Why Dirt Lover?



Why the Name Dirt Lover?

People frequently ask me how I came up with the name for our original recipe cheese, Dirt Lover. Sometimes I mumble something about the ash reminding me of dirt, but sometimes I tell the true story of how I was inspired by a t-shirt worn by one of our farmers’ market customers! Her t-shirt declared “I’m proud to be a Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging, dirt lover!” That t-shirt slogan perfectly sums up the values that undergird our farm business – well, maybe not the Birkenstock wearing part ;). Here at Green Dirt we know that the soil, the trees and the entire farm ecosystem is the foundation for everything we create, and we’re proud to call ourselves a bunch of tree-hugging dirt lovers!

Making Dirt Lover

Dirt Lover was one of the first cheeses I made at Green Dirt Farm. As I was developing the recipe, I was influenced and inspired by the classic ash-coated French farmhouse goat milk cheeses like Valençay and Selles-Sur-Cher. But Dirt Lover has a twist- sheep milk makes our cheese unique! Ours is one of the few soft-ripened sheep milk cheeses in the world. 

Dirt Lover is made, ladled into forms and drained overnight. The next day it’s salted and vegetable ash is dusted on the rind. Applying ash to cheeses before they ripen is an old-world cheese-making tradition that helps neutralize the rind’s pH, creating the best conditions for the rind development. Dirt Lover is aged 7-10 days in our aging room prior to wrapping, allowing time for the rind yeasts and molds to grow in and give the cheese its characteristic white “bloomy” rind. 

Even after the rind grows and Dirt Lover is wrapped, it continues to change and ripen throughout its shelf life. When Dirt Lover is young, its texture is firm like Feta, with a smooth mouthfeel. As it ages, a soft, creamy zone of ripening develops just under the rind growing larger as the cheese ripens until nearly the entire cheese becomes the texture of room-temperature butter. Dirt Lover reaches its peak of flavor and texture at about 6-8 weeks of age.

Eating Dirt Lover

Dirt Lover tastes buttery, lemony, and mushroomy when young, becoming earthier and beefy with age. It has a lovely characteristic aroma of wet dirt, like working in the garden. Dirt Lover pairs beautifully with Rose or acidic white wines, wheat beers, dried apricots, and candied pecans. It makes a delectable tart with mushrooms and thyme. And the dark ash line is revealed when it’s cut, which makes Dirt Lover a striking addition to any cheese plate.

Dirt Lover Makes Us Proud

While there are many hard sheep’s milk cheeses worldwide, soft bloomy rind sheep’s milk cheeses are rare. Our Dirt Lover is one of only a very few soft-ripened, bloomy rind sheep’s milk cheeses. And I created the recipe right here at Green Dirt Farm! So we were pleased and proud when Dirt Lover won 1st place in the American Originals category at the American Cheese Society competition last year, signaling that it is an original cheese recipe made only at Green Dirt Farm.

Other awards for Dirt Lover include…Dirt Lover was on Culture Magazine’s list of the Best Cheeses of 2022. It has won awards at the American Cheese Society annual competition in 2010, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2022. We’re especially honored that Dirt Lover won a Good Food Award in 2019. Good Food Awards are given to artisan food producers who make food with a purpose: “the kind of food we all want to eat: tasty, authentic and responsible;” the perfect recognition of the spirit embodied on that original T-shirt!