To understand how December 26 relates to the ambrosial triple cream pictured above, you have to do a little digging.
December 26, also known as Boxing Day, is earmarked as the date set aside for boxing up unwanted Christmas presents and returning them to their original sources, particularly in the US.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that in the UK and elsewhere, Boxing Day was originally set aside for donating charity to those in need, the name relating to alms boxes located in churches to collect contributions.
And dig a little deeper still and you’ll find that Boxing Day shares its calendar slot with Saint Stephen’s Day which honors the Christian martyr known for his acts of charity (and the connection with the alms boxes).
All of which neatly connects December 26 and the subject of this post, St. Stephen cheese.
Some of you know that in addition to being cuckoo for ethnic food, I am a turophile – from the Greek word for “obsessive cheesefreak”. One of my absolute favorites, and one that always finds a place on my Christmas cheeseboard, is St. Stephen from Four Fat Fowl (in Stephentown, NY, of course).
Some bloomy rind cheeses are mild and buttery, some have a pronounced personality; this magnificently rich, velvety cheese manages to have distinct characteristics of both. It’s made from all natural Jersey cow’s milk and fresh cream and IMHO is at its best when aged and runny.
(If you’re careful and know what you’re doing, you can ripen your prize a little past the “best by” date. Assuming you can wait that long. Or do what I do and get two, one for now and one for later.)
It’s a perfect candidate for the role of soft-ripened member of a well-curated cheese board. Try paring it with fresh, ripe figs for a dessert treat, or as you see here, served on a lightly toasted baguette with local farmers’ market sliced sweet heirloom tomatoes, warm from the sun.
To fully enjoy this dreamy dairy delight, please do not trim away the rind! Would you buy a perfect French baguette and then cut off the crust before you consume it? Of course not – it’s an essential component. Same rule applies here.
Look for St. Stephen at your local cheese shop or purchase it directly from their website: www.fourfatfowl.com.