A Tale of Two Cheeses

FireFly Farms’ Merry Goat Round
and Spruce Reserve

A two-for-one is even better when it involves cheese. Accident, MD-based FireFly Farms’ Merry Goat Round is one of the three original cheeses that company co-founder Pablo Solanet created back in 2002.

“When we started the company, we wanted to make fresh chevre and soft-ripened cheeses,” Solanet says. “I created Merry Goat Round as a bloomy-rinded, soft-ripened goat’s milk-style in the tradition of a brie or Camembert.”

But it wasn’t until 15 years later, to celebrate Merry Goat Round’s anniversary, that Solanet created its offshoot—Spruce Reserve.

“It was really a collaboration with Chef José Andrés,” says FireFly Farms’ co-founder Michael Koch. “We were at a Washington, D.C. farmers market, where José and his family were regular customers. He and his family loved Merry Goat Round—but preferred it at different points of ripeness—and he suggested we strap it with wood so it could age even longer; that’s when Spruce Reserve was born. He invited us over, and we ate the very first Spruce Reserve with honey from his new bee hive.”

Solanet describes Merry Goat Round as silkily-textured and creamy around the edges, with an earthy yet mild lactic and grassy flavor.

“The flavor is concentrated close to the rind, and this cheese gets softer and creamier with more complex and mushroomy notes as it ages,” Solanet says.

Made with a vegetarian rennet, Merry Goat Round has a shelf life of 30-45 days and, like all cheese, is best served at room temperature. Pairings include chardonnay or sauvignon blanc with an apple or baguette. This cheese also can be drizzled with honey or jam and eaten with dried fruits, candied nuts, prosciutto, salami or olives.

By contrast, Spruce Reserve is banded with spruce cambium strapping to provide support as it ripens and softens. It is then aged for 80 days.

“We use a rubber band to keep the cambium around the young cheese, until the mold begins to develop, and it adheres naturally,” Solanet says. “The paste of Spruce Reserve is darker and beiger because it absorbs the quality of the wood.” Its shelf life is longer than Merry Goat, between 45 and 50 days. And it also is best served at room temperature.

Spruce Reserve’s flavor is woodier and richer than its predecessor, with earthy notes and deep umami flavors. The spoonable cheese pairs well with a pinot noir or oaky white wine, along with candied nuts or honeycomb. It also can be served alongside a crostini or pickled vegetables or topped with spicy jam.

“We have made a commitment to our local family farming environment and only manufacture our cheeses from fresh, locally-sourced goat milk,” Koch says. “We’ve reinvigorated a local milk market, purchasing 1.5 million pounds of goat milk a year from 10 local farms.”

As for accolades, both cheeses have been recognized for excellence. Merry Goat Round has received 13 awards over the years, most recently a 2016 bronze medal in the World Cheese Awards. Spruce Reserve received a 2018 Good Food Award and a perfect score at the 2018 American Cheese Society Judging and Competition, Both cheeses are distributed nationally and can be found in retail and specialty food shops. Additionally, they are available directly from the company’s website at https://fireflyfarms.com/shop.         

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