The cheesy dream of Mary Keehn
Fresh Goat cheese and truffles. What a fabulous idea. Like bread and chocolate, wine and roses, it would make a beautiful coupling. Mary Keehn, proprietress of Cypress Grove Chevre, just knew it. “Once we had sourced a steady supply of truffles we went about making it. We were all so excited to try it. Goat cheese and truffles. How could it not be yummy?”
Until she took a taste.
Instead of yum, Keehn describes it as “a fight going on in my mouth. The bright acid of the goat cheese didn’t want anything to do with the earth flavor of the truffles.”
She could’ve scrapped the whole project, but since she had made a large batch, she decided to hold out. “Frugal gal that I am, we inoculated it and put it in the aging room to ripen.” The transformation began and, in 2009, a mellower Truffle Tremor was born.
“That’s the really fun thing about cheese,” says Keehn of the affinage process. “It starts off looking and tasting one way but a few weeks later it’s different again. If you care for it properly, you can really have a lot of fun with cheese and wine parties. The wine you use when it is a young cheese is very different from the wine you use with a mature cheese.”
As Truffle Tremor aged, the earthy flavor of the truffles and the creamy texture of the ripened cheese proved to be a winning combination.
Winning indeed. In 2014, Truffle Tremor won Super Gold in the World Cheese Awards; First Place from the American Cheese Society (in 2009 and 2012 too); and First Place in the World Championship Cheese Contest. Other awards include: Sofi Award for Outstanding Cheese or Dairy in 2009, and Gold in the California State Fair Cheese Competition in 2009 and 2010.
“I think one of the most satisfying things about Truffle Tremor is how the texture of the cheese matches the flavor,” says Keehn. Its popularity spawned many imitators, some-thing she finds flattering. Considering the high cost of harvesting Italian black truffles and producing goat cheese, “we think Truffle Tremor is quite a bargain among truffle goat cheeses.”
The cheese’s moniker relates to truffles coming from underground, but it also has to do with its birthplace. “Humboldt County has its own bit of underground culture,” says Keehn, “and we live in earthquake country. The name just worked.”
Keehn founded Cypress Grove Chevre, an idyllic 80-acre goat farm in Arcata, Humboldt County, CA in 1983. “Our surroundings are unique. It’s where the California redwoods hit the ocean. The redwoods need the high moisture from the ocean, so that creates the fog. It’s literally part of the air we breathe.”
Keehn’s first cheesy dream started it all about 27 years ago. Keehn went to France to learn the cheesemaking process. On the airplane home, she dreamt about the cheese that would become her star, Humboldt Fog. “It was kind of floating in air — the exact picture of the cheese. When I got home I thought, I’m going to make this cheese.”
Keehn believes there would be no Truffle Tremor without ‘big sister’ Humboldt Fog. “It really is a dream come true. We literally wouldn’t be here today without it.” CC