If you’ve seen St. George cheese in your local market for $15.95. $16.95 or $19.95 a pound, three prices I’ve seen lately, here’s a hot little tip. If you buy it at the farm, it’s $7 a pound, no matter what amount you purchase. You can buy a wedge, a wheel or anything in between.
But you get way more for your money at the little cheese factory, beyond the cheese itself. It is a rustic delight, a part of Sonoma County that is rapidly vanishing.
First, there is the adventure of getting there. It’s not hard to find; a sign marks 3669 Llano Rd. (in southwest Santa Rosa), where you turn into the long driveway and then just about the time you’re wondering if you’re in the right place, a sign directs you to the tiny shop, where Mary Matos or an assistant greets you, often with an offer of a wedge of cheese, though it is sometimes given at the end of a transaction.
If you buy a wheel be sure to ask that it be shaved, a process of scraping off harmless mold that you can watch through the door that opens onto the aging room, where gorgeous golden rounds of cheese fill the wooden shelves.
St. George cheese, a full-flavored aged cow’s milk cheese, is made in the style of Sao Jorge, the island in the Azores where Joe and Mary Matos grew up. When they moved to America, they brought the recipe with them and for years sold their cheese by mail order to members of the Portuguese community throughout northern California and to the occasional fan who stopped by the farm. Then Tomales Bay Foods began distributing it and it became widely available, including in New York City, at Murray’s Cheese Shop. People who have discovered it since then, even those who live here, rarely realize that it is readily available at the farm. Now you know.
One of the many great qualities of this cheese is its meltability. It makes a perfect grilled cheese sandwich and is wonderful in a quesadilla.
Here are several Seasonal Pantry recipes that call for St. George Cheese. And here’s a tip: Once you link to the article, hit the “view one page” option and then scroll down until you see the recipe title.
You can use all St. George cheese in these recipes, even if a mix of cheeses is called for.