Named after the caves in which it is aged, St. Pete’s Select from Caves of Faribault in Faribault, MN, has quite a history behind it.
It was 1936 when a series of 13 sandstone caves in Minnesota were commandeered by Felix Frederiksen for Blue cheese aging. The conditions were ideal. Because the caves’ stone was 99 percent quartzite and there were no stalactite or stalagmite formations, water moved vertically as opposed to horizontally, contrary to most caves. The environment also was perfect, with 99 percent humidity and a temperature of 52 degrees F all year.
The cheese plant shut down in the 1990s due to consolidation, but the caves reopened in 2001; a year later, St. Pete’s Select was conceived. Caves of Faribault was purchased by Swiss Valley Farms in 2010 and then became a part of the Prairie Farms Dairy family in 2017.
Head cheesemaker Rueben Nilsson, who worked at the company when St. Pete’s Select was conceived, describes this cheese as a traditional American Blue style recipe.
“The Universities of Minnesota and Iowa were doing work developing Blue cheese recipes for the domestic cheese industry back in the 1930s, and that’s where our recipe comes from,” he says. “The strain of mold we’re using was collected in the caves by the culture house that uses it today.”
St. Pete’s Reserve is made using unpasteurized cow’s milk, with 95 percent of it sourced from a single farm.
“The curing in our caves is open to the environment,” says Nilsson. “Over the decades, native yeasts and molds created a microbial community to give this cheese unique flavor characteristics. You still can taste the milk, it’s tart, creamy, with a distinctive pecan note. This is a very friendly Blue cheese.”
When St. Pete’s is cold, it easily crumbles with a fork, but it’s best served at room temperature, as this is when it comes alive and blooms with a spreadable consistency.
In 2008, Caves of Faribault partnered with local microbrewer Summit Brewing of St. Paul to create beer soaked wheels of St. Pete’s Select. The line, called Blues & Brews, provides three seasonal versions using Summit’s Winter, Summer and Octoberfest brews. In 2018, the company entered the summer version, Summertime Blues, in the American Cheese Society’s annual competition and took third in the Marinated Cheese category. Among the original St. Pete’s Reserve’s many accolades was a 2014 third place Best in Class win at ACS.
“This cheese is a wonderful addition to burgers, poultry or fish. It can be stuffed in a portabella mushroom or eaten atop whole grain or multi grain crackers with honey or jam,” says Nilsson. “It’s also a good pairing with dried fruit and other sweet foods.”
Beverages that are a good compliment include dry red wine and darker, malty beers like a porter, stout or black IPA.
St. Pete’s Select is available at many supermarkets across the country.