We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
Cheese of The Week is a weekly feature on The Daily Meal, drawing on the expertise of internationally renowned cheese expert and consultant Raymond Hook. What follows is based on an interview with Hook.
Want more? Click here for the Cheese of the Week Slideshow.
Pleasant Ridge Reserve, produced by Wisconsin-based Uplands Cheese, is on a tear. In the past 10 years, it’s won the American Cheese Society's "Best in Show" award a whopping three times during their annual competition, most recently in 2010, which is truly astounding due to the fact that on average more than 1,400 cheeses are entered into the competition. It’s considered the Oscars of the cheese world, and for the past decade, Pleasant Ridge Reserve has been Meryl Streep.
So what makes this cheese so good? This Alpine-style cheese starts with the grass. "These cows only eat fresh grass," Hook said. "They can only graze in the pasture from May through October, and even then if the weather isn’t good, they sell the milk instead of making cheese with it." During peak season, a batch can yield up to nearly eighty 10-pound wheels of cheese per day, but some seasons less cheese is produced if conditions aren’t perfect.
The cheese is aged in ripening rooms built into the creamery, where they’re rubbed with brine several times per week to encourage the development of good bacteria. Each batch needs to age for a different period of time before it’s ready to be eaten, but certain wheels are kept around for more than a year, and are sold as "Extra Aged."
Hook recommends sticking with the traditional version, though, because it’s about everything you could want in a cow’s milk cheese. "This cheese is so full of nuances, it’s astounding," Hook said. "It’s firm and rich, and you can taste the pasture flavors of grass and wildflowers. There’s a hint of nuttiness and toasted grain, and notes of fruit and herbs."
While it could be used in cooking, Hook wouldn’t recommend it (it’s best on its own). He advises pairing it with a robust, high-tannin, high-alcohol red with floral aromatics, like Sassella’s La Castellina di Fojanini, a nebbiolo from Lombardy, or a not-too-hoppy Belgian white ale or IPA, like Lagunitas IPA.
Pleasant Ridge Reserve Cheese
Pleasant Ridge Reserve has received numerous prestigious awards. Most Recently Pleasant Ridge Reserve was awarded Best of Show at the 2005 American Cheese Society conference, an accolade it won for the second time, having been awarded Best of Show in 2001 as well. Additionally, Pleasant Ridge Reserve was named U.S. Champion at the 2003 U.S Championship cheese contest. Pleasant Ridge Reserve is the only cheese to ever win both national competitions.
Pleasant Ridge Reserve is an original cheese inspired by farmstead cheeses from the alpine provinces of southeastern France. The aging techniques they use were originally developed in the Middle Ages when cheeses similar to Pleasant Ridge Reserve were aged in limestone caves and washed frequently with a brine solution. Washing the rind keeps it free of unwanted microbes and produces a variety of pleasing flavors. Because of the time-consuming hand work involved, this practice is rarely used today.
After about four months in the aging room, Pleasant Ridge Reserve is ready to please your palate. It will continue to change and develop variations in its flavor as it ages further.
“For us, the cheese is artisan because of the people who make it. Our cheesemakers carefully handle every cheese we make. Those cheeses are hooped and salted, turned daily, and lovingly packaged for our consumers, all by hand. During each step of the process the makers meticulously inspect each wheel and evaluate and cater to whatever its needs are, using the knowledge gained here and elsewhere to guide their decisions. The term artisan should be applied to anyone who cares deeply and personally for the product they make.” —ERIC GLASGOW, co-owner, The Grey Barn and Farm, Chilmark, Massachusetts
ANDY HATCH AND SCOTT MERICKA, UPLANDS CHEESE COMPANY
I n the rolling hills of southern Wisconsin, Uplands Cheese Company is located in the heart of a rich and storied American cheesemaking region. But the dairy farming practices that produce Uplands’ award-winning cheeses originated hundreds of miles away in Vermont, where rotational grazing to feed cows was introduced in the late 1980s. The founders of Uplands Cheese were among the first farmers in the country to adopt the practice to feed their dairy herd. These cheesemaking pioneers turned the raw, grass-fed milk into traditional, Alpine-style hard cheeses, the precursors of today’s Pleasant Ridge Reserve—the most-awarded cheese in American history.
Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese
Uplands’ current owners, the creators of Pleasant Ridge Reserve, came to work at the farm after studying dairy farming and cheesemaking—Andy Hatch at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Scott Mericka at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. The two men, along with their families, purchased Uplands Cheese in 2014 Mericka oversees the barn, while Hatch runs the creamery, which turns out just two cheeses. Crafted in the tradition of Gruyère and Beaufort, Pleasant Ridge Reserve is made only from May through October and Rush Creek Reserve, a rich, soft round wrapped in spruce bark, is made only in the fall. “We walk the tightrope of a truly seasonal business, trying to balance inventory in one hand and cash in the other,” says Hatch. “We gamble about a million dollars every summer, making cheese and tucking it away until it becomes next year’s income. It makes for a very hardworking summer, and if things have gone well, a very content winter.”
A Wisconsin native who didn’t grow up in the dairy business, Hatch remains closely connected to the people and resources of the University of Wisconsin’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, especially the Center for Dairy Research, which he calls “a national treasure.” The location of the farm, relatively close to Madison, the state capital, gives him access to the political side of the state’s diary industry. “We’re a very small producer, but we have a seat at the table when we need to learn something or make our thoughts known,” says Hatch. “People in Wisconsin’s dairy industry tend to be very cooperative and generous, and no one excludes us from the conversation because we pasture our cows and use raw milk and natural rinds. Most of the old guys grew up that way and respect it.”
