I recently returned from a research trip to Mauthe's Progress Milk Barn in southern Mississippi, currently the only purveyor around consistently making Creole cream cheese. The dish is a tangy, pleasing farmhouse cheese with deep Louisiana roots. Its flavor falls somewhere between sour cream and plain yogurt, but with a consistency like creamy flan. Those who ate it growing up have powerful memories of its silky feel and its ability to be taken in either sweet or savory directions. Many families served with sugar and fresh fruit. Others slapped it on dense bread and topped it with cracked black pepper. Personally, I love it on a sliced, toasted baguette slice with fresh tomato, basil and Kosher salt.
Creole cream cheese was made commercially by small dairies in the New Orleans area for decades, but dissipated as these family businesses were gobbled up by conglomerates or went out of business. Since the late nineties, Creole cream cheese has a quiet comeback thanks to the work of food preservationist Poppy Tooker and fans of the food who grew up on it.
Jamie and Kenny Mauthe sold their Creole cream cheese to much acclaim at the Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans, until Katrina drastically interrupted their operations. They are finally back this year, selling again at the Tuesday market of Leake St. in New Orleans and in three markets in Mississippi. Jamie Mauthe makes cheese cakes with Creole cream cheese and a sugary graham cracker crust for the markets and for a few stores in New Orleans. The couple also sells small batch milk in glass bottles.
If you're a fan of Creole cream cheese, it's a hard dish to find in Baton Rouge. After a natural gas explosion and subsequent fire last year, Smith Creamery was bought by Kleinpeter Farms and discontinued making their version, which had been sold in local groceries and at the Red Stick Farmers Market. And Chef John Folse, who made Creole cream cheese through his Bittersweet Dairy, announced in July he would cease the dairy's production and focus on his other major businesses, including a new restaurant development company and his longstanding food manufacturing business. Other local farmers have talked about making Creole cream cheese, but so far, there's no steady source. Our loss.
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