Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Humboldt Fog: an Iconic American Original

America's most original, recognizable artisan cheese was first made by a woman who was raising goats to provide milk for her children.
Humboldt Fog is Cypress Grove Chevre's signature cheese, named for the dense local ocean fog that rolls into Arcata, California from the Humboldt Bay.

This iconic artisan cheese is made from pasteurized goat's milk and is aged about a month. It's won a whole slew of awards in major cheese competitions.

Humboldt Fog is a member of the bloomy rind family of cheeses, the same family that Brie and Camembert belong to. 

Bloomy rind refers to the soft, white, pillowy layer of mold that forms on the surface of these cheeses. Bloomy rind cheeses are also called surface ripened cheeses because the mold which ripens the cheese forms a rind and the cheese ripens from the outside in.
If you look at a cross section of a bloomy rind cheese, you'll see that the cheese closest to the rind is a little softer than the cheese at the center. 

This layer is also a little shinier than the interior paste of the cheese, the same way that your fingernail is shinier than the rest of your finger.

This change of color reflects the breakdown of milk proteins by the cheese mold in a process called proteolysis. The development of this layer can be thought of as the ripening of the cheese.
What does Humboldt Fog look like?

Humboldt Fog cheese looks like a cake!
Notice the dark grey blue line running through the middle of the cheese. This grey blue line is not blue cheese. The line is made with vegetable ash, and it's fairly tasteless - its just for looks. 

The line is a visual reference to a notable French cow's milk cheese called Morbier (more-bee-YAY) that has been made since the reign of Charlemagne. 

What does Humboldt Fog taste like?

A young Humboldt Fog will have a very white rind, and the texture will be firm and moist. A cheese with this shiny layer up to 1/4" thick ( 6 mm) is considered young. A young Humboldt Fog will smell like cream and buttermilk and the cheese will taste crisp, clean, and citric.

Sauvingnon Blanc is a great wine to pair with this young goat cheese, but you could also try a Pinot Grigio, which would pick up some of the minerality of the cheese.

A young Humboldt Fog also pairs well with an American style wheat beer, as the citrus in the hops pick up the citrus in the cheese. German style wheat beers have clove and banana aromas that don't pair as well.

How does Humboldt Fog change with age? 

As Humboldt Fog ripens, the rind will darken slightly and the proteolysis layer will grow. I'd say this cheese was ripe when this shiny layer gets about as wide as my pinky finger - about a half inch (12 mm). The flavor will become more tangy, the fresh cream aroma will become more floral, and the interior of the cheese will become drier and slightly flaky.

The tang of a ripe Humboldt Fog will provide a nice contrast to a fruity wine like Vouvray (which made from the Chenin Blanc grape) or Viognier. When pairing this cheese with beer, the citrus aromas and the tangy flavor of an IPA will match this cheese nicely, or you could choose a porter, where the roasted malt flavors will contrast the tanginess of the cheese.

What if I let the cheese keep aging?

Mature Humboldt Fog
A mature Humboldt Fog will have a marbled brown and white rind, and the aroma will be quite strong. You'll smell herbs and mold, and you may get a brief whiff of ammonia. I enjoy the tangy taste of a mature Humboldt Fog, but this may be an acquired taste. 

You will need a bold drink to stand up to this fully ripened cheese, but a juicy, jammy Zinfandel will be up to the task. So will a Porter or a hoppy IPA.


  1. Absolutely to-die-for cheese. Even if you don't like cheese. It's that good.

  2. Mark introduced me to Humboldt Fog and it has become my new favorite cheese!