Artisanal cheesemakers all over the country cite the importance of being connected to a community, and Hatch and Mericka are no exception. Many cheesemaking operations are in remote, rural areas, so having neighbors—even if they are not right next door—who also farm and make cheese “makes a world of difference, both for finding new solutions to business problems and for feeling supported in the midst of what can be some pretty difficult circumstances,” says Hatch. “Just drinking beer at a bar next to a guy who also blew his whole afternoon trying to fix a frozen manure spreader…it feels less isolating.” Uplands shares equipment and harvest work with a few farmers nearby and consolidates pallet shipments with a couple of other local cheesemakers. “It helps keep everyone’s costs down,” he says.
Hatch makes artisan cheeses prized by turophiles, but in keeping with his midwestern roots, he takes a pragmatic, rather than esoteric and worshipful approach to the farm-to-table, “slow foods” agriculture movement. “There are some very important economic and ecological reasons to support sustainable agriculture but I think the proof also has to be in the pudding,” he says. “It may be that the more destructive elements of modern agriculture will eventually be eliminated by regulation, but if that leaves us with foods that are equally responsible and boring, no one is going to be inspired and it will wither.” Ultimately, he says, “farming and food have to be responsible but they should also be joyful. I think that’s why grazing dairy cattle is so important. It’s better for the climate and for the soil, water and animals, but it also produces really sublime cheese. It’s a win-win-win.”
“What thrills me to no end is working with other cheesemakers and encouraging people to go backwards. To really look to traditional methods, look at what they were doing, look at the resources they had in hand, and really try and make the most of those. I feel like what is the next step for American cheesemakers is to stop trying to make cheese that other people make. Really looking at what is unique and special about their particular milk and their particular situation, and what does their milk do best, instead of trying to wrangle it into being something it’s not. To see what it is in and of itself.” —RACHEL FRITZ SCHAAL, co-owner, Parish Hill Creamery, Westminster West, Vermont
JESSICA AND JEREMY LITTLE, SWEET GRASS DAIRY
A t Sweet Grass Dairy in historic Thomasville, Georgia, Jessica and Jeremy Little’s Jersey cows graze on grass 365 days a year. The herd’s rich milk is made into award-winning artisan cheeses, including double cream, Camembert-style Green Hill earthy yet mild Asher Blue and semi-soft, natural-rinded Thomasville Tomme—the very first cheese the creamery produced in 2002. “We hired a French cheesemaker to come to Georgia for two months to teach us more about cheesemaking,” says Jessica. “He is from the Pyrenees mountain region—where tomme-style cheeses originated—so it was a good place to start.” The second cheese added to the roster was Green Hill, which has become Sweet Grass Dairy’s flagship cheese. “It is such a good representation of our rich, buttery, grassy, and mushroomy milk,” she says.
The seeds of Sweet Grass Dairy were planted in 1993, when Jessica’s parents—her dad is a fourth-generation dairy farmer—switched their conventional dairy operation to a rotational grazing model. “Almost immediately, my mom wanted to tell the story of the high quality and flavor of the milk combined with the health and longevity of the cows,” says Jessica. Cheesemaking became the family’s storytelling platform, conveying the message of “humane animal husbandry, regenerative agriculture, and the importance of understanding the origins of our foodstuffs.” Jessica and Jeremy, who had met at college, were invited to join the business in 2002 and purchase the creamery three years later. “We have been trying to make an impact on our community region, and industry since then,” Jessica says.
In the early days, Sweet Grass didn’t have much competition. While agriculture has a long history in theSouth, cheesemaking is a more recent development there than in other parts of the country prior to refrigeration, there wasn’t a way to keep cheeses cold during the aging process. “It has been such a fun journey to watch the rise of the farm-to-table movement in the South,” says Jessica. Along the way, the Littles have traveled across the country to visit other cheesemakers, “learning about blue cheese at Point Reyes, looking at soft-ripened aging-cooler design at Vermont Creamery, talking about wooden shelving with Brian Fiscalini at Fiscalini Farms, getting a deeper understanding of the science of cheesemaking at Jasper Hill, and learning about the importance of affinage at Uplands.” Having experienced the support and mentorship of the cheesemaking community, she and Jeremy feel it is now their duty to help fledgling cheesemakers in their region.
As part of that effort, the Littles are members of the Southern Cheese Guild, with which Jessica’s mother had been involved in its early days. The first group eventually disbanded, but reorganized in 2018 and is now a vibrant nonprofit organization. “Through outreach and education, we help cheesemakers and their cheese stories to ‘spread,’” says Jessica. “I think that it is hard for rural cheesemakers when we are so faraway from major cities to interact with customers. We need cheesemongers to tell our stories and what makes each artisan cheese so special. We do not have large marketing and public relations budgets so we depend on the grassroots word of mouth. We work really hard to have strong distribution partner relationships and will continue to work on fostering friendships with our retailer partners as well.” The Littles also connect directly to consumers right in downtown Thomasville, where their popular cheese shop and restaurant is part of a supportive community of artisans and makers. “The shop gives us the opportunity to try out new projects and get great feedback,” says Jessica. Asked to name her favorite Sweet Grass Dairy cheese, she says it’s like asking her to choose a favorite child, but she admits that she especially loves Green Hill because of her fondness for soft-ripened cheese. For Jeremy, who “loves all blue cheeses so much,” it’s Asher Blue. “We probably eat more Thomasville Tomme than anything because of its versatility,” Jessica continues. “Our kids make quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches and mac and cheese with it.”
