You probably don’t think of cheese as a seasonal food, but the time of year can actually have as much of an effect on a cheese’s flavor and texture as it does strawberries or tomatoes. Right now, it’s prime time for a lot of cheeses out there, and there are two reasons why: first, early spring marks the start of the lactation cycle, and second, dairy animals are finally back out to pasture, feasting on the first grasses of the season.
In the winter, dairy animals are “dried off” to prep their udders for the next cheesemaking season. When spring rolls around, all those cheese mommas give birth to their babies, which kickstarts their lactation cycles. That’s a sexy way of saying that they’re producing the first milk of the year. This initial batch is super rich in fat, protein, minerals, and flavor, and that means it’s going to make some mighty tasty cheese.
An animal’s diet also has a big effect on how a cheese tastes. As the weather warms, these ladies are returning to the pasture for the first time since all the grass died in late fall. They’re bathing in the sunshine and munching on luscious, tender blades of grass, herbs, and wildflowers. That aromatic diet will transform their milk into complex, herbaceous liquid gold.