Cow’s milk, cheese cloth and lard—such a simple combination, but when combined with Murray’s dedication and passion for cheese, it becomes truly magical.
Murray’s Clothbound Cheddar is the result of a year of experimentation and a partnership between Murray’s and the cheesemakers at Old Chatham Creamery in Groton, NY. Produced at Cornell University’s Dairy Plant, the wheels arrive at Murray’s a week and a half after production. They’re wrapped in cheese cloth, rubbed in lard, then sit and age within Murray’s natural rind cave. The cheese that emerges from those caves is both crumbly and fudgy. Murray’s first cheese—from milk to make to its counters—embodies meaty bacon and sour cream to create a robust Cheddar with a lingering pineapple scent. Think of it as a New York trailblazer best to enjoy alongside New York cider.
It was 2015 when Steve Millard, senior vice president of merchandising and operations for Murray’s Cheese, had a drink with P.J. Jenkelunas, Murray’s cave manager, and Matt Ranieri, former vice president of Old Chatham Creamery and a Cornell PhD graduate who was working as a consultant for Old Chatham at the time. They then hatched a plan to start making cheese at Murray’s.
Old Chatham Creamery signed on to support the cheese making. The group first experimented with a washed rind cheese before settling on the current clothbound Cheddar style.
The key to cheddaring is the cutting of the cheese curds; they are cut first into larger pieces, then stacked into mats to release excess whey. These curd mats are then cut again, milled into smaller pieces and formed into wheels that are once again stacked on top of each other. This pushes out even more whey, allowing the cheese to age into a drier, crumbly texture.
Over the course of 14 months, Millard, Jenkelunas, Ranieri and others made a monthly pilgrimage to Cornell University. They left on Friday, made cheese all day on Saturday and finalized cheese makes on Sunday, before getting back to work in the city on Monday morning.
Over the next year, many variables were tested during the cheese make, from culture blends to cheddaring techniques to brining times and more. Each make was clothed, larded, then placed in Murray’s natural rind cave. Murray’s team would methodically track cheese development, until a recipe was finalized after 12 months of sampling. Murray’s uses lard from The Meat Hook, an independent butcher in Brooklyn that works exclusively with local, pastured farms in New York State.
Murray’s named the cheese Stockinghall for a good reason; Cornell’s Dairy Plant is located in a building called Stocking Hall, which houses the university’s food sciences department.
Starting in 2016, Old Chatham Creamery took over full production of Stockinghall Cheddar following Murray’s recipe.
Murray’s then reconfigured its cave shelving so up to 700 wheels of Stockinghall could be accommodated.
The facility where this cheese is made is a part of Cornell’s PRO-DAIRY program, which is designed to help assist New York State Dairy Producers and make the New York dairy farm business more competitive through educational programming and practically applied research.
The effort was well worth it; in 2019, Stockinghall was named Best in Show at the prestigious annual American Cheese Society Conference.
Stockinghall Cheddar is available at Murrays’ New York City retail stores, online and in New York City restaurants. Variations of the cheese were created and are available for a limited time, including a version that uses butter in place of lard that’s dubbed ‘Butterhall’ as well as Blue Stockinghall.