Next up for Sweet Grass Dairy is the completion of a new cheese plant, which the Littles and their team expect to occupy this fall. The project was delayed due to the pandemic, but Jessica maintains that the challenges posed by the coronavirus have actually been beneficial. “I think we will be a better business when this is all over,” she says. “We are looking forward to a robust research and development program and the ability to make more handcrafted cheeses safely and consistently.”
“Success for the American artisan cheese producer is determined almost entirely by his or her ability to make a cheese that is uniquely delicious and premium, and therefore differentiates itself from others within the marketplace. Creating a cheese that possesses complex, unique, and memorable flavors—often representative of a geographical locale—is the main goal. Achieving these qualities often means getting back to the basics of cheesemaking, which realistically translates into removing much of the mechanization process and investing heavily in milk quality, skilled labor, and other production costs.” —KATE ARDING, culture co-founder, cheesemaking consultant, and co-owner of Talbott & Arding Cheese and Provisions, Hudson, New York
STEVE BURGER AND SARAH WIEDERKEHR, WINTER HILL FARM
C lose in miles but a world away in ethos from downtown Freeport’s sprawling L.L.Bean campus, Winter Hill Farm covers 55 acres of permanently preserved Maine farmland. Its current stewards are Steve Burger and Sarah Wiederkehr, who continue a cheesemaking tradition established in 2004 by a pair of retired teachers who then owned the farm. In the rolling pastures below the hilltop barns and farmhouse where Burger and Wiederkehr live with their two children, rare Randall cattle graze alongside Jersey cows their milk goes into bottled, unpasteurized whole milk and yogurt, as well as nine different cheeses, two of which have won American Cheese Society awards. Burger manages the cows while Wiederkehr is the cheesemaker, although that wasn’t her plan when the couple moved from California to Maine to run Winter Hill Farm in 2011. “She will swear up and down that she never intended to be a cheesemaker,” says Burger. “I wish she would stop referring to herself as a reluctant amateur and admit that she’s really good at this.”
In California, where they lived on a small farm focused on education, Burger milked a few Jersey cows and Oberhasli goats, and Wiederkehr taught courses in food systems and agroecology at Stanford University, experimenting with cheesemaking in the farmhouse kitchen as time allowed. “When the opportunity to take over operations at Winter Hill Farm arose, I thought moving to Maine to milk cows and operate a small farmstead creamery seemed like a perfect idea,” says Burger. “Sarah was dubious, but I somehow convinced her that her home-scale skills would translate easily.”
An established revenue stream from bottled milk and yogurt sales allowed Winter Hill Farm to flourish while Wiederkehr developed cheese recipes, combining her skills as a trained scientist with the intuition she says still guide her process. Bringing pigs onto the farm proved to be fortuitous. “Our Berkshire pork quickly gained a reputation as some of the tastiest pork available—our secret was the volume of cheese failures our pigs regularly dined on,” says Burger. “I like to say: ‘Bad cheese equals good porkchops.’” Winter Hill Farm’s first two cheeses were Frost Gully and Tide Line, both Camembert-style rounds made from the same basic recipe. Tide Line differs in that it features a layer of vegetable ash running through the center and covering the cheese. Next came two aged raw milk cheeses with natural rinds: Everett’s Tome, a tomme-style cheese deliberately misspelled as a tribute to Everett Randall, the “father” of Randall cattle and Bradbury Mountain Blue, the cheese of which Wiederkehr is most proud.“Bradbury was the most challenging cheese to develop—it took two years for me to get it to the point that I was consistently happy with it,” she says. “It has never won an award, but the feedback we’ve gotten from our customers, from cheese mongers, and from competition judges means so much to me. When someone tells you it’s the best blue they’ve ever tasted, you feel like you’re doing something right.”
While Wiederkehr made cheeses, Burger focused on increasing milk production through herd and pasture improvements. But by 2018, demand for the cheeses outpaced the farm’s milk supply. “Rather than expand our own herd, we were fortunate to be able to begin purchasing milk from the Milkhouse in Monmouth, Maine,”says Burger. “Their organic Jersey herd is managed very similarly to the Winter Hill herd, which translates to milk that blends seamlessly in our cheesemaking 25 percent of the milk we use in cheese production comes from the Milkhouse.”
Burger touts Maine’s active cheesemaking community, which comprises close to 100 licensed creameries scattered about the largely rural state. “People in Maine are willing to support their neighbors and want to participate in a local economy—that lends itself to a thriving local food scene,” he says. “There are world-class cheeses being made here produced on such a small scale that no one from outside the state even knows they exist.” After the pandemic halted sales to restaurants, he and Wiederkehr partnered with other farmers, bakers, and makers to stock a self-serve farm stand, and turned down the temperature in their caves to slow the aging process of the wheels. “At the same time we realized that people wanted milk and yogurt—so much yogurt,” Burger says. “We could barely keep up.”
In addition to top-notch artisan cheese, Maine also has the nation’s highest number of breweries per capita, and collaborations between brewers and other makers are common. Winter Hill Farm regular partners with Maine Beer Company of Freeport, which offered the cheeses alongside their beers for pandemic pickup. A Valentine’s Day pairing with Portland’s Foundation Brewing featured Frost Gully with a raspberry kettle sour, a pairing Burger compares to “your favorite bread right out of the oven slathered in butter and raspberry jam.” Asked by Allagash Brewing Company in Portland to make a beer-washed cheese the brewery could sell in their tasting room, Wiederkehr came up with what remains her husband’s favorite cheese: Terzetto, a pasteurized round washed with Allagash Tripel and aged six weeks. “Have you ever walked into a tasting room expecting to smell beer and smelled the joyous funk of dirty feet instead? It was a problem,” says Burger. “The original was a much softer, ooey-gooey, eat-it-with-a-spoon little round that was pure unctuous joy—and it stank to high heaven. It was a hit at Allagash, but after a few months we changed the recipe—larger mold format, longer age—both of which robbed it of some of its joyous aroma and made it an acceptable guest in the tasting room.” He’s still hoping that someday Wiederkehr will bring the stinky original back. Perhaps it could include a warning label: Best enjoyed in Maine’s great outdoors.
