Kenny's Cheeses Stand Alone In Our Kitchen
If it's a Saturday between April and early October, chances are good someone from my household will buy some Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese from Blue Moon at the Lexington Farmers Market. If it's any other day of the week, and someone from my household plans to visit Good Foods Market, the cheese drawer in our refrigerator is likely to get a quick check to see whether we need one of our Kenny's staple cheeses Right This Minute. (That's the Good Foods "Kenny's Section" in the photo above.)
Kenny's Asiago and Aged Cheddar are our household staples now, although their delicious siblings jostle for favor on our plates, too. We have just discovered Smoked Gouda, which threatens to join the Staple (Cheese) Sisters. We usually have Awe-Brie and Kentucky Bleu, with its signature blue wax, on hand for sharing with friends or munching with apple or pear slices and Nut Thin crackers (also from Good Foods, if you have trouble finding them in BigLex.)
Here's good news for readers who may not live near Lexington, and so may not be able to buy Kenny's cheeses easily any day of the week: Kenny's now ships the company's 30 cheeses individually, or in appealing gift baskets. Cheeses ship iced, every Monday and Tuesday, so they arrive before the weekend.
There's lots to love about Kenny's production system. The highlights that mean the most to me are that Kenny Mattingly and his family raise the cows that produce the milk that makes the cheese that makes us happy. The cows are pastured and are fed no hormones. Their raw milk pipes directly from the milk room to the cheese production room without passing "Go" or getting into any questionable trucks or tubing.
All Kenny's cheeses age at least 60 days, and most age much longer. The 60-day minimum means the cheeses can be made from fresh, unpasteurized milk, like fine European cheeses, preserving flavor, nutrients, and other cheesy mysteries that contribute to taste and nutrition. All rennet in the cheeses is vegetable in origin, so vegetarians can eat Kenny's cheeses without worry.
When we first started eating Kenny's cheeses perhaps eight years ago, Kentucky chauvinism made us do it. We determined we would support anyone who had the gall to try to make a living on a small family dairy farm and start a cheese-making business at a time when virtually all small-scale dairy operations in the state were shutting down.
During the early years, Kenny's cheeses were edible, but not delicious. During the past two or three years, however, the cheeses have become lush, richly flavored, beautifully textured -- and they just keep getting better. Perhaps Kenny's grass-tending, milk production and cheesemaking skills are increasing with experience. Perhaps the molds and organisms that transform aged cheese are becoming more wonderful. The cheeses certainly are.
Since there are so many types of Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese now, different people have radically different favorites. The great delight about Kenny's is that new types of cheese keep coming, requiring new taste tests - oh, good! And I get to keep re-choosing the ones that need to be available in our house at all times.
Right now I am eager to try Norwood, a cheese I didn't even know Kenny made until I looked at the website for this story. Touted as "our version of Gruyère," with "a nutty, slightly sweet taste with complex musty and mushroom notes," I'm expecting a new favorite to displace the old...again.
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The world is coming to visit central Kentucky this year for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. To help our visitors know more about Kentucky's food and food ways, Savoring Kentucky is rolling out 116 Savory Kentucky Bites, one for each of the 100 days before WEG begins, and 16 for the days during WEG, September 25 - October 10. Today's Savory Bite is number 91.