With Mother's Day just around the corner, I found myself wondering how to honor the holiday in the course of a post about cheese. Try it for yourself - not so easy, is it? I thought about finding a recipe for something to make for Mom that features cheese prominently, but nothing really jumped out. I considered reviewing a restaurant where you could spoil Mom and enjoy a good cheese plate, but I wasn't in love with the idea. And I toyed with another post recommending cheese-related gifts, but I suspected that would have limited appeal in this case.
Fortunately, fate intervened in the form of a new vendor at the Dupont Circle Farmers' Market - Clear Spring Creamery. As seen at the Market on Sundays, Clear Spring is a true family business - the whole Seibert clan, including two children and assorted relatives, shows up to sell their milk, yogurt and cheese. And Clare Seibert, who owns and operates Clear Spring with her husband, Mark, handles all of the day-to-day operations of the Creamery in the time between getting her children off to school and greeting them when they come home. What better way to celebrate Mother's Day than to talk about the great things that Clare Seibert is making at Clear Spring - including her newest offering, Clare's Camembert?
The Seiberts' farm has been in the family for more than 100 years, but Mark and Clare have only been in the dairy business for about a year and a half. At that point, they transitioned from a farm that raised replacement heifers for sale to others to a true dairy. Their herd consists of Jerseys and Jersey-Holstein crossed heifers, and the milk is primarily from the Jerseys. Because the cows are pasture-fed on a strict rotational grazing system, they get plenty of fresh grasses in their diet and their milk has a high butterfat content - more than 5%. This makes for a rich, smooth milk that holds up well to pasteurization (they don't sell any unpasteurized milk, for those who might be looking for it).
In most cases, the process has some down-time built into it, which is when Clare manages to take care of household chores and necessary errands. But the processing takes up a significant portion of her day and her output is limited by the time it takes to make each type of product. This also impacts the variety of products Clear Spring Creamery can offer - Clare is considering adding one or more fresh cheeses to their product list and fans still ask about the mocha milk that has been available on a few occasions, but the time required for each forces her to think carefully about what products she will make in a given week.
The newest addition to the Clear Spring lineup is a soft-ripened cheese appropriately named Clare's Camembert. Before they started making cheese, Clare and Mark made it a point to visit as many of the cheesemakers in the nearby area as they could find, learning what they could about the process. That research has been put to good use - their first effort at cheese making is delicious and it has been selling out for the past two weeks.
Despite the name, Clare's Camembert is most reminiscent of a young double-cream brie - it lacks the earthy, bloomy flavor that I always associate with camembert, but it has a silken, salty taste that is absolutely wonderful. Even at room temperature, the cheese holds its texture fairly well, providing a spreadable but not liquefied cheese that cries out for crusty bread, apple slices, crackers - anything with a little bit of a crunch. The rind is thin and unobtrusive, without any of the chalkiness or bitterness that turns people off.
Because of their limited production capabilities, Clear Spring Creamery only produces a few rounds of Clare's Camembert at a time. They sell out quickly, so try to stop by before noon to increase your chances of getting one. The rounds were originally priced at $13 each, though they are now sold by weight for $13/pound. Most of the individually wrapped cheeses weigh in right around a pound each.
Clear Spring Creamery's milk, cheese and yogurt are rich and full-flavored thanks to Clare Seibert's commitment to small-scale production methods and the quality of their grass-fed cows' milk. Check them out next time you're at the Dupont Circle Farmers' Market, and wish Clare a Happy Mother's Day while you're there.