Rush Creek Reserve
To understand the making of Rush Creek Reserve cheese, it’s important to appreciate the operations of its producer, Uplands Cheese, located in Dodgeville, WI.
The dairy farm milks its cows seasonally while the animals are on pasture, producing grass-fed milk. This is used to craft the company’s Pleasant Ridge Reserve, an alpine-style cheese available only during the summer. When the pasture stops growing, Uplands stops making this cheese, although the cows are milked until about Christmas, when the herd is dried off for the winter.
“Our cows continue to produce milk in the fall, although it’s not coming from the pasture,” says Uplands Cheese co-owner Andy Hatch. “It may seem obvious to create a different cheese line using this milk, but it’s unusual for us.”
Creating diverse cheeses with different origins of milk certainly is nothing new. This has been happening for hundreds of years in Europe, with harder more durable cheese produced in the summer months to better withstand the trip down the mountain to market. In winter, more perishable soft cheese was available from cows that didn’t travel as far from mountain pastures.
Although the milk’s character plays an important part in both Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Rush Creek Reserve cheeses, it takes many months of aging to reveal the qualities inherent in grass-fed cheese, not unlike aging certain red wines to unlock the complexity.
“When producing Pleasant Ridge Reserve, we get out of the milk’s way, which reveals its character over time,” says Hatch. “With Rush Creek Reserve, we’re more proactive in coaxing the flavor out of the milk using different ripening techniques.”
With this cheese variety, cows are feeding on hay and the fat content rises significantly during the cold months. This milk has less inherent flavor than the summer milk, but its richness acts as a canvas onto which the cheesemaker can create flavor during ripening. “The two cheeses are opposites in that sense, so technically it was a big challenge making the leap from one to the other, at least initially,” says Hatch.
At Uplands Cheese, the saying goes, Pleasant Ridge is made in the fields, while Rush Creek is produced in the caves.
Rush Creek’s ripening technique consists of the cheese being wrapped in a strip of spruce bark and washed in the same brine that for months has been used to ripen Pleasant Ridge. This helps produce a variety of yeasts, molds and microflora on the rind.
Hatch compares the milk used to make Rush Creek to half and half and the cheese itself to savory custard, as it exudes a very soft, delicate texture with a savory, rich finish likened to cured meat. The flavors are born out of the rind’s ripening technique.
Since the cheese is produced in the fall and only available in November and December, it is typically served during one sitting and not stored for any extended period of time. To properly eat this cheese, the top rind is sliced off, exposing the custard-like, soft center that has a paste-like consistency.
This can be scooped out with a spoon to be eaten on its own or paired with sparkling or dry white wine. Rush Creek’s flavor also complements figs and braised meats, and it can be eaten atop toasted bread and roasted potatoes.
“It makes a beautiful presentation, and the texture feels indulgent,” says Hatch.
In addition to being sold at specialty cheese stores, Rush Creek was made available on Uplands Cheese’s website for the first time in 2015, but had to be pulled off, as it sold out in about a week.
“We try to make more, but since this variety is just made from the milk of our own cows, production is very limited,” says Hatch.
Due to production timing, Uplands Cheese is unable to enter Rush Creek in the cheese competitions, which take place mainly in the spring and summer.
Even without any well-deserved accolades, this cheese has enjoyed a cult following since its debut six years ago.
Supple and rich but firm. The most complex cheese you'll ever accidentally eat a pound of.
Country of Origin: United States
Milk Type/Treatment: Raw Cow
Rennet Type: Animal
The Flavor Experience
A wonderfully complex cheese from Dodgeville, WI. Pleasant Ridge is rich and savory with notes of everything from toasted hazelnuts to cooked mushrooms. A cheese that can be loved by the hardcore curd nerd and the cheese newbie.
Pleasant Ridge is specifically modelled after the french alpine classic Beaufort. The cheesemakers made the decision to make an alpine cheese after extensive research into both their own property and the history of the driftless region of wisconsin where Uplands Cheese Co. is located.
What does not PRR pair with? Best friends with some some savory charcuterie like Petit Jesu or Saucisson Sec. Try it with a little Riesling or Vin Juane for a classic alpine feel or play up its natural sweetness it with a nice Manhattan.
Fall Pairings: Cheese
When thinking about fall cheese in Wisconsin, I think of dairy farmers and cheesemakers who are nearing the end of the back-breaking summer season. Fall is the final push for cheesemakers like Andy Hatch of Uplands Cheese to squeeze the last of the milk from those once-lush fertile pastures that have now begun to brown.
For me, there is nothing like cheese made from fall grasses. You can taste the intricacies of the summer sun, the sweetness from the now-chilled, dewy grass and the earthiness of the worn down soils.
Fall is also the time cheesemakers from Wisconsin and around the country come together and celebrate their craft at the American Cheese Society (ACS) Awards. Each conference ends with a hotly contested awards competition. We saw Roelli Cheese Co. win Best in Show in 2016 with its Alpine style, Little Mountain. Another cheese that has left its mark on the competition is Uplands Cheese’s, Pleasant Ridge reserve. Pleasant Ridge was on of the first Wisconsin cheeses to win a Best in Show and has gone on to be one of the most honored cheeses at the competition.
