Grilled cheese never hurt anybody, unless of course eating one is how one discovers a previously unknown lactose intolerance. Health restrictions notwithstanding, the simple, delicious, magically melty sandwich has been part of many, if not most, American upbringings for as long as humans have eaten dairy products. Today, with so many dairy farms across the Southeast now making their own cheeses using raw milk, goat’s milk and a variety of techniques, we feel it’s time to recommend a few to make your next toasty sammie one that proudly represents our region. Here’s a list of dairy farms and creameries in separate Southern states making amazing cheese.
Sequatchie Cove Creamery - Sequatchie, Tenn.
Made by hand using raw milk and European traditions, the farmstead cheeses from this Sequatchie Valley establishment are all about nature and artistry. Their Cumberland cheese, which won Best of Class in the Hard Cheese Category at the 2017 US Championship Cheese Contest, is a Tomme-style (skim-milk-derived and lower in fat) natural rind, which the creamery describes as “fruity, earthy, and slightly tangy with notes of sweet hay and cultured buttermilk.” Also consider the buttery, meaty Nickajack, which is aged for 60 days and washed with hard cider. It’s also named for a Tennessee cave in which Johnny Cash allegedly attempted a suicide attempt before having an enlightening experience, although it is unknown if cheese was involved.
Meadow Creek Dairy - Galax, Va.
Meadow Creek produces cheese seasonally, beginning in April and stopping in December, so that the spring, summer and fall versions all have variation. Their first cheese, Appalachian, has a complementary white coat of penicillium molds adding to the unique flavors of cream, butter, lemon and earthy mushroom. It’s aged 90 days and is recommended for breads, so it’s perfect for your grilled cheese needs. Their second-oldest cheese, Mountaineer, is also their longest-aged, spending six months at least in the cellar. It was inspired by a 2004 European trip, and gives off a roasted nut flavor profile that’s buttery before mellowing into a richer, beefier caramel finish.
Sweet Grass Dairy - Thomasville, Ga.
Get creamier with your grilled cheese by using Sweet Grass’ soft-ripened, double-cream Green Hill, which is a Camembert-style (brie-esque) cow’s milk cheese and works great on a baguette. There’s also the creamy, crumbly Asher Blue if you’re into bleu cheese – which is great when you pair it with a local jam like Atlanta’s Emily G’s. The pungency, earthy/grassy taste and salty finish helped it win bronze medals at the 2009 and 2015 World Cheese Awards, and aside from the natural bliss of eating it in a fancy sandwich, you’ll feel good knowing they use sustainable grazing methods and treat cows as humanely as possible. Who wants to feel guilty when it’s grilled cheese time?
Brazos Valley Cheeses - Waco, Texas
No artificial flavors, preservatives or coloring agents are used in the process of turning Brazos Valley’s high-butterfat, grass-fed cows’ milk into creamy yellow cheeses. The hard cheeses are aged in a refrigerated underground cave, whose entry has a five-inch-thick castle door made from the farm’s own barnwood and opens with a skeleton key. Bragging rights alone make any of their cheeses worth buying, but the white Horseradish Pecan Cheddar, which provide a tasty accent through the inclusion of zesty horseradish and roasted pecans from trees native to the area.
Fromagerie Belle Chevre - Elkmont, Ala.
Best known for being entirely spreadable on bagels, Belle Chevre also makes an outstanding Pimento Chevre spread, which is brilliant on sliced bread and works its magic on toast. Its original goat cheese spread, which won a first-place award at the American Cheese Society, is outstanding when mixed with honey, and they also sell 4-ounce grape-leaf-wrapped discs of French cheese, because even grilled cheese deserves an appetizer.
Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese - Austin, Ky.
With more than 20 years experience, this Barren County farm makes high-quality half-pound blocks and wedges of the buttery Kentucy Bleu, the fudge-like Barren County Bleu, the beer-washed French farmer’s Nena (made with double-crème Brie curd), and the cave-aged white cheddar Ted, which has a bit of lard on its rind to continue cracking, and keeps a distinctively earthy and deep-salty flavor that will make store-bought bread sign, but finds true harmony in homemade breads if you’re so inclined.
Got the cheese? Use this recipe by Southern Kitchen’s recipe tsar Jeffrey Gardner and culinary-slash-merchandise man Josh Conner, and enjoy the classic all-American sandwich we celebrate today.