Dishing with Laura - Juneuary

Juneuary. That’s what a lot of Nantucketers are calling June this year. In fairness this isn’t the first year I have heard the term used but it does seem to be apt—grey skies and cool and cold breezes off the water have far outnumbered the few warm and sunny days this month.

Soon enough the streets will be packed with summer residents and visitors, so I am trying to enjoy the quiet and to catch up on all the many tasks that need to be done at the start of the season. Among those challenging tasks are all the housekeeping activities associated with adding new vendors and new products to the Cowboy’s line up. Winter and early spring are when I do tastings and testings of new recipes and products for the store, and it is energizing and thrilling to do—and I have many volunteers among friends, family and staff to help with this work. Early June is when those retail items that have made the cut begin arriving, and now the unglamorous but entirely necessary tasks of adding them to the store’s computer database and weighing scales is done, so that we can then sell them to our valued customers. As you might guess, those same friends, family and staff are seldom interested in helping with this (boring) aspect of bringing these new offerings on line. On the plus side, the Juneuary weather isn’t distracting me even one whit from the job at hand.

We have some incredible new products for our new cut to order charcuterie case, located right next to our cut to order cheese case. (We have some great new cheeses for our cheese case, too). Not to brag, ok, maybe a little, but Cowboy’s has Nantucket’s only cut to order cheese case and now we have Nantucket’s only cut to order charcuterie case. Allow me explain one of the reasons why I am making a big deal about cut to order. Cut to order matters in meat, cheese and charcuterie, as the longer these foodstuffs stay in their larger component pieces, the longer the flavors have to develop. Once you cut into a wheel of cheese or a 0x1 strip loin, you change the chemistry of the food as you have introduced air—the shelf life timeline has shifted to the shorter end of the spectrum. Proper management of the cut pieces of meat or cheese or charcuterie can extend the shelf life again, but this is where cut to order is most important. In cut to order, we cut only what we need for the moment or the day, and the rest is carefully wrapped and stored in our temperature-controlled cases. With cheese, in many businesses, supermarkets come to mind, the entire wheel of cheese is broken down and wrapped and priced for retail at one time. Those smaller retail pieces of cheese are usually wrapped in plastic wrap or vacuum packed into heavier plastic. Plastic wrap, whether hand-wrapped or machine applied, is the enemy of cheese. The cheese cannot breathe, and it starts to either dry up or get too soggy, depending on the nature of the cheese and the temperature and light levels in which it resides. This is why we wrap our cheeses hand cut from our wheels in our French-sourced breathable cheese paper, which provides an optimum environment for the cheese you bring home. It is still highly recommended that you consume the cheese as soon as possible in order to optimize your cheese experience, but rest assured that if you leave the cheese in the breathable cheese paper, it will retain its qualities much longer than would the same cheese wrapped in plastic.

Another reason to value cut to order, is that you get to interact with our friendly and knowledgeable staff. Everyone staffing the cheese and charcuterie cases has specifically asked to work with those products, and the level of interest and passion about what they are doing will hopefully translate into our customers getting just what they want. Don’t be afraid to ask for a taste of any of the wheels of cheese, our staff loves to talk about cheese almost as much as they love eating cheese, and believe me, they love eating cheese. Me, too—I am about to enjoy a light dinner of one of our Cowboy’s salads made with Massachusetts-grown greens from Little Leaf Farms, but I will add a goat cheese which is new to our cut to order cheese case. I brought home Chabichou du Poitou which is made just south of the Loire Valley, right where Sancerre wine comes from. Chabichou du Poitou is in a bonde shape (a tiny cylinder) and aged ten to twenty days in caves, which gives the exterior its characteristic wrinkly complexion. Just under the wrinkled rind is the creamline, and the cheese itself is rich and creamy. Eaten young (which is how it is shipped to us by air) the cheese is softer and creamier and a great accompaniment to Sauvignon Blanc wine (white Sancerre wine of the region is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes). If allowed to age and dry out a bit, the flavors of Chabichou du Poitou concentrate and sharpen but in a good way—my piece at home is aged and herbaceously flavored, but aging has made it more the consistency of Aunt Leah’s fudge, so it is best suited for a red wine, particularly a red Sancerre. Which sounds like a perfect Nantucket dinner choice, as it is, after all, still the red wine season, here in Juneuary.

Laura McCloskey
Founder and Owner of Cowboy’s