This year, we have selected three cheeses that placed very well in the competition. The first cheese selected is a Wisconsin original called The Robin from Deer Creek. It won first place in the Colby category. The second cheese we picked is another yearly winner — Emmi Roth’s GranQueso. Emmi Roth has been dominating the awards lately with a variety of their cheeses. Lastly, we picked a cheese that we have a personal connection to — Clock Shadow Creamery Quark with S.A. Braaii. This cheese won a second-place ribbon in its category. Enjoy!
Deer Creek Cheese – The Robin
Colby, a Wisconsin original, was invented in Wisconsin by Joseph F. Steinwand. Many people think of Colby as interchangeable with mild cheddar but traditional colby differs from cheddar in the make process. Colby, after the curds form, has some of the whey drained off and the curd is cooled by adding water or a rinse. The colby curd is then drained completely and pressed into forms. This process gives traditionally made Colby it’s signature curdy texture with a slightly sweet flavor and lightly salty finish.
The Robin was created in order to preserve this Wisconsin classic, made in the traditional, handmade way. It has a firm, yet open body, a fresh cream taste with a salty finish. The Robin won a 1st place at the 2017 American Cheese Society competition.
Beverage pairings - Pilsners or Brown Ales, Island Orchard Pear Cider, Rye whiskey
Food pairings - Wisconsin classics — Peanuts, Nueske HAm, Usinger Summer sausage and either buttery crackers or rye crackers with caraway.
Inspired by some traditional Spanish and Portuguese cheeses, GranQueso has a flavor unique to itself. It has a very firm paste with a rich golden color and colorful rind. At about 2 weeks old the basket-weave rind is rubbed with a unique spice blend that includes cinnamon and paprika. While this doesn’t infuse the interior of the cheese it does create a distinct and lovely exterior. Aged a minimum of 6 months, the flavor of this cheese is slightly piquant, with notes of brown butter, salted caramel, hazelnut and a hint of pineapple. The firm and slightly dry texture also makes it wonderful for marinating or grating.
Beverage pairings- Citrus IPA’s or any hoppy beer. Island Orchard Hopped Brut Reserve HArd Cider, Cream Sherry, or Roja style wines. Try this one with Scotch too.
Food pairings- Serve with quince or pear preserves, great as a tapas cheese served with olives. Drizzle some olive oil and sherry vinegar over and top with sun-dried tomatoes. Serve on a crostini.
Clock Shadow Creamery - Quark w. S.A. Braai Chutney
Very common in German speaking countries and northern Europe, Quark is a fresh dairy product that is finally making inroads in the US. Originally made as an acid set cheese (with no rennet) Clock Shadow’s quark is made with a vegetarian rennet. Soft, white, creamy and slightly tart, quark is very versatile and can be used in baking, or as a spread or dip. That versatility is highlighted in the combo of Clock Shadow’s Quark with S.A. Braai’s chutney. The tangy tartness of the cheese mixed with the sweet and spicy fruits of the chutney is an ACS award winning combo.
Beverage pairings- Shiraz, Cabernet, or Zinfandel. Try it with a Weiss Beer.
Food pairings- Spread on a crostini and top with some honey comb from the comb. Serve fresh with vegetables or prosciutto.
Rush Creek Reserve Production Stopped By FDA Rule Uncertainty
|Andy Hatch with one of his first experimental batches of|
Rush Creek Reserve on May 20, 2010. The cheese was
officially released that fall to great acclaim. Photo by
Uncertainty over how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will rule in regards to a number of pending raw milk cheese regulations has claimed its first official victim: Rush Creek Reserve by Uplands Cheese near Dodgeville, Wisconsin.
In an email to industry professionals this morning, Uplands co-owner and lead cheesemaker Andy Hatch broke the sad news that he will not be making Rush Creek this year.
“It’s disappointing news, I know, and we hope that it’s not permanent. Food safety officials have been unpredictable, at best, in their recent treatment of soft, raw-milk cheeses, and until our industry is given clear and consistent guidance, we are forced to stop making these cheeses,” Andy said.
Andy added it’s not a decision he and his team came to easily. “Hopefully, our government officials will soon agree on how to treat traditional cheesemaking, and we can all return to the cheeses that are so important to us.”
So what would make one of America’s most awarded cheese companies stop production of a cheese that debuted four years ago to great acclaim and that the New York Times described as “fluent and satiny, with a rich, slightly grassy aroma and a mild flavor that hints of smoke and pork.”?
1. The FDA is currently reviewing the 60-day aging rule it imposed in 1949 on American cheesemakers making raw milk cheeses, with many academics speculating the rule will be increased to 90 or 120 aging days within the next year. For an excellent recap and history of how the current 60-day raw milk cheese rule came into being, check out this article by Bill Marler. Remember, Rush Creek Reserve is a raw milk cheese aged 60 days. It is patterned on the magnificent Vacherin Mont d’Or, of which I consumed an entire wheel at one sitting while in London on April 4. No regrets.
2. The newest focus of FDA food safety officials appears to be enforcement of non-toxigenic E.Coli levels in raw milk cheese. Unbeknownst to almost anyone in the industry, in 2010, the FDA changed the standard (see top of page 7) for non-toxigenic, E.Coli in raw milk from less than 10,000 to less than 10 MPN per gram. This happened even after the FDA’s own policy review team (see top of page 7) in 2009 suggested lowering it to only MPN per gram in two or more subsamples or greater than 1,000 MPN per gram in one or more subsamples.” The FDA has begun to enforce this new policy by purchasing raw milk cheeses from distributors, testing them for pathogens, and then showing up at cheese factories for a 3-day investigative inspection. Every cheesemaker I talked to says it is virtually impossible to consistently produce a raw milk cheese with less than 10 parts of non-toxigenic E. Coli per gram. Goodbye, raw milk cheese.
