The concept for Arcata,CA-based Cypress Grove Cheese’s Purple Haze fresh goat chèvre, which garnered first place at the American Cheese Society’s competition last year, came to the company’s founder Mary Keehn as she gazed out her kitchen window deep in thought about how to create a cheese with fennel pollen after a friend’s request.
When the lavender bush outside caught her eye, the idea for the cheese line began to take shape.
“One of the reasons this cheese is so popular is because the floral addition of lavender takes fennel to an almost sweet flavor, with floral notes that brighten up the taste,” she says.
During production, the curds are coagulated overnight primarily by acidifying, rather than using a lot of rennet as with a harder cheese.
“Purple Haze’s curd is made with tiny drops of rennet, using a process similar to producing yogurt, although that has no rennet at all,” she says. “It gives the cheese a nice balance to the acidity as well as a creaminess, since texture is so important.”
Although similar in consistency to cream cheese, Purple Haze has fewer calories, only 70 per ounce, and just 6 g of total fat.
Fitting into the dessert category easily, one of Keehn’s favorite uses is to bring the cheese to room temperature, wash it while packaged, poke a hole in the packaging and pipe it onto a halved date.
“This is a healthier, treat that provides sweet and savory in one bite,” she says. “Purple Haze also can be crumbled onto a spring or summer salad with fresh strawberries and nuts to make a substantial and satisfying meal.”
Its cream cheese-type consistency and flavor also make it a perfect ingredient for cheesecake and frosting. Cypress Grove’s website, www.cypressgrovecheese.com, includes a variety of recipes for these and other dishes as well as recommended wine and beer pairings.
Purple Haze is sold nationally in Whole Foods and at Murray’s Cheese Shops, among a number of other locations.
“Purple Haze outsells our plain goat cheese, because it has such a unique flavor and is fun to play with,” says Keehn. “We wanted to create something unique and special, and this cheese fits the bill.”