It’s springtime, and it feels like the world is alive again. It’s a time of celebration—not just for the arrival of warm weather and our favorite spring produce, but also for spring cheeses.
It’s also time to dig into pairing spring cheeses and wine! We’re partnering with our friends at Long Island’s Suhru Wines for a spring wine and cheese tasting on April 25. We’ll taste through three of their food-friendly bottles paired with three artisan goat cheeses from Yellow Springs Farm. Get tickets here!
Why Buy Cheese In Spring?
Traditionally, animals like cows, sheep, and goats give birth in the spring, meaning that after a long, dry winter, people in dairying cultures celebrated the season with the foods they’d gone without during the dark, cold months: eggs, green herbs and vegetables, and of course, milk, cheese and butter.
There’s never a bad time to buy cheese—but despite the fact that it’s available year-round, cheese is seasonal. The fat and protein content of the milk shifts with factors like what the animals are eating as well as where they are in their lactation cycle. Those milk characteristics translate to cheese, too.
For example, when a cow’s lactation cycle begins with spring calving, fat and protein levels start high; they gradually dip through the summer months. During this period, cows are eating fresh grass, which adds moisture and unique flavors that can affect the finished cheese. In the fall, fat and protein levels shift up again, making for a richer product. Herds that are milked year-round eat dry hay in the winter, which causes the moisture content in the milk to drop and leads to milk with a higher percentage of fat.
All of these factors influence the flavor, texture, and aroma of cheeses made at different times of year. So even though the same variety of cheese is available year-round, it’s going to taste subtly different in each season—and may shine a bit brighter during some times of year than others.
Miracle Springs Farm Goat Milk Camembert
Seasonal Cheese, Seasonal Eating
Another reason to think seasonally when you shop for cheese is that some cheese styles just play better with other foods in season at that time, like fruits and veggies—or they go well with the weather or cultural events in a certain season.
Crisp, sweet-tart apples that come into season in fall make a natural foil for a hunk of sharp cheddar or long-aged Gouda, for example. We reach for blue cheese to crumble on burgers in summer or pair with pumpkin beers in autumn, and what would the winter holidays be without bottles of bubbly and triple-creme bloomy cheeses to go with them?
On the other hand, springtime foods like asparagus, ramps, rhubarb, and strawberries call for lighter-tasting cheeses with lactic or citrusy profiles. Many of the creamy, subtler-tasting cheeses we reach for in this transitional time also go well with the last of winter staples like bright-tasting citrus fruits, seasonless mushrooms, and root veggies like beets and radishes.
Photo by Grace Wilkey of Yellow Spring's Farm Cloud Nine Goat Cheese
The Best Spring Cheese Types
The best cheeses to seek out in spring are often fresh or young varieties made with new milk. In spring, fat and protein levels are high, and the flavor of fresh grasses from lush, green pastures comes through. Aged wheels from the previous year’s high summer milkings or lush, flavorful fall batches may also be coming into peak ripeness. Here are some of our favorite spring cheeses to enjoy this time of year.
Because the flavors of the milk translate so directly into fresh cheeses, varieties like chevre, fromage blanc, brebis, and quark are some of the best ways to get a taste of spring. Because these cheeses are very quick and relatively easy to make—most go from fresh milk to finished product in three days or less—buying fresh cheeses in spring is a great way to support small-scale artisan makers at the start of the season.
While some dairy farmers stagger breeding so that at least some of their herd can be milked year-round, small ruminants like goats are often bred so that kidding season hits in early spring. Thus, there’s a flood of fresh milk that can be made into all kinds of quick-turnaround cheeses, from the aforementioned fresh chevre to lightly aged French crottins and other bloomy-rinded styles. A Yellow Springs Farm Cheesemaker’s Choice package is a great way to taste spring flavors and complex cave-aged wheels from the small Pennsylvania dairy’s heritage breed goats.
Speaking of bloomy rinds, many small-format soft-ripened wheels age for a month or less, meaning that some of the first new batches made with spring milk each year arrive just in time for pleasant weather and early-season produce. Some producers only make these styles of cheese in volume during the warmer months, so it’s often a great time to reacquaint yourself with cheeses you may not have had since the previous summer or fall. Plus, a lush wheel of Boxcarr’s robiola style Cottonbell or Nettle Meadow’s cow-goat triple-creme Kunik makes a great pairing with strawberries, rhubarb, and asparagus.