3. Aging cheese on wooden boards may or may not be a dead issue. Two months ago, after a mid-level FDA bureaucrat declared the agency would no longer permit American cheeses to be aged on wooden boards, the entire U.S. cheese eating population erupted in an uproar that made the FDA back down just three days later. In Wisconsin alone, 33 million pounds of cheese are aged on wooden boards, including Rush Creek Reserve.
So to recap, between raw-milk aging rules, new pathogen policies, and the threat of whether the FDA is really backing down on the use of wooden boards, one of America’s great cheeses is no more. The death of Rush Creek Reserve should act as the canary in the coal mine for all American raw milk artisan cheeses, because just as our great American artisan cheese movement is in serious full swing, the FDA has basically declared a war on raw milk cheese.
P.S. Mind you, of course, the FDA pubicly insists they have nothing against raw milk cheese. At the American Cheese Society conference in Sacramento in July, a total of seven – yes seven – officials from the FDA politely attended a public luncheon after meeting privately with the ACS board of directors. Their fearless leader, Mike Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, spoke to us industry professionals for 45 minutes at the luncheon. What he said can best be summed up with his opening words: “We are from the government and we’re here to help you.”
Exclusive! Andy Hatch’s Upland’s Experiment Hits Zingerman’s Deli in Limited Quantities
Upland’s Experiment photo by The House Mouse
Cheese lovers nationwide were devastated when cheesemaker Andy Hatch of Uplands Cheese Company decided to stop making his famous Rush Creek Reserve indefinitely. The spruce-wrapped, raw-milk cheese was the nearest we Americans had to the coveted French-style Mont d’Or and the thought of not having it on our holiday cheese boards was heartbreaking. When asked if he had anything else new in his cheese caves to make up for this terrible loss, Hatch’s stock answer has always been that he is experimenting with something new. After two years, the experiment seems to have paid off, even if it is in limited time. Presented in extremely limited quantities: Upland’s Experiment. Continue reading &rarr
2018 ACS CCP Exam – 150 Sample Questions2018 ACS CCP Exam – 150 Sample Questions
July 19 – I have corrected the answers to questions 28, 86, 98, 103 and 169 – also there is no question 106.
In one week, you’ll be finished with this exam after a grueling six months of studying. If you need one more round of questions before the final week, here are 150 questions from every domain. (Again, wordpress and word don’t much like each other – I hoped I caught all the errors…)
Sample Question 1.) Which word best describes the texture of friable cheese?
Sample Question 2.) The moist reddish bacteria smear that helps ripen washed rind cheeses is:
- Penicillium candidum
- Brevibacterium linens
- Lactobacullus helveticus
Sample Question 3.) What type of culture grows better in higher Temperatures?
Sample Question 4.) The ideal temperature in aging caves, which allows proper aging pace keeps the rinds from cracking and warm enough for the cheese to mature while preventing spoilage, is:
Sample Question 5.) A microbial culture that performs fermentation is called a(n):
Sample Question 6.) Which cheese is not an example of a surface-ripened cheese?
Sample Question 7.) Which of the following would not be considered a defect?
- Discoloration of paste
- Bulging or Bloating
- Wrinkles on a Geotrichum rind
- Uneven interior consistency
Sample Question 8.) Acid flavor in a cheese can be the result of which of the following?
- Too much moisture
- Too little moisture
- Too much rennet
- Not enough Calcium Phosphate present
Sample Question 9.) Tyrosine crystals appear in cheese as the result of the breakdown of which of the following?
Sample Question 10.) The main flavor contributions in sheep’s milk are?
- Short and medium chain fatty acids
- Lanolin and smaller fat globules
- Diet and Breed type
- Lactate and Casein
Sample Question 11.) What does the lingering odor of ammonia on a soft-ripened cheese indicate?
- Contaminated with Listeria
- Had bleach spilled on it
Sample Question 12.) According to Liz Thorpe’s “The Book of Cheese”, Taleggio PDO would be a Gateway Cheese to:
Sample Question 13.) Mary Keehn claims the inspiration for Humboldt Fog was:
Sample Question 14.) Which cheese is made using vegetarian rennet?
Sample Question 15.) The PDO regulations for Stilton include which of the following:
- Made using raw milk
- Minimum of 45% milk fat in the dry matter
- Vintage Blue Stilton is aged more than 15 weeks
- Must be made in the Counties of Leicestershire, Cheshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire
Sample Question 16.) Parrano is a Dutch Gouda made with what additional cultures that contribute to its nutty-sweet flavor profile?
Sample Question 17.) The PDO Regulations for Parmigiano Reggiano as of August 2011 include:
- The morning milking is to be skimmed and mixed with the previous evening’s milk.
- A maximum of 15% of the morning milking may be set aside to make cheese the following day.
- In summer, the room temperature in the maturing facility may not be lower than 21°
- The milk may be heat treated but not pasteurized.
Sample Question 18.) Meadow Creek Dairy’s Grayson was inspired by a trip to:
Sample Question 19.) According to Gordon Edgar, Mariano Gonzalez is the man who brought what cheese “back to the United States”?
Sample Question 20.) Comte AOC is made from the milk of which two cow breeds?
- Montbeliarde and Jersey
- Jersey and French Simmental
- French Simmental and Montbeliarde
- Holstein and French Simmental
Sample Question 21.) Roquefort AOC is made from the milk of what ruminant?
Sample Question 22.) Which cheese was the first to receive the AOC designation in 1925?
Sample Question 23.) Which of the following cheeses has the AOP designation?
