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Back in May when I wrote about Willi Lehner of Bleu Mont Dairy, it was too early in the season to get a taste of his acclaimed Earth Schmier, a washed-rind Havarti-based cheese he inoculates with microbes harvested from his property in the Driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin.
“It’s in the line of Limburger," Willi told me. "But Limburger is real potent and kind of in one dimension, whereas my Earth Schmier cheese—because I usually make it out of raw milk—it’s got a lot of complexity to it."
All I could do was drool, but last weekend that good fellow Hammond made a run to the Dane County Farmer's Market in Madison and returned bearing a fat wedge of this season's Earth Schmier. The rich, oozy-on-the-edges cheese does deliver a strong Limburger-like jab to the nostrils, but it isn't overpowering, and the similarity ends there. It has a slight tang riding a swell of deep creaminess, something I can only imagine will get more multifaceted as it ages. Wonderful.
Hammond also brought back an "experiment," as Lehner called it, a harder cheese with a rugged rind that looks, smells, feels, and tastes nothing like the Earth Schmier, though they're related. (It's in the foreground of the photo.) "The experiment was from a batch of Earth Schmier I made last fall," Lehner writes. "Instead of doing the typical wash I simply put a few wheels in the bandaged cheese cave to let them collect and grow molds. I neglected the cheeses for a long time and then decided it was time to let them go."
The aroma has mellowed quite a bit, and the cheese has a textural resemblance to one of his cheddars, and a bit of sharpness as well.
Otherwise, Lehner's been busy putting his cave to good use. He says he's made 550 wheels of bandaged cheddar since we last spoke, and he'll be entering cheeses into competition at next week's American Cheese Society conference at the Chicago Hilton. He's not certain he'll be attending himself--he has to work the Madison market next Saturday--but if any of his cheeses place in the competition, he may head down Saturday night for the gala Festival of Cheese, which means there might be some Lehner product to be had the following day at the cheese sale.