An American Cheese Thanksgiving

Parish Hill Creamery Cheese Plate 1This Thanksgiving, I’m headed to New York City to eat bird at a restaurant — a family experiment! Since I’m not preparing a cheese board myself, I’ve been reading recommendations (like this one from Tasting Table) with lust’n envy. Since I can’t help myself, allow me to offer a couple of suggestions for this year’s cheese board theme, inspired by a recent Parish Hill cheese plate (pictured above) I served to friends:

Eat artisan American cheese. Why not? We’re in an American cheese renaissance, and Thanksgiving is uniquely American. Go American terroir all the way.

Consider a cheese board that represents a single maker or farm. Ask about local makers when you go to the cheese shop. Buy a selection of 3 or 4, and taste how the milk from a single farm expresses itself in different styles. To me, this is a truly unique experience, and it makes for a cheese board no guest will forget. In the Philadelphia area, check out Stefanie Angstadt of Valley Milkhouse, who is selling special Thanksgiving cheese boards out of her creamery on Nov. 23 and 24 (for details: valleymilkhouse@gmail.com).

Pair your cheeses with American craft beers, ciders, and spirits. Break out your bourbon, your American gin, and make some cocktails. A recent tasting of Whistle Pig Rye has me craving a Whistle Pig Manhattan — a fine accompaniment for firm Alpine-style cheeses, in particular, or anything sheep’s milk. Last year on Thanksgiving, I served French 75s, one of my favorite gin drinks, with an all goat cheese board from Vermont Creamery (Bijou, Cremont, Bonne Bouche, and Coupole).

Seasonal Raw Milk Cheese Plate from Parish HillWrapped Parish Hill Cheeses

On the cheeses featured in this post: Over the summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Parish Hill Creamery in Westminster, Vermont — home to cheesemakers Peter Dixon, Rachel Fritz Schaal, and Alex Schaal. I love the rusticity of their seasonal, raw-milk cheeses, especially the hour-glass-shaped Suffolk Punch. It’s modeled after an Italian cheese, called Caciocavallo, which was shaped this way so that it could be hung from rope and slung over the back of a horse (and carried to market).

You almost never see this style of cheese made in the United States. So, finding it in the hands of Peter Dixon — who has trained so many American cheesemakers and who embodies the soul of early European dairymen — made this a very special discovery. If you’re looking to honor an artisan American cheese legend for Thanksgiving, look no further.

A Parish Hill Cheese Board

  • West West Blue
  • Vermont Herdsman
  • Suffolk Punch
A glimpse into the cheese cave at Parish Hill

A glimpse into the cheese cave at Parish Hill

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