They say the third time’s a charm, but in the case of Jasper Hill Farm’s Harbison, a spruce bark-wrapped, soft ripened, bloomy rind cheese, it took four tries to win the American Cheese Society’s coveted Best of Show award for 2018.
Created in 2011, the rustic, spoonable, full-bodied cheese took third Best in Show at ACS in 2015 and 2017 and Best in Show in the washed rind category in 2016.
Named after the late Mrs. Anne Harbison, affectionately known as the ‘Grandmother of Greensboro’, who inspired many with an outstanding commitment to her Vermont community, the cheese was a fortunate mistake.
“We were making Moses Sleeper, a straightforward Brie-style cheese, and had a batch where we were adjusting the moisture,” says Zoe Brickley, Jasper Farms’ director of development and marketing. “It was too firm, we bumped it too far and could tell early on it would pancake. Mateo (Kehler, Jasper Farms’ owner and operator with brother Andy) wrapped it in bark to salvage the batch.”
The result was Harbison. With aromas of raspberry and Dijon mustard, its bark contributes an oaky, vanilla character that makes the cheese an excellent companion for barrel-aged wines and beers with notable acidity. This rich and complex raw milk cheese is more expressive of terroir, and this is a more deliberate use of a culture blend. The most common description of those who’ve sampled the cheese is a flavor simulating roasted vegetables in a garlic cream sauce. It’s best paired with a crusty baguette, and it harmonizes quite well with pickled green vegetables like asparagus and Brussel sprouts, where the acidity helps balance the richness of this cheese.
“Mateo says cheese isn’t an invention, it’s a discovery, and this couldn’t be more true than with Harbison,” says Brickley. “We love Winnimere (another Jasper Farms’ spruce-wrapped cheese and 2013 ACS Best in Show winner), but it is only made in winter, so has limited distribution. Harbison is its bloomy rind counterpart that peaks at eight to nine weeks, so it has plenty of time to make its way into people’s refrigerators every day.”
She emphasize that it takes an amazing coordinated effort from multiple teams of people to pull off this cheese.
Harbison can often be found on full-service and fine cheese counters from coast to coast and through several online outlets, including Jasper Hill Farm’s online store: jasperhillfarm.com/shop