According to Ferndale Farmstead’s cheesemaker Daniel Wavrin, it was 2019 when the “stars aligned” and Roundbale completed the creamery’s offerings of Italian-style heritage cheeses.
Located in Ferndale, WA, this cheese producer makes pasta filata and aged Italian-style cheese in the manner of fresh mozzarella, Scamorza and Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano.
“There was a lack of Italian-style cheeses being produced in the Pacific Northwest, and we set out to answer to that,” Wavrin explains. “Dubliner turned me on to cheese making, and originally we set out to make a Swiss-style but saw an opportunity to represent a new family of cheese.”
He notes that cheddar and Grana style are much better cheese choices to highlight milk quality to consumers, as retail packaging requirements kill Comté and Gruyère rinds.
“Our original cheese recipe is from Napoli, Italy, and we use traditional methods for producing our heritage cheeses,” Wavrin says.
As part of the process, Ferndale Farmstead’s Roundbale and other varieties are cut with spinos or traditional Italian or Alpine-style cheese knives.
“This is traditional and proprietary and has been used for centuries,” Wavrin explains. “These knives were originally part of Parmigiano Reggiano production to cut rice-size particles.”
What sets Roundbale apart is its appearance; unlike Parmigiano Reggiano, which is sold in 80-pound rounds, this cheese is formatted into an 18-pound flat disk wheel.
“We wanted it to be more accessible to U.S. cheese counters,” Wavrin says.
“It is named after the traditional Parmigiano Reggiano shape, which resembles a bale of hay.”
Ferndale Farmstead lives up to its motto, Seed to Cheese, as Roundbale’s flavor is produced by the soil, grass and cows that are raised from birth.
“Roundbale is aged one to two years or more to achieve its depth of flavor,” Wavrin says. “This crown jewel of our cheese line encompasses a traditional Italian hard aged cheese flavor.”
Its nutty richness comes from whole milk, a departure from traditional Grana, which he says includes skim milk. The richness includes a piquant bite typical of Asiago, then a taste of Italian Parmesan with a tropical fruit finish reminiscent of pineapple.
“A little goes a long way,” Wavrin says. “Roundbale is an excellent grating style cheese for topping fried eggs, breakfast sandwiches, pasta, salad or any dish where you want to add a crispy Parmesan cheese experience.”
It can be paired with red or white wine but holds up well with spicy and fruity vinos. Because annual production is limited, Roundbale is not easily obtained, other than throughout the Pacific Northwest states. Mail order is accepted for cheese shops and wholesalers throughout the country.