dirty snow has soured you on the idea of January, cut yourself a dab of Munster Gerome. Pull the best gin from your cupboard. Pour yourself a shot over a little ice. Give it a stir. And retire.
It’s a pairing we’ll not soon forget.
Note: My brother blogs — mostly about wine — at AndreDarlington.com. Our resolution for 2014 is to write about cheese and wine/spirits together. You can read more about our shared obsession over the coming months. Feel free to follow along or make recommendations.