Lois Reichert makes Italian-style goat milk cheeses. Located near Knoxville, Iowa, she has been making cheese since 2007, and has a herd of eleven La Mancha and Nubian goats. Both goat types are known for their high butterfat and protein content, making their milk ideal for cheesemaking. Lois’ is the first micro-dairy in Iowa, and she is one of the few cheesesmakers in the USA making robiola-style cheeses – the only others I can think of are Meadowood Farm’s Ledyard and Doe Run Dairy’s Hummingbird. She sells her cheese at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market, and select locations in the Midwest. Formaggio Kitchen is the only store on the East Coast to sell Lois’ cheese, and we are thrilled to be able to bring this truly unique little round to Boston.
Lois’ robiola is modeled after Robiola di Roccaverano, Italy’s only DOP cheese made predominantly with goat milk (it must always contain at least 50% goat milk). It is named after her grandmother – “Robiola di Mia Nonna” – and, as with many small producers, production is strictly seasonal. The goats are typically dry from December until kidding season which usually starts in April (but in 2014 is expected to be a bit earlier).
The appearance and flavor of this cheese blew me away when I first sampled it. The small disc has a thin, even, delicate rind that adds the slightest hint of mushroom to the paste. Robiola di Mia Nonna directly reflects the seasonality of its production. The spring cheese is a bit milder than how it presents in the summer and autumn. When young, it is creamy and luxurious. With age, it grows firmer in texture and develops more complexity of flavor with notes of herbs, flowers, fresh cream, and a hint of minerality. Enjoy this cheese with a handful of toasted hazelnuts, and a glass of a full-bodied white wine.
Unfortunately, we will only get a brief taste of it this year. Lois is going to France to study affinage (better cheese to come!), and for that reason (among others) won’t resume milking this year. Next year, however, we hope to see her cheese throughout its usual season.
In regular years, Lois’ season lasts through the holidays. This year, however, we will only be getting this cheese through the end of October. As kidding season is expected to be on the earlier side next year, we will hopefully see Robiola di Mia Nonna back by late March/early April. Also on the docket for next year – Lois is considering experimenting with sheep milk to make a mixed milk style!
Robiola di Mia Nonna is available right now at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge and Formaggio Kitchen South End. Stop by and visit us for a taste of this extraordinary cheese in the next week or two – and, come the wintery months, look forward to its return next spring!
Sarah Spira is the domestic cheese buyer and a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen South End, Boston.