Bad news, Rush Creek Reserve fans. Thanks to recent shifts in FDA restrictions, this perennial star of our local selection won’t be returning in 2014. Andy Hatch, Uplands Cheese Company’s head cheesemaker & co-owner, has decided to not produce their delicious vacherin-styled soft cheese this year. Breaking the decision to cheesemongers, Andy wrote: “it’s disappointing news, I know, and we hope that it’s not permanent. Food safety officials have been unpredictable, at best, in their recent treatment of soft, raw-milk cheeses, and until our industry is given clear and consistent guidance, we are forced to stop making these cheeses.” He stressed this decision does not come at the behest of the FDA, but their own concern about the capricious nature of the FDA’s recent rulings.
The last year has been increasingly worrying for lovers of artisan cheese. A series of back-and-forth changes in FDA regulations that have created a deeply uncertain climate for artisan cheesemakers, at home and abroad. Most recently, the FDA has placed Roquefort on an “Import Alert” after samples of the cheese failed to meet new regulations–meaning longer wait times at port and a daunting five month application process to lift the dreaded status. This means fewer wheels of Roquefort in American cheese shops and European cheesemakers that are increasingly reluctant to ship their cheese across the Atlantic, faced with the very real risk it will languish for months in port before being turned away or destroyed.
So, what’s a turophile to do? Earlier this year combination of public outcry and industry feedback lead to the quick clarification of a potentially disastrous change in FDA policy, and a meeting with the American Cheese Society to open further dialogue with cheesemakers and retailers. The FDA can be reached directly for comment via their website, or through your congresspersons.
We hate being the bearer of bad news, so here’s something positive. If you’re looking for an alternative to Rush Creek Reserve, give Harbison a spin. Made and aged by the great folks at Jasper Hills Farm in Vermont, Harbison draws inspiration from vacherin mont d’or, just like Rush Creek. Although it is made from pasteurized milk, the spruce bark wrapped around Harbison’s exterior gives it the same woodsy, vegetal flavor found in Rush Creek. With notes of citrus, coarse ground mustard and asparagus, Harbison pairs wonderfully with more robust meats like speck ham or jambon royale, or with ginger snaps for a phenomenal and phenomenally easy dessert. Harbison is a perennial staff favorite, and on sale now as part of our Cheese Shop Favorites Sale.
– Nora Last, Surdyk’s Cheese Shop