And now we get down to business! In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’re starting our tasting journey by expressing our gratitude for outstanding American blue cheeses. For our first cheese, I chose Bayley Hazen Blue by Jasper Hill Farms in Greensboro, Vermont.

The Kehler brothers didn’t intend to become dairy farmers when they took on a dilapidated hillside farm in 1998, but developed an interest in sustainable agriculture as they witnessed other Vermont dairy farms going out of business. They began their herd with 15 Ayrshire heifers in 2002, and the care and dedication they’ve put into their operation is evident in their cheese. The Bayley Hazen is a creamy, tangy, raw-milk blue that strikes just the right balance of salty bite and grassy sweetness. It is not an overwhelming blue, so it is perfect for cooking or crumbled over a seasonal beet salad.

I used it to top my Zesty Green Beans Almondine, and found the lemon zest really brought out the flavors of the cheese. If you were serving it on a cheese plate, I would be sure to include something sweet like dried fruit, maybe even candied citrus peels. If you’re serving it after dinner, a port or other sweet wine would be a perfect pairing.

This seems to be a fairly popular cheese at the moment, and deservedly so. It was available at Cheesetique and I have seen it on several DC-area restaurant cheese lists, including at Restaurant Eve. You can consult the retailer list on their website to find it near you.

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