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Murray’s Stockinghall cheese tops national competition

Murray’s Stockinghall cheese – a bright, lemony, cloth-bound cheddar named for Cornell’s Stocking Hall – won best in show at the 36th American Cheese Society competition. Above, An affineur in Murray's cheese cave wraps the fresh cheese and then brushes it with lard, before aging it for up to a year. Cornell University File Photo

Murray’s Stockinghall cheese – a bright, lemony, cloth-bound cheddar named for Cornell’s Stocking Hall and developed at the university in partnership with Old Chatham Creamery of Groton, New York – won best in show at the 36th American Cheese Society competition.

The event was held in August in Richmond, Virginia.

“Murray’s Stockinghall is a pretty complex cheese,” said Peter Jenkelunas, head cave master at Murray’s, based in New York City. In addition to the citrusy backbone, he said, consumers have reported sensory notes of mustard, horseradish and bacon.

The cheese begins as cow’s milk, fresh from the farm of Old Chatham Creamery. The creamery is owned by David Galton, professor emeritus of animal science, and his wife, Sally.

At Cornell’s pilot plant in Stocking Hall, which is managed by senior extension associate Rob Ralyea, M.S. ’98, Cornell receives and pasteurizes the milk and then Old Chatham (which will open their new dairy production facility in September) uses the proprietary Murray’s recipe. During that time, the milk is transformed into cheddar curds, poured into tall molds and pressed into about 40 rounds. It is then shipped to Murray’s cheese in Long Island City.

As the rounds arrive, Murray’s team members wrap them in cloth and brush them with lard.

“We put the rounds into our natural cheese cave, which is a pretty special place” said Jenkelunas. “The cave has a vibrant microbial community. We try to provide the right conditions for the microbes to do their work.”

Stockinghall then ages for a year, with Murray’s affineurs turning the cheese weekly and tending to the rind.

Winner of the best in show at the 36th American Cheese Society competition, this cloth-bound slice of Murray's Stockinghall cheese is a bright, lemony cheddar named for Cornell’s Stocking Hall. Photo provided.

“We handle the cheese once a week. It is a living thing,” said Jenkelunas. “As the cheese ages, an assortment of microbes inhabit the surface of the cheese to form the rind. We have to take care of it – vacuuming them and then flipping them for even moisture distribution.”

Stockinghall cheddar was developed by Jenkelunas; Matt Ranieri ’06, M.S. ’09, Ph.D. ’13, formerly a dairy technologist with Old Chatham; Krista Jacobsen ’96, Murray’s cave master; and Steve Millard, senior vice president of merchandising and operations at Murray’s.

Stockinghall was introduced in 2017 and has already received critical acclaim. In April 2018, the cheese was featured in a Bon Appétit article, “The 25 Most Important Cheeses in America, According to Cheese Experts.”

At the August American Cheese Society competition, the runner-up for best in show was Wegmans Professor’s Brie (named to honor Galton), which was produced by Old Chatham Creamery with Wegmans’ proprietary recipe. Aged in Wegmans’ cheese cave, the brie features balanced mushroom, nutty and buttery notes.

Kathryn Boor ’80, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said she was pleased about the accolades.

“These cheeses are a testament to the power of collaboration and extension,” Boor said. “Working together, Murray’s Cheese, Wegmans, Old Chatham Creamery and Cornell’s extension had parts in creating these award-winning and memorable cheeses – in which we all take pride.”

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.