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Showing posts with label Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Uplands Cheese Co.

So many new cheeses have been coming into the shop lately. Of course we got the 1st place Best of Show ACS winning Rogue River Blue from Rogue Creamery. We've got some Beecher's Cheddar, and one of my favorite cheeses, Pleasant Ridge Reserve Extra Reserve. from Uplands Cheese in WI. Rumour has it that Uplands is coming out with a new cheese. A washed rind, stinky, gooey, soft wheel of yum. For right now though they only make one, Pleasant Ridge Reserve.

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.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipe. Ever. Seriously.

A long time ago (at least it feels that way) I wasn't sick. I planned on making mac n' cheese. Then I got sick. I made nothing. I spent my days and nights with cold meds, tissues, the original theatrical release of the Star Wars trilogy and the LOTR extended edition trilogy.

Well, last night I got my spunk back. And I made mac n' cheese. And it was scrumptious! Possibly the best I'd ever made. Seriously. What follows is the single best recipe for macaroni and cheese known to mankind. My new name is "Egowench". It's only temporary I promise.

Please feel free to use this recipe and pass it along to people, I only ask one thing. When people ask you where you got this delectable awesome, sensual, sumptuous recipe from, tell them the truth: that your superior internet surfing and blog reading abilities are responsible for this Cheesy-wenchy dairy delight.

Topping:

Panko breadcrumbs (4 oz.)
3T dried parsley
1T dried onion
2t dried thyme
2t dried oregano
2t kosher salt
2t dried minced garlic
4T butter, melted

You should make herbed breadcrumbs with the flavors you like, but they should be dried. Fresh hers are going to add too much moisture to the breadcrumbs resulting in a soggy mess more akin to french toast.

In batches (unless you have a huge skillet) lightly toast the breadcrumbs in the melted butter. You don't want them brown, just less Casper the friendly ghost looking. Set them aside to cool


Macaroni:

I used a 16oz. box of whole grain rotini.

the spiral shape holds onto that sauce like nobody's business. Whole grain pasta is better for you, and sturdier. You can boil it for a while and bake it off and it doesn't go limp. Don't forget to salt your water before cooking the pasta.


Mushrooms:

8 oz. mixed mushrooms (shitake, portobella, button, oyster, whatever tickles your fancy)
1 whole onion diced
dried thyme, dried oregano, salt and pepper to taste
3T grapeseed oil

Heat up your pan and add the grapeseed oil. Then sweat the onions (cooking until soft, but not colored). Add the mushrooms when the onions are soft. then add your seasoning. Cook until all the moisture from the mushrooms is gone. Set this to the side.


Cheesy Goodness:

4T salted butter
1/2 head of roasted garlic
4T AP flour
4 c 2% milk
1/3# Pleasant Ridge Reserve (grated and at room temp) *If not available, use a high quality Gruyere in it's place*
1/3# Taleggio (cut in small chunks and at room temp)
2/3# Asiago Fresco (cut in small chunks and at room temp)

  • melt the butter in your pot.
  • squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into the butter
  • whisk to break up the garlic and incorporate it into the butter
  • *that smell alone is to die for*
  • next add your flour and whisk it into the butter
  • keep whisking for a few minutes making sure the butter, garlic and flour are all well incorporated
  • slowly add your milk to the roux-whisking constantly
  • *I would not advise you to use skim milk, or 1%. 2% has enough substance to it while cutting a few calories. Mac n' cheese with skim milk always tastes watery. 1% isn't much better.*
  • keep whisking until the sauce starts to thicken
  • when it has started to thicken, take it off the heat-immediately
  • while whisking add the grated Pleasant Ridge Reserve in small batches until it is incorporated
  • next, add your cubes of Taleggio and Asiago Fresco a little at a time, whisking like crazy and waiting for each batch to be incorporated before doing the next batch.
  • salt and pepper the sauce to your taste
  • now that the sauce is done, add your mushroom mixture to the sauce
  • then add your cooked pasta
  • pour that into a casserole dish, pie tin or bread loaf pan, add a generous heaping of breadcrumbs to the top and put into a 350F oven for 20 minutes
  • turn the oven off, and put it under the broiler for a few minutes to toast up those breadcrumbs real good.
  • Enjoy!
I find that the biggest problem with mac n' cheese is that the sauce breaks. This happens because people use a super hot oven, and the mixture ends up boiling. That's when you end up with gritty, curdled cheese sauce. Not good. Never let the sauce boil. Not when it's on the stovetop, not when it's in the oven.





Did I mention that I got a new camera yesterday? I upped those megapixels a bit, and I think it's noticeable.




Oooh. The new camera is working for me. Oh yes it is.




This serving was taller. Then some noodles fell. Into my mouth.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Artisan Cheese, What is it anyway and why should I care?

*This post is being brought to you by my last trip to the supermarket. Why do I even go near the dairy section? I just get frustrated*

It seems like every Tom, Dick and Sargento is trying to get in on the Artisan, Handmade and Homemade bandwagon. But what is Artisan cheese? Sargento has a pre-packaged shredded cheese that they call "Artisan Blends" but what does that mean?

It means that the business people at Sargento realized a great marketing campaign, ran with it and are now making money off of it. It means that Sargento isn't going to stop making bulk, industrial flavorless cheese, but they still want a share of the artisan market. I'm going to stop myself now before I go off on some nutty, wenchy rant.

So what is artisan cheese? It means that someone has taken the time to do things slowly, with care and respect for the product. It means that the cheesemaker cares about tradition. It means that hands were laid on the cheese, milk, curds and animals. It means that smaller batches of cheese are made because it's all about quality, not quantity. It means that the milk came from farms in the area, not a huge truck going cross country. It means that the maker, in addition to being a scientist (if you think cheesemaking isn't a science, think again) is also a creative artist.

Farmstead Cheese is another limb on the artisan cheese tree. Wow, that's a horrible metaphor. It's another teet on the udder? I dunno. Okay, back to farmstead cheese. This means that the animals were raised on the farm where they were milked, which is the same farm that their milk was turned into cheese. Take for example, Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese. The cheese is made seasonally when the cows are able to graze on lush fields of clover, wildflowers and grasses. You can taste that in the cheese. If the milk doesn't meet Mike Gingrich's exacting standards it is not made into cheese. Some wheels are hand selected for further aging and become Pleasant Ridge Extra Reserve. Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Pleasant Ridge Extra Reserve are great examples of what artisan cheese is.

Quality is the reason you should buy artisan products including but not limited to cheese, bread, and meat. You have choices. You can either buy some Pleasant Ridge Reserve from a reputable cheese shop, farmers market, or cheese counter and grate it yourself, or you can choose the pre-packaged, mostly industrial, flavor-free, blend cheese. Your choice.

This post feels a little bit angrier, snarkier and dare I say wenchier than normal. I don't want to leave a bad taste in your mouth, so I'll leave you with positive thoughts instead.

Puppies.

Rainbows.

Cheese from farms that have healthy animals raised by good caring people who care about the land, animals, and product.

Ahhhh. Now that's better.