Happy Grass-Fed Cows & Cheese Underground
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.
(photo taken by Carpenter at Sassy Cow Creamery, near Columbus Wisconsin)