Spring cheese isn’t just about getting a taste of the present: it’s also a chance to enjoy aged wheels such as Alpine cheeses made at the peak of the previous season and ripened to perfection. Nutty, savory batches of Meadow Creek Dairy’s Mountaineer produced the previous fall, for example, will have just hit their six-month mark in springtime. You can get a sneak preview of summertime pastures with last year’s batches of Pleasant Ridge Reserve, which Wisconsin-based Uplands Cheese only produces from May through October, or Vermont Shepherd’s Queso Verano, an earthy sheep’s milk wheel.
Cheeses Made With Flowers
Springtime is also a great excuse to incorporate flowers into your cheese boards, whether through thoughtful styling, floral-flavored accompaniments, or floral cheeses. Check out our guide to flower cheese for some of our favorite flower cheeses and pairings for spring.
Browse our Collection of Seasonal Artisan Cheeses
Where to Buy Spring Cheese
Browse through our online artisan cheese shop to get a taste of what’s in season, or check out your local cheese shop or supermarket cheese counter and ask your friendly monger for what’s new. Finally, if you’ve got a small-scale cheesemaker in your area, hit up their farm store or farmer’s market stand for a taste of what’s fresh and local.
Be sure to choose a variety of aged, textures, flavor profiles, and, if possible, milk types when picking out your cheeses. A fresh cheese, a soft-ripened variety, and an aged style are a great place to start, and it’s great if you can add in some sheep or goat milk options, too.
Look for accompaniments like fresh seasonal fruits, sweet-tart jams, citrus preserves like lemon curd and marmalade, floral honeys, buttery sprouted almonds, and dark chocolate. You can also incorporate fresh veggies like microgreens, snap peas, cucumber, and radish as well as roasted vegetables like wild mushrooms and asparagus spears. Don’t forget to pick up a crusty baguette or your favorite crisp crackers, and maybe some edible flowers from the farmers’ market or your garden to decorate the board.
How to Build a Spring Cheese Board
Once you’ve got your cheeses and your accompaniments in hand, it’s time to style. Follow our spring cheese board how-to for season-specific tips, check out our ultimate guide to cheese boards, or browse our archive of cheese board guides for inspiration.
Want a hands-on tutorial? Sign up for our next cheese board building class on May 15! You’ll learn how to construct gorgeous cheese and charcuterie boards from one of our resident cheese experts, Kerry Jerred—and your ticket includes a tasting box brimming with cheese and a ton of tasty accompaniments.
How to Pair Spring Cheese and Wine
The flowers are blooming, it’s warm and sunny, and you’re lounging on the picnic blanket, ready to dig into your spring cheese board. But this delightful al fresco scene isn’t complete without something delicious to drink.
While there are plenty of tips for pairing cheese and wine—and we’ve covered just about all of them in our guides—the big one is pretty basic: Bring out the best in your cheeses by choosing complementary or contrasting accompaniments.
In the case of spring cheese and wine pairings, that means reaching for light-to-medium-bodied wines with less intense flavor profiles, since so many spring cheeses are on the subtler side of the flavor spectrum.
Many of the cheeses we enjoy during this season have fruity, citrusy, or lactic notes, calling for the fruitiness of a dry rosé or a white wine with mineral notes. Finally, lush, creamy varieties like fresh and soft-ripened cheeses call for crisp, high-acidity bottles and sparkling wines to cut through the richness and prime your palate for the next bite.
Ready to dig deeper in pairing spring cheeses and wine? We’re partnering with our friends at Long Island’s Suhru Wines for a spring wine and cheese tasting on April 25. We’ll taste through three of their food-friendly bottles paired with three artisan goat cheeses from Yellow Springs Farm. Get tickets here!
If you’re in need of zero-proof pairing options, know that ,any non-alcoholic sips go well with spring cheeses. Fizzy, sweet-tangy kombucha; grassy green teas and herbal tisanes; and craft sodas flavored with rose or elderflower can all play well with fresh styles, creamy soft-ripened wheels, and subtle yet complex aged cheeses.
Our Delicious Recipe for Asparagus Soup with Queso Invierno Sheep Cheese
Spring Cheese Recipes
But cheese life is so much more than just boards and tastings. With subtle flavors and creamy textures, many of our favorite spring cheeses are easy to incorporate into tons of healthy, delicious recipes for brunch, lunch, dinner, and dessert.
Check out our spring menu roundup for fresh, cheesy, veggie-centric recipes your family will love. It’s also got recipes and tutorials for making cheese at home. And if you’re busting out the BBQ tongs early this year, you can also see our picks for some of our favorite cheeses to throw on the grill!
Now go forth and enjoy cheese to the fullest this spring? Got questions or want to show off your spring-themed cheese boards? Let us know and tag us in your photos @cheesegrotto!