Monthly Archives: June 2009

Happy Grass-Fed Cows & Cheese Underground

wisconsin cows

I’m honored to have “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” second guest post writer to be none other than the Wisconsin Cheese Maven and one of my favorite cheese writers, Jeanne Carpenter of Cheese Underground. If you haven’t checked out her blog, do so. And if you’re on the Wisconsin Tourist Board, you should be paying this woman. Her writing makes even born and raised California-ites, such as this girl, want to take an exceptionally long road trip to your fine cheese state (even though I’ve heard it snows everyday, and I’m certain people wear sweaters year-round).

And here she is, sharing the glories of Wisconsin, grass-based cheese. Thank you Jeanne.

‘Tis the Season for Grass-Based Cheese

Spring has sprung in Wisconsin and that means hundreds of thousands of lucky cows are bolting to lush, sweet pastures and preparing to churn out some of the best milk produced in the world.  And what is 90 percent of that Wisconsin milk made into? Cheese, of course. In fact, more and more Wisconsin cheese is being crafted and marketed as “grass-based.” So what does that mean exactly? How does grass turn into cheese and why is Wisconsin grass-based cheese special?

It all starts beneath the surface. The state’s naturally sweet soils and limestone-filtered water produce some of the best grass and milk in the Midwest. Sweet grass = exceptional milk = award-winning cheese. It’s true – you really can taste the difference in a grass-based cheese.  The flavor is often more complex, with earthy, grassy notes. You’ll also notice a difference in the color of the cheese — usually grass-based cheeses give off a more golden hue, reflecting the diet of the cows that produced the milk.

Some of my favorite Wisconsin grass-based cheeses include:

Pleasant Ridge Reserve — Arguably the most famous cheese to come from Wisconsin in the last eight years (it won Best of Show at the American Cheese Society in 2001 and 2005, and was named the U.S. Champion Cheese in 2003), this grass-based beauty is made at Uplands Cheese near Dodgeville, Wis. The herd is rotationally grazed on pasture grasses, herbs and wildflowers, and cheese is made only during the lush grass season, which in Wisconsin runs from early May thru mid July, and then again in Sept thru mid-October. Beautfort in style, the washed-rind, complexly flavored, raw-milk cheese is aged in a cave environment. More info: http://www.uplandscheese.com/

Edelweiss Graziers — Edelweiss Creamery near Monticello, Wis., partners with a handful of local farm families to bring a pure and complex flavor profile to a line of small batch, seasonal cheeses made from the milk of pastured, grass-fed cows. Grass-based Cheddar, Gouda and Emmentaler are all available. More info: http://edelweissgraziers.com/

Otter Creek Organic Cheddar – Milk from this farm’s rotationally-grazed Holstein herd is used exclusively to craft Raw Milk Seasonal Cheddars at Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain. The flavor of each cheese changes with the seasons. In the spring, pastures are full of clover, rye and young grasses. In the summer, orchard grass, young corn and sorghum take over, while fall brings mature rye, alfalfa and clover. In winter, the herd eats silage and baleage, made of fermented alfalfa and grasses cut from the farm’s pastures. More info: http://www.ottercreekorganicfarm.com/cheeses.php

Taste any of these cheeses and you’ll find it hard to argue with the quality of Wisconsin grass-based cheeses.

Jeanne Carpenter

(photo taken by Carpenter at Sassy Cow Creamery, near Columbus Wisconsin)

La Tur: A Cheese, a Girl, and a Spoon

LaTur copy

* Kitchen Curd participants, see end of post*

Although numerous sophisticates allege that the firmer, aged cheeses are the most nuanced examples of fermented milk, I’ve always secretly preferred cheese that I can eat with my favorite baby spoon. One of the softies closest to my heart is La Tur.

In La Tur exists all the best characteristics of a soft goat, sheep, and cow’s milk cheese combined. Crafted with expert amounts of each animal’s milk, the flavors in La Tur miraculously highlight one another’s flavors without competing for attention. Grassy and lemony and tangy like a goat cheese, mildly nutty like a sheep’s cheese, and rich and buttery like a cow’s cheese, La Tur has more texture and flavor variations than Mariah Carey has pink stilettos.

