This is a farmstead artisan cheese. The animals are grazed on the land and the cheesemaking process starts mere minutes after the animals have been milked. The cheese is only made seasonally from spring through the fall. Why? Here is Uplands answer:
"Cows don't produce milk until they have a calf (a fact that may be obvious to you but you'd be surprised how many people don't know that). All of our cows have their calves in the spring and produce milk through the summer and fall. They are dry for most of the winter and then the cycle starts again the next spring. This spring calving, pasture feeding regimen is the way cows evolved and is no doubt more consistent with the rest of their life processes than the typical practice of confinement and machine harvested feed that most cows experience. We are sure our cows are more happy and content than their confined peers."
Letting cows be cows is such a simple idea, but in our current food climate, it feels almost revolutionary. Following the nature of the animal, and their commitment to their animals and land are some of the reasons I love Uplands Cheese.*
The other is the cheese. Pleasant Ridge Reserve is a washed rind cheese (it's been brined), aged for 6-10 months that has a lot of the same characteristics as a fine Gruyere or Comte. A bit nutty, grassy, milky and sharp it's good as a table cheese, or added into a hot dish like macaroni and cheese. The best recipe in the world can be found here. The Pleasant Ridge Extra Reserve on the other hand is aged anywhere from 12-18 months (the wheels in the store right now are 17 months) and is a taste explosion.
A bit drier and nuttier than the younger version it has a flavor like toasted nuts, wild grasses and clover. An acidity that gets your mouth watering for the second bite and a slightly soured milk aroma. Because of it's age it also has little crystals in the cheese don't worry, it's just crystalized lactic acid that pop just a little bit when chewing. I like eating this as a table cheese, or applying just enough heat to make it melt mmm...lightly toasted cheese.
The Extra Reserve should (according to their website) be around through the holidays. I would strongly recommend that you get some Extra Reserve, and some of the younger Pleasant Ridge Reserve to compare and contrast. Same milk, same cows, same land, but aging a cheese makes a world of difference.
*This year in Austin I had the opportunity to meet Mike and Carol Gingrich. They were beyond kind and hospitable. In my first year of membership and my first conference, not knowing anyone other than the 3 other people from work they made me feel at home. Super nice people who treat their animals and land well and make ridiculously tasty cheese? Yeah, I have a total cheese crush on Uplands Cheese Company.