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Monday, January 31, 2011

Widmer's Cheddar

I can cross one thing off of my resolution list. Right here and now I declare that orange cheese is no longer the devil. Yes, milk isn't orange, and there's a part of me that still doesn't get the orange Cheddar thing found so much in the Midwest, but I have found a tasty tasty cheese that has proven to me once and for all that orange Cheddar can be, and in fact is tasty.

This miracle cheese came to me courtesy of Widmer's Cheese Cellars in Wisconsin.

Joe and his family have been making cheese for 80 years. He has also gone through the Wisconsin-only Master Cheesemaker class, coming out of it not just a Master Cheesemaker of Brick Cheese but also of Colby-both cheeses with origins in Wisconsin.

His cheeses are delicious, but that's not what we're here for. We're here because his 8 yr. Cheddar has blown my cheesy little mind.

If you told me a year ago that an orange dyed Cheddar that was pasteurized and aged in plastic would be one of my faves I would probably respond by kicking you in the shins, or maybe by forcing you to eat generic processed cheese slices until you begged for mercy. I would have been wrong, and I apologize for doing those hypothetical things to you.

I love this cheese so much. It's tangysharpsaltysweetmilkycrystals of crumblyfudginess are fantastic. How does he do it? How does he turn years of my "cheese shouldn't be orange" stubbornness into "Schnicklefracks! This is some dang good cheese!"

All I can say is that this man (and everyone who works at the cheese plant) have got some serious cheesemaking, Cheddar-crafting skills.

Kudos Joe, you've made a believer out of me!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Resolve to Eat More Cheese

It's a new year which usually means making a resolution, keeping it for a few weeks, breaking it and then feeling bad about yourself for not having the willpower to continue going to the gym. In the grand tradition of my family I've decided to make resolutions I know I'll be able to keep.

  1. I resolve to eat more sheep milk cheese. I have been loving on the goats for years now. It's time to bring more Baa Baa to my life.
  2. I will accept orange Cheddar (I'm already halfway there)
  3. I will cook more cheese-centric recipes.
  4. I will renew my membership to the ACS in a timely manner, not wait until I get a second reminder letter like I did last year.
  5. I will visit cheesemakers outside of Vermont. (Maybe Maine?)
  6. I will never watch Sex and the City part 2 ever again. My eyes, ears and soul are still recovering.
  7. I will convince my once cheese-loving nephew to stop being a wicked beastie and to love cheese again. He's 3 1/2 so this could be an uphill battle.
  8. Fondue.
  9. I will finally clean out the fridge.
  10. Battlestar Galactica is awesome!
Okay, so number 10 isn't really a resolution, but seriously, it's so good. Just thinking about watching another episode right now has got me thinking that maybe I should stop writing and just take 45 minutes off. So tempting. All I have to do is press "play". Fine. I'll continue with the post.

Hopefully you all had a fantastic holiday season and are having a great start to the new year! I spent the Christmas holiday with my brother, sister in-law and wicked beastie. For dessert we had a traditional-ish cheese plate.




You've just got to have a blue for Christmas and I brought back some Stichelton. A raw milk delicious blue that tastes like Stiltons' wilder, more flavorful cousin. Next up is the Kunik from Nettle Meadow Farm in upstate New York. I have been pushing to get this cheese into our store for at least six months. Finally, my boss relented and agreed that this would be a fantastic cheese to bring in for the holiday season.

Kunik is a triple cream cheese made with goat milk and Jersey cow cream. It's also one of my favorite triple creams.

Founded in 1990 Nettle Meadow Farm primarily raises goats, although they have some sheep, some guard llamas (don't mess with a llama they will frack you up real good) and a rescue sanctuary filled with older goats, horses, and other farm animals.

When you first open the wrapping of the cheese you get notes of grass, herbs, pepper and mushrooms. The paste ripens from the outside in which means you get a nice creamy layer of cheese right under the rind and a more dense middle. On their website they call this cheese buttery, and while I agree I would like to add some more descriptors. This cheese is mushroomy, acidic, slightly salty, silky and is a bit like raw broccoli on the rind. A fantastic cheese good for a holiday, special occasion, or really any day that ends in the letter 'Y'.

Our final cheese on the plate is Ardrahan. Oh man, I really want to talk about this cheese with you right now. The problem is that talking about Ardrahan is more complex than just mentioning a cheese and what it tastes like. If I talk about Ardrahan I have to talk about Irish farmstead cheeses. If I talk about Irish famstead cheeses I have to tell you about how the industry had all but disappeared, and the people who helped bring it back, and how I want to go to Ireland and how washed rind cheeses are particulary delicious and it becomes it's own post all together.

For now I'm going to stop here and start working on the Irish farmstead cheeses post* in which I'll hopefully be able to do justice to lush green land, hard work, beaurocracy and deliciousness that all comes together to make some of the most delicious cheese on earth.

If you manage to see any Irish washed rind cheese at your local cheese counter or shop in the next few days, buy it, then when you read the upcoming post you'll have first-hand experience on the tastiness of Ireland.

*Truth is, I'm going to take a break just for 45 minutes to watch an episode of Battlestar Gallactica. Dang it! I just can't lie to you guys.