Made in upstate New York at Nettle Meadow Dairy, Kunik is a mixed-milk, lush and creamy beauty of a cheese. Nettle Meadow – so named to reflect the wild nettles and herbs that make up the diet of the farm’s goats – is one of the few remaining dairies located in what has been termed “The Adirondack Crescent,” a collection of 613 cheese factories that hugged the Adirondacks in the shape of a giant crescent over one hundred years ago. This particular dairy can actually trace its history back to 1792, when it started out as a stock farm and a butter producer. The farm’s current owners and cheesemakers are Sheila Flanagan and Lorraine Lambiase, California transplants who purchased Nettle Meadow in 2005.
Kunik derives its richness from the ample Jersey cow’s cream used in the mixing and its complex minerality from goat’s milk. It is hand formed and salted and then sent to the aging room, a 19th-century subterranean stone cellar that was originally constructed as a butter room. The cellar is where the cheese grows its signature lush, white bloom. When the cheese is younger, the flavors of its mineral elements shine through, making it a great pairing to crispy white wines, such as those of the Loire River Valley of France. As it ages, the taste develops more mushroomy and earthy qualities – great with a strong beer and some high-quality charcuterie.
The two centuries of history and tradition are evident in the complexity of this beautiful cheese; it is extremely well crafted and has won numerous awards since its inception, most notably first place in the 2010 American Cheese Society Competition in the category of Soft-Ripened Cheese, Triple Crème. As a nice side note: Nettle Meadow has long been celebrated for taking exceptionally good care of their livestock and even runs a sanctuary for older, unwanted farm animals with the proceeds from their cheese company. In fact, this may be my favorite aspect of eating this cheese: not only can I enjoy its superbly indulgent taste, but I can feel good knowing it is being produced by a truly ethical local dairy.
Additional reporting by Madeleine James.