Sample Question 24.) Upland Cheese’s Pleasant Ridge Reserve is made during which months?
- March through October
- April through October
- May through September
- May through October
Sample Question 25.) Upland Cheese’s Rush Creek Reserve is inspired by which European cheese?
Sample Question 26.) Comte AOC must be aged a minimum of:
Sample Question 27.) Meadow Creek Dairy’s Grayson is what style of cheese?
Sample Question 28.) Capriole Goat Cheese’s O’Banon has a shelf life of approximately?
Sample Question 29.) Which group of cheeses all have EU Protected Status?
- Comte, Taleggio, Manchego, Paski Sir
- Comte, Le Gruyere, Quickes Mature Cheddar, Stilton
- Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano, Montgomery Cheddar, Campo de Montalban
- Manchego, Roncal, Campo de Montalban, Idiazabal
Sample Question 30.) Which cheese board contains cheeses from four different countries?
- Flagsheep, O’Banon, Stilton, Manchego
- Manceho, Taleggio, Mt. Tam, Humboldt Fog
- Beaufort, Comte, LeGruyere, Sbrinz
- Taleggio, Montgomery’s Cheddar, Comte, Sbrinz
Sample Question 31.) According to local legend, Marie Harel is credited with co-creating which cheese?
Sample Question 32.) On which day do French cheesemakers begin making Vacherin Mont d’Or?
Sample Question 33.) Which cheeses most directly inspired the recipe for Pleasant Ridge Reserve?
- Beaufort and Gruyere
- Appenzeller and Beaufort
- Gruyere and Comte
- Comte and Appenzeller
Sample Question 34.) Name the most consumed AOC/PDO status cheese in France:
Sample Question 35.) The definition of Farmstead cheese is:
- Cheese made at the same location (farm) as the source of the herd providing the milk.
- Small-batch cheeses made using the milk produced within five miles of the dairy.
- Cheese made at a farm dairy with milk produced from different herds.
- Traditionally-produced cheeses using unique cultures and recipes.
Sample Question 36.) Which two sheep milk cheeses have AOC-protected status?
- Roquefort and Ossau Iraty
- Roquefort and P’tit Basque
- Ossau Iraty and Pecorino Romano
- Brocciu and Brin d-Amour
Sample Question 37.) Which European country has the most PDO-protected status cheeses?
Sample Question 38.) Which cheese is wrapped in grape leaves soaked in pear brandy?
Sample Question 39.) Cougar Gold, the cheddar in a can, was created by which US University?
- Washington State University
- Penn State
- University of Colorado
Sample Question 40.) Roth’s Grand Cru Surchoix is similar to which EU PDO cheese?
Sample Question 41.) Cowgirl Creamery’s Inverness is their version of which European cheese?
Sample Question 42.) Georgia’s Sweet Grass Dairy practices “Barn Free” grazing by using what process:
Sample Question 43.) Jeffs’ Select Gouda is the result of a collaboration between Jeff Jirik and Jeff Wideman. It is made in Wisconsin and aged where?
- Cellars at Jasper Hill
- Crown Finish Caves
- Caves at Fairbault
- Murray’s Cheese Caves
Sample Question 44.) Queso Cotija is a Hispanic-style cheese similar to which other cheese?
Sample Question 45.) Which best describes the components of milk?
- Protein, Water and fat
- Sugar and water
- Water, fat, protein, sugar, vitamins and minerals
- Water and Fat
Sample Question 46.) What is rennet’s role in cheesemaking?
- Enhances flavors
- Becomes a protective barrier for the rind
- Coagulates the milk
- Helps retain moisture in cheese
Sample Question 47.) Why did US commercial cheesemakers begin using annatto?
- Inconsistent cheese color due to seasons
- Added Flavor
- Acts as a preservative
- Consumer demand
Sample Question 48.) Which animals do not store beta carotene in their fat cells?
- Cows and goats
- Camels, Cows and Sheep
- Goats and Water Buffalo
- Goats, Cows and Water Buffalo
Sample 49.) What is the active enzyme in rennet?
Sample Question 50.) What gives cheese a natural yellow color?
Sample Question 51.) Milk produced during the summer months has:
- Low fat, high protein and minerals
- Low fat, protein and minerals
- High at, low protein and minerals
- High fat, protein and minerals
Sample Question 52.) What is mastitis?
- An infection of the udder that results in high fat and casein in the milk
- An infection of the udder that results in higher lactose in the milk
- An infection of the udder that results in low somatic cell count in milk
- An infection of the udder that results in high somatic cell count in milk
Sample Question 53.) What is the inciting organism that causes mastitis in cows?
Sample Question 54.) Early lactation is the only time milk contains:
Sample Question 55.) At what temperature should milk be upon arrival at the dairy?
Sample Question 56.) How long do regulatory agencies require the retention of temperature records on-site?
Sample Question 57.) What type of material should be used for milk-handling equipment?
- Paper, multiple use
- Smooth, non-absorbent
- Anything that holds liquid is good
Sample Question 58.) Which of the following is prohibited in the milking process?
- Milking inside a stable
- Applying sanitizing solution to the teats
- Wet hand milking
- Brushing teats prior to milking
Sample Question 59.) What breed of cow makes up more than 90% of the US dairy herd?
Sample Question 60.) What is the average lactation length of a cow?
Sample Question 61.) Which animal generally produces milk with the highest fat content?
Sample Question 62.) Which of the following influences milk composition the most?
Sample Question 63.) Which animal has the longest lactation period?
Sample Question 64.) Some cheesemakers prefer Jersey cows for which reason?
