GREENSBORO – Jasper Hill Farm, based in Greensboro, took home “Best American Cheese” at the World Cheese Championship in Norway, held October 26-28.
The annual competition features thousands of entries from more than 40 different countries.
Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbets took to social media to congratulate Jasper Hill Farm on its achievement.
The World Cheese Awards is an annual gathering, currently in its 35th year, where cheese experts from around the globe taste and recognize the best cheeses being made in each country. Ultimately, one cheese is awarded with the lofty title of the world’s best.
This year’s award ceremony took place in Trondheim, Norway, where over 40 countries threw their best wheels into the ring for judging. The judging process involved 264 cheese experts, ranging from cheesemongers to cheese buyers to chefs, representing 38 nations.
Jasper Hill’s Director of Education and Events, Zoe Brickley, said that the award was “nice timing because we’re gearing up for holiday sales, so all the Harbison that’s going to be enjoyed is getting made and cared for” by workers who were buoyed by the news during a busy season for the Cellars.
This isn’t the first win for the Cellars at Jasper Hill. Several of their cheeses, from the Brie-inspired Moses Sleeper to the alpine-style Alpha Tolman, have received gold at the World Cheese Awards. Harbison also took the trophy for Best American Cheese in 2015, 2016, and 2018.
Harbison is a cow’s milk cheese with a bloomy rind: a soft, edible white rind that develops on cheeses like Brie and Camembert, ripening them from the outside in. The cheese is wrapped in spruce bark (according to Brickley, Jasper Hill is the only cheesemaker in the US sustainably harvesting their own local spruce bark), which lends woodsy notes to the flavor profile but also helps hold Harbison together as it ripens.
The cheese’s flavor profile is modeled after the funky raw milk Camemberts that are beloved in France but nearly impossible to get in the US due to regulations prohibiting the sale and import of raw milk cheeses aged for under 60 days (Camembert ripens in about half that time).
“A lot of American bloomies are cautious in flavor profile,” says Brickley, so while Harbison is a pasteurized cheese, Jasper Hill cheesemakers have tweaked the cheesemaking process and the cultures used to inoculate the milk to yield flavors more in line with full-flavored raw Camembert. Brickley describes those flavors as “roasted cauliflower and mustard” in the fully ripened Harbison, and “sweet cream and raspberry” in younger wheels.