Showing posts with label Wisconsin cheese festival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wisconsin cheese festival. Show all posts

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!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Spending Saturday with Cheesemakers

This past weekend was the second annual Wisconsin Cheese Festival put on by Jeanne of Wisconsin Cheese Originals. At the last minute I had my time off request approved and was super excited to spend three days in Wisconsin gorging myself on cheese.

Unfortunately (for me and everyone else who waited until the last minute) every single seminar I wanted to go to was completely sold out, including the 'Meet the Cheesemaker' event on Saturday night. Fortuntately, Jeanne read the desperation in my email plee and had a ticket waiting for me at the door. Huzzah!

One of the reasons I was so excited for this event is that Uplands Cheese was going to be offering samples of their brand new cheese called Rush Creek. I'm not going to talk about that cheese in this post except to share with you a poorly taken picture of the packaging, and to let you know that one of the benefits of working in a cheese shop is that a wheel is already set aside at the store for me. I am going to buy it, bring it home, turn the lights down low, light a few candles, pop on some Barry White and...well you know what happens when you put on Barry.

Okay, enough about Rush Creek. One of the great things about an event like this is not just getting an opportunity to taste those cheeses that you love, but to meet some new cheesy friends as well.

One of my favorite cheese experiences came at the Chalet Cheese Cooperative makers of both Limburger and the cheese recently resurrected from extinction, Liederkranz*. Both cheeses are very similar. They're both smear-ripened, soft, creamy cheeses that bring the funk to any party. Due to a different bacteria added to the Liederkranz, this cheese ripens a lot faster than Limburger. I did a taste comparison with a cheese sample of each that had been aged for two months. The Limburger was a bit chewy, very milky, a bit salty, and had just started to get stinky. The two month old Liederkranz on the other hand was already turning into a silky, creamy funk-bomb. It was beefy, a bit fruity, sweet and absolutely delicious. Just writing about it is making me wish I'd brought some home with me. Dammit.

Another new cheese I tried was from a company I'd not heard of before. Harmony Specialty Foods had a 1 year aged Caerphilly. Sooo good. Crumbly, lemony and yoghurty it was just a perfect little nibble of goodness.

Meinlese is a still-in-the-works cheese from Seymour Dairy that is being billed as a Cheddar Blue. Aged for 5 months it has a big saltiness upfront, but then it mellows into a sort of buttery blue with a Cheddary acidity. If the first batch is any indication I'll absolutely be adding it to my ever-growing list of nummy cheeses.

All and all, Saturday was a great evening. I gorged myself on cheese and good company. Congratulations to Jeanne for another successful festival. See you next year!

*Liederkranz is made at the Chalet Cheese Cooperative, but DCI Cheese Company actually owns the name and from what I understand does all the distribution of one of my new favorite stinky cheeses.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Making Cheese and Cheesewench Rant

I love cheese. Shocking! I also am insanely biased and think that Vermont has some of the best cheese in the world. Another revelation! Consider Bardwell Farms is offering two classes that combine learning about cheese, and the Green Mountain State. Consider Bardwell Farms won 3rd place in the all-around competition for their cheese Rupert at this summer's ACS competition.

Unfortunately for me, the cheesemaking and affinage class is the week before Christmas or as I like to call it the "Sweet mother-of-pearl! It's the week before Christmas and we're so busy and I'm doing so much overtime that I've been existing on food I nibble at work and frozen pizza." But maybe I'll be able to get out there for the January class.

If you're in N.J. or close by, there's Valley Shepherd Creamery that does cheesemaking classes as well. Located just an hour or so out of Manhattan they offer a 1 day class, do the aging for you and then you can pick up the cheese you made 90 days later. They sell out super fast, so look at the schedule NOW, not a few weeks before you go to N.Y.

If you really want to get into it (which I do) and you've got the time and money (which I don't but I'm working on it) you can go to the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese. What is the VIAC?

"The Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese at the University of Vermont is the nation`s first and only comprehensive center devoted to artisan cheese."

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to become a cheesemaker. I'm happy as a monger. One of the best ways for me to learn more about how to care for cheese and to find out why it does what it does, how it does it, how to help it be better, and how to tell when something has gone wrong and possibly prevent future problems is by learning about cheese, not just in a hands-on making sense, but also learning more about the science of it.

This brings me to the topic of making cheese at home. I absolutely encourage people to make cheese at home. I've made Mozzarella, Ricotta and Farmer's Cheese while working in the restaurant industry, and have been thinking about doing some fresh cheese at home. My biggest hurdle is not having access to the kind of milk I want to work with.

Let me just rant about Mozzarella for a moment. This cheese when made well is a soft, milky, creamy, fresh cheese that makes me happy on four different levels. It is also really hard to master. I recall throwing my white lumpy piece of cheese at the walk-in door after my frustration level had risen to three inches above my head. When I had finally figured it out and made my first ball, and then my second, third, fourth and all that followed I had a ridiculous amount of pride. I conquered the curds! I made them do what I wanted them to do and wouldn't take no for an answer. That first bite of soft milky goodness made the previous anger and frustration I was actually swearing and yelling at the curds at one point totally worth it.

If I hear one more story about someone using their microwave to make Mozzarella I am going to freak out and lose it. Making cheese, any cheese isn't shouldn't be about shortcuts. It's not about microwaving curds.

This part of the post had a rant about using the microwave to "make cheese" and how I'm sure it's one of the signs of the Apocalypse and how people who do this need a swift kick in the soft fleshy part, but I deleted it. You don't need me to tell you it's wrong. You know, deep in your heart that using the microwave to make cheese is WRONG! EVIL! AND AN INSULT TO CHEESEMAKERS AND THE LOVING CARE THEY PUT INTO THEIR CHEESE, LAND AND ANIMALS! IMHO.

I hate ending on an angry, all caps rant so I'm going to be positive instead. Next weekend I'm going to Madison, WI for two days for a cheese festival. I am super excited to meet new-to-me cheeses and cheesemakers. Of course, I will be reporting back on my experiences and showcasing any especially tasty treats.