Cheese of the Month: Honey Bell

The August 2017 Cheese of the Month: Honey Bell, a lovely local cow’s milk cheese topped with summer chamomile made by Valley Milkhouse for the Collective Creamery.

Taking a creative cue from the popularity of CSA subscription farms, two of the region’s best craft cheesemakers, Valley Milkhouse and Birchrun Hills Farm, have banded together to form a subscription service that delivers “cheese shares” of their curdish creations every other week. Along with access to favorites like Birchrun’s Red Cat and Valley Milkhouse’s cultured butter, the partnership has resulted in some original creations, including Valley’s stunning Honey Bell, a creamy-hearted cow’s milk beauty whose bloomy rind is flavored with different seasonal botanicals. For summer, cheesemaker Stefanie Angstadt presses dried organic chamomile flowers from New Tripoli’s Crooked Row Farms into the button-shaped cheese’s velvety white rind. And the floral aromatics tease out both the herbal notes of the grass-fed double cream as well as a hint of  natural sweetness. It’s luscious and creamy when ripe, ideally at about five weeks, and has one of the best balances of salt and creamy tang I’ve tasted yet in the three-and-a-half years since Valley Milkhouse began producing in the Oley Valley. These eight-ounce rounds are, in fact, a variation on Angstadt’s ash-dusted Witchgrass, which, like all of Valley Milkhouse’s cheeses, is named after Pennsylvania wildflowers. Honey Bell has become so popular, though, that Angstadt has begun producing it as a regular item available individually beyond the collective’s CSA at its farmers’ market stands and other retail outlets. But it will continue to evolve with the seasons. Come fall? Sage will give it an autumnal tone, which, of course, will transform it into an entirely new cheese worth savoring once again.

— Craig LaBan

Valley Milkhouse Creamery’s Honey Bell, $10 at Clark Park Saturday farmers’ market and as part of a cheese subscription to the Collective Creamery’s CSA: