Showing posts with label Crave Brothers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Crave Brothers. Show all posts

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wisconsin Cheese and Book Giveaway

Yesterday was National Cheese Lover's Day and I celebrated with slightly stinky cheese from Wisconsin.

Since last year I have been having a rather tricky time finding perfectly ripened, stinky, creamy, gooey Les Freres from Crave Brothers. As luck would have it about 6 weeks ago I found a Petit Frere and decided to hold it for a while.

Like a good girl I kept the cheese in my crisper, and periodically would check it for any weird molds, or funkiness. Every few days I would open up the package, let it breathe, re-wrap it, flip the cheese over and put it back in the crisper.

Yesterday it was time. My inspiration was Brie en Croute. Something I've heard about, but never had. Essentially you take some soft-ripened, bloomy rind cheese, top it with something yummy like a fig jam, or fruit and nuts, wrap it in puff pastry and pop it in the oven.

So, yesterday at work I took the Petit Frere, put it in puff pastry, I forgot eggs for the egg wash popped it in the oven for 10 minutes on 425 and then bumped it down to 350 for 15 minutes more. When I opened the oven door I was knocked out by the smell. Sooooo good. The cheese which had a slight funk before going into the oven came out smelling a bit funky and a little flowery. It had also squirted out of the bottom a bit, so we opened up the top and put all that cheese right back in. The cheese had a sweet slightly tangy milk flavor with a little bit of a white button mushroom thing going on. We noshed on this with some balsamic onions and a bottle of wine made by a friend of one of the crew. Perfect way to end a day of work.

So, this all leads me up to the giveaway. This Christmas Santa got me a bunch of books, including the book The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin. I got a lot of cheese books this past Christmas and this one is a lot of fun to read. Look for a background on Jeanne from Cheese Underground on pg. 52 One of the things I like most about this book was learning about cheesemakers I didn't know before. The cheese world in general for good or for ill has a category for "Celebrity Cheesemakers". This book does a good job of talking about cheesemakers you might not have heard of, and how they started on the path to the tests, and commitment it takes to become a Master Cheesemaker in WI. One of my favorite quotes from the book comes from Joe Widmer
You saw my guys out at the vats flipping the cheese--a lot of that's done with machines now at other plants. We're still leaning over the vats. What do you want, Grandma's doughnuts, or Dunkin' Donuts?

Full Disclosure: Shortly after putting up the Limburger post I got an email from a representative for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board asking if I'd like to get a copy of this book and do a review of it. I told her that I'd already gotten a copy, but would pass it along to my readers if they wanted to send me one.

So, now I have this extra book and I want to send it to you. But how will I choose? If you want to enter all you have to do is tell me about either one of your favorite cheeses (hopefully not one I've already written about), cheesemakers, or cheese shops. That's it. Send me an email with your pick, a brief description why your pick rocks and your name. I will assign numbers to the entries based on the order I receive them, and pick the winner from a hat. I can't wait to read your suggestions!

Yes, I will ship outside of the U.S.A.

Yes, I still wish there was a Master Cheesemaker title that included and was available to all cheesemakers in any state.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


A few days ago I had lunch at Marion Street Cheese Market with a girlfriend. They're the ones who do the delicious Gouda studded chocolate. They also have a cafe where you can get breakfast lunch or dinner. We decided to go for lunch.

I took pictures of everything we had brought to the table, but as I'm writing this post it occurs to me that I'm not a restaurant reviewer/critic. I talk about cheese. With that in mind I'm going to talk about the cheese plate we got.

You can create your own cheese/charcuterie plate. My friend and I both love 10 year Cheddar, so that was on the list. I'd never tried the Les Freres from Crave Brothers, so I had to have it. We also picked a proscuitto from Iowa that's getting rave reviews.

There was some question on our server's behalf as to if the cheese was in stock or not. I told her that if it wasn't in, we'd take some Winnie instead. A bit later the cheese came out. On a separate plate was some bread and butter. The butter seemed like overkill since I had cheese, but who am I to tell someone that butter isn't necessary. The server said that they had some of the Les Freres that had just come in.

This should have been a warning. We should have said "no, take this cheese back she is not ready for consumption and you shouldn't have opened her up today". Instead we accepted the cheese plate. The ten year Cheddar was good*. Fantastic really. The ham was outstanding. The Crave Brothers cheese wasn't as good.

My girlfriend a turophile from way back took one look at it and said "it's not ripe". I sniffed it. It didn't smell like a big washed rind cheese. I squeezed it. It was kind of rubbery. I tasted it. It was it was similar to deli Muenster. No funk to it, mild and bordering on boring. After a sip of a sparkling wine it got some mustiness to it, but it was not good on it's own.