- Highest volume production
- The golden color of the milk from beta-carotene
- Docile temperament and long gestation period
- High butterfat content and lower maintenance
Sample Question 65.) A heifer is:
- A breed of cattle
- Another name for Holstein breed
- Female cow that has calved
- Female cow that has not calved
Sample Question 66.) Which breed of Goat was developed in the US?
Sample Question 67.) Which breed of goat is preferred for commercial milking?
Sample Question 68.) What is the mating season for ewes?
Sample Question 69.) Which goat breed is known for its high butterfat content?
Sample Question 70.) Which goat breed has the highest milk yield?
Sample Question 71.) Which of the following is not traditionally made with Sheep milk?
Sample Question 72.) Which milk freezes best?
Sample Question 73.) What is the legal limit for somatic cell count for Grade A Milk?
Sample 74.) Which breed of sheep provides the milk to produce Roquefort AOC?
Sample Question 75.) Which sheep breed produces the highest milk yield?
Sample Question 76: What is the definition of rumination?
- Drinking milk
- Eating Cheese
- Regurgitation of Food to Make Room in the 4 th Stomach for more food
- Regurgitation of food to chew again
Sample Question 77: What is the definition of Alpage?
- Grazing on hay
- Eating silage
- Eating grain
- Grazing in high alpine pastures
Sample Question 78: What is the main indicator of milk quality?
Sample Question 79.) SCC refers to:
- Number of cows in a herd
- Number of grazing days
- Number of white blood cells in milk
- Number of calves born to herd
Sample Question 80: Which bacteria grows best under refrigeration?
Sample Question 81: Legally how many days can raw milk be held before processing?
Sample Question 82: According to the PMO, what is the legal limit for holding raw milk?
Sample Question 83.) Streptococci is commonly associated with which practice?
- Improper sanitation
- High occurrences of mastitis
- Poor cooling of raw milk
- Addition of too much rennet
Sample Question 84.) Which of the following is not a pathogen found in milk?
Sample Question 85.) Listeria can grow in temperatures as low as?
Sample Question 86.) E. coli is killed at what temperature?
Sample Question 87.) How is E. coli transmitted?
- Grass – hand route
- Oral – hand route
- Hand – oral route
- Fecal – oral route
Sample Question 88.) What are the most common sources for salmonella infection?
- Dairy and seafood
- Seafood and root veggies
- Root veggies and meat
- Meat and eggs
Sample Question 89.) E. coli is killed by:
Sample Question 90.) How are coliforms killed in milk?
- By pasteurization
- By thermalization
- Addition of salt
- Addition of citric acid
Sample Question 91.) Which animal’s milk has the lowest percentage of water?
Sample Question 92.) An indicator that a cow has mastitis is an SCC greater than?
Sample Question 93.) Which does not affect the bacterial contamination of raw milk?
Sample Question 94.) The purpose of pasteurization is:
- Reduce Vitamin B 12
- Creating eyes in Alpine style cheese
- Reducing infectious diseases
- Reducing the salt content in cheese
Sample Question 95.) Basic temperature requirements for thermalization are?
- 145-161F for 30 minutes
- 120-130F for 15 seconds
- 140-160F for > 30 seconds
- 140-150F for 15-30 seconds
Sample Question 96.) Thermophilic cultures can withstand temperatures of:
Sample Question 97.) Which fermentation compound contributes to the buttery flavor in cheese?
Sample Question 98.) Addition of too much rennet causes which defect?
Sample Question 99.) Salt doesn’t influence which of the following in the production of cheese?
Sample Question 100.) Which cheese is not soaked in brine as part of its aging process?
Sample Question 101.) Which type of lipase is used in the production of Pecorino Romano?
Sample Question 102.) Which is not a fresh cheese?
Sample Question 103.) Proteins, butterfat and lactose is contained in what?
Sample Question 104.) What percentage of FDM denotes high fat in cheese?
Sample Question 105.) How many ounces of cheese (approximately) are needed to make one cup of grated cheese:
Sample Question 107.) Which of the following would create the most diverse cheese plate?
- Fresh Mozzarella, Burrata, Comte, Montgomery Cheddar, Rogue River Blue
- Chevre, Mont St. Francis, Taleggio, Humboldt Fog, Alp Blossom
- Chabichou du Poitou, Stinking Bishop, Comte, Parmigiano Reggiano, Rogue River Blue
- Camembert, Montgomery Cheddar, Comte, Quicke’s Smoked Cheddar, Stilton
Sample Question 108.) Which style cheese pairs best with a dessert wine?
Sample Question 109.) When choosing the cheeses to serve on a restaurant setting, what would be your number one priority?
Sample Question 110.) Which cheese would be a good substitute for Epoisses?
Sample Question 111.) Tete de Moine AOP is served using a:
Sample Question 112.) Which of the following is the best example of a vertical cheese tasting?
- Montgomery Cheddar, Beecher’s Flagship, Fiscalini Clothbound Cheddar, Mont Bleu Bandaged Cheddar
- Harbison Batch 307, Harbison Batch 308, Harbison Batch 309
- Brie, Cheddar, Alpine-Style cheese, Blue
- Caveman Blue, Oregonzola, Crater Lake Blue, Rogue River Blue
Sample Question 113.) A Portland, Oregon chef is creating a local cheese tasting. Which of the following would be considered local?
- Jefferson Organic Cheddar, Orange Marmalade, Eola Hills Cab, Pecans
- Siltcoos, Marionberry Jam, Willamette Valley Brut, Filberts
- Beecher’s Flagship, Key Lime Jelly, Hazelnuts, Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc
- Freya’s Wheel, Sourwood Honey, Pistachios, Rogue Valley Chenin Blanc
Sample Question 114.) Which