Last year, Valley Shepherd Creamery in New Jersey appeared on my radar and quickly became a favorite source for rustic, raw-milk cheese. This Pecorino-style wedge made from the milk of pasture-raised sheep is a good choice for February, when your disposition needs sweetening and your palate craves dense, nutty cheeses. Tuck a wedge of Oldwick Shepherd into your down vest pocket and go for a walk in the woods. Pair this with a flask of scotch, and you’ve got a mood lifter—call it the ultimate stay-cation package.
Oldwick Shepherd has a natural (edible) rind and a dense paste like a Pecorino, but it tastes more like a cave-aged Gruyère crossed with a clothbound cheddar. The wheel I tried was caramel-sweet and herby; near the rind, I detected pronounced walnut notes. Unlike other sheep cheeses, there isn’t a muttony finish. As one friend from the Garden State recently told me, “This cheese makes me proud to be from New Jersey.”
Look for cheeses from Valley Shepherd Creamery at Di Bruno Bros. and Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market. Valley Shepherd Creamery, 50 Fairmount Rd., Long Valley, N.J. valleyshepherd.com;