About one-and-a-half inches tall and two inches across, La Tur has a rippled surface, reminiscent of a French natural-rind goat cheese crottin, that calms one’s heart like lapping ocean waves. Underneath this is a layer of pure cheese silk. When the cheese is young, the silky layer is thin, and the center is soft and slighty grainy like a chevre. Then, during the height of ripeness, the silk completely takes over the cheese’s interior so that the center becomes creamy, shiny, and soft, like the center of Old Chatham’s Nancy’s Camembert or Spanish Nevat. This is where the spoon comes in.

Produced in the Langhe region of Piedmont, Italy, La Tur is made by the Caseificio Dell’Alta Langa company, craftspeople of softer style Italian cheeses. The mixed-milk curds are ladled into molds, where they age for ten days before they makes their way home to our fridges. Where they then, of course, patiently await us. And wine.

Knowing La Tur is a fresh cheese from the Piedmont region of Italy helps with wine pairing. Try La Tur with a low-oak red wine like a Barbera, Dolcetto or Nebbiolo, from the same Piedmont region as the cheese. If you want to branch out, one could pair the cheese with a equally bright, low oak wine like a Cru Beaujolais (Gamay) or light Loire Valley Red (Cabernet Franc) from the Saumur Champigny or Bourgueil region. As for whites, try a punchy style, such as a  a Sauvignon Blanc, or an unoaked still or sparkling white from Italy.

Whatever you do, give the cheese a chance to shine. Let it come to room temperature, when it will charmingly stick to the cheese paper with which it’s packed.

And remember, La Tur is one of the classiest cheeses you can put on a baby spoon.

Cheese Category: natural/surface ripened

milk: cow, sheep, goat

* Kitchen Curders * Some friends and I tried making the mozz as directed in the Home Creamery book and had a problem towards the end, when the author said to heat the 8 cups of water to 108 degrees. I think she meant 180. Hello recipe testers? Anyhow, I would either suggest trying heating the milk to 180, using another recipe, or doing what we did after the mishap, which was instead of pouring the room temp 108 degree water over the curds, was to heat the curds in the microwave method following her recipe. Then, we’ll discuss the outcomes and tribulations in the Kitchen Curd posts coming our way early July.

Kitchen Curds Book Winner!

Workin on the next post, hopefully going up later today, but to diffuse some cheesemaking tension, I wanted to announce the Home Creamery book Kitchen Curds book giveaway winner!

The winner is….. Heather of BodaciousGirlBlog, who makes bread, butter, and now will have cheese for the final blogging layer! Please send me your shipping info at itsnotyouitsbrie@gmail.com. I gotta get this book on the road!

Thanks everyone for participating! I’ll be having more giveaways coming up, keep watch. I loved your suggestions and comments. I’ll be touching on every single one of them in the future.

Cheese Desires & Kitchen Curds Giveaway

 

milkphoto

Hello lovely “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” readers. I’m writing to let you know that I’m going to be out of commission for a few more days because right now, life is demanding attention beyond the cheese plate.  But I’m still here.

And, also important, I wanted to take this time to ask you, that’s right you, about your cheese desires. The ones that are appropriate for public consumption, that is. And, I want to giveaway a Home Creamery book in honor of the Kitchen Curds event. Surprise!

I’ve got many ideas afloat  about recipes I’d like to share, guest bloggers posts I’ll impart, cheeses I’m going to talk too much about, and dairy pictures I’m going to try to seduce you with, but in the meantime, is there anything in particular you desire to learn about cheese, any dairy recipes you are eager to have, or cheese you wanted to gaze at from the pages of “It’s Not You, it’s Brie?”

I’d love to hear from you.

And, I’m giving away a book that will divulge all recipes for the dairy products to be made for the Kitchen Curds events. 

How do you enter the drawing, you ask?

Leave a comment below telling me of what you’d like me to gush on about, and I’ll put your name in a hat. More recipes?I promise it’ll be a hat that has something to do with cheese.  Any triple-cremes or sheep cheeses you want me to focus on? Then, I’ll pick a person’s name from the hat and send them a free copy of the Home Creamery book.

Be sure to keep posted to find out if you’re the winner. 

Signing off in solidarity. Cheese power.