If you’ve been paying attention to American cheese news then you’ve heard that Landaff, the delicious and respected cow’s milk cheese from Landaff Creamery is going extinct!
If you know me then you know that I have a lot of feelings. If you know me well then you know that I have A LOT of feelings about cheese. I decided the best way to sort through my cheesemotions at a time like this is to write a letter to my old friend, Landaff and say my final goodbyes:
When we first met, it was awkward. Sampling you with a group of seasoned cheese pros, they mused about your array of flavors and your complexity but for me the lightning wasn’t striking. My palate, that of a young monger taking her first shaky steps into this wacky world of Cheese, wasn’t able to fully comprehend your galaxy of flavors. No shade, but you can be pretty subtle at first, which made it hard for me to really get you. But as the years passed and my cheese experience grew, you just kept popping up. Every time you appeared on a plate in front of me, I gave you another try, just to be polite. With each tentative taste I saw you from a slightly new angle and caught another glimpse of your vast flavor spectrum. Bite after bite, I started finding words to describe your unique qualities as they came into view. I got to know your lactic tang, your creamy-but-firm texture, the notes of grass and soil on your rind which remind me of playing in the backyard as a kid. Finally, I could hear the nuanced messages you were trying to send me all along. And that’s when I fell in love with you, Landaff.
Now, even deeper into my cheese journey (and my twenties), I love you for more than your quiet-but-complex tasting notes; I love what you represent for my cheese community. Based off the old world Welsh cheese, Caerphilly, but crafted in New Hampshire from American cow’s milk and American hands, you are a reimagination of the old European cheesemaking traditions that gave this US cheese scene its first sparks of inspiration. To me, recipes like yours symbolize this shift of US cheesemakers moving towards creating their own styles, flavors and traditions unique to this side of the pond, while staying committed to quality farming practices. I thank you for that, Landaff.
I also want to thank your parents, Doug and Deb Erb, longtime dairy farmers who have been lovingly crafting you since 2006. I was lucky enough to come visit them a couple of years ago along with some cheese industry buds I was traveling with. I saw Doug and Deb’s happy cows snuggled in a cozy, snow-covered barn and their fancy milking parlor in action. I even got to see an all-lady team of badass cheesemakers working hard over a vat of beautiful fresh raw milk which would soon become you, my tasty friend! I was struck by The Erbs’ care and attention to their animals and the cheese they make, as well as the kindness they offered to us, a group of city slickin’ mongers showing up to ask too many questions and pet some cute cows.
While I wish (really hard) for this COVID-y world to become easier on small artisan producers, it’s nice to think of your hardworking makers finally getting a well-deserved break. I hope that retirement brings them replenishing rest and more time for hobbies and family. Even though my heart is breaking as I watch my last wedge of you grow smaller and smaller in my fridge, when it comes time to take that last bite, packed with unforgettable complexity and nuance, I’ll be thinking of them.
With Love and Gratitude,