I don't blame the cheese, or cheesemaker for this. As sellers of cheese they should not have put an unripened cheese on the cheese plate. I should have gotten a chunk of Winnie on my plate instead.

I will still shop there. After all their wine selection is phenomenal and they've got some good cheeses too. I did pick up some more chocolate too. When all is said and done, I still haven't had Les Freres cheese, not really. I'm going to have to go on a cheese hunt. I know that good, ripened, stinky, creamy, flavorful, Les Freres is out there. I'm going to find her.

*This is a good example of why I don't review restaurants. I didn't write down the name of the cheese. Now I have no idea where it was from geographically, or who makes it. She tasted like a Wisconsin Cheddar but I can't be sure. Dang it!

Friday, June 19, 2009


A while back our cheese buyer went on a two week excursion to Italy. He had the chance to meet all of these great producers in the hopes of maybe getting some unique products into our shop. One of the things he brought back was Ricotta Forte. Most of the people at work didn't care for it, but I loved it! I took the jar home and tried to figure out something to do with it. Lasagna was the answer.

What is Ricotta Forte? To answer that you really need to know what Ricotta is. When cheese is made it is separated into curd and whey. The curds are made into yummy cheesy goodness, but the whey is still valuable. Some farmers add whey to feed for pigs which produces ridiculously tasty ham. If you take that whey and re-heat it, you get another set of curds. A bit more delicate than the first batch, this is Ricotta. Ricotta is a lovely fresh cheese that should be eaten straight away. If you have too much Ricotta, you salt it, mold it and dry it out a bit. Now you have Ricotta Salata.

Ricotta Forte is essentially spoiled Ricotta. Yes, that does sound kind of gross. It's not. If you think about it, cheese is the result of milk gone bad under controlled circumstances. After a few months you have a thick, crumbly, lightly caramel colored cheese that burns. Oh yes, it burns us precious! This cheese is acidic, tangy, pungent, salty, and to be honest, it hurts to eat it. My mouth tingled, my nose burned a bit. It was so good.

I have yet to find it here in Chicago and might have to mail order it since it's really specific to Puglia region of Italy (the heel of the boot). I added a little bit to my ricotta filling for lasaga and it was delicious!

The jar of Ricotta Forte.

In the background is the Ricotta mixture. In the foreground is a spoonful of the beast.

The Mozzarella I added came from Crave Brothers in Wisconsin. They do farmstead cheeses, and work at being a sustainable dairy. Four brothers. Really good cheese.

Little mozzarella balls from Crave Brothers got sliced and tossed into the ricotta mixture. To be honest, some of the slices got tossed in my mouth. Their Mozzarella is light, milky, creamy and has just the right amount of salt. A far cry from the hard flavorless cheese you normally find in the supermarket.

I guess I have to give you a recipe. Here's what I did:

Meat Sauce:

1 lb. spicy turkey sausage
1 jar Pasta sauce of your choice (Newman's with roasted garlic is quite nice)
2 jars of water (use your pasta sauce jar)

Cheese Filling:

1 duck egg (or 2 lg. chicken eggs)
1 15oz. container of Ricotta
1/4 c. Ricotta Forte
1/4 c. grated Podda
5 ea. mini mozzarella balls sliced thin

Meat filling assembly:
  • Take the sausage out of the casing and brown it
  • Add your pasta sauce
  • Fill the pasta jar with water shake it (to remove all sauce) and add it to the pot. Repeat.
  • simmer (not boil) until the sauce is slightly thinner than what originally came out of the jar (45 min or so)
Cheese filling assembly:
  • take one duck egg and add the regular ricotta to it
  • using a spatula, mix it together until the egg is completely incorporated
  • add the ricotta forte to the mix
  • stir until smooth
  • add Podda
  • add Mozzarella
Putting it together:
  • put a layer of sauce down (it keeps things from burning)
  • then add a noodle layer
  • cover noodles with meat sauce
  • add cheese layer
  • layer until you've got about 1/2" of space left at the top
  • top layer should be cheesy goodness
I baked this for about 30 minutes-covered-in a 350 oven. If you want to brown it, take the dish and put it under your broiler for a few minutes. I know that there's no salt in this recipe. Unless you have a salt deficiency, it's really not needed. The Ricotta Forte has quite enough salt to it, as does the sausage. If you want to make this vegetarian, you may need some salt. Taste it and see what you think.

I'm going to be honest. I don't have a picture of the lasagna. Why? Well, I hadn't planned on this post really. I was going to do a little blurb about the new cheese, and that was going to be that. Anyway, you've seen lasagna so you know what it should look like. I offered some to my friend and he said that "It smelled like feet." Yeah, it does a little bit. But it is soooooooo good. I have a little bit of the Forte left. I think I'm going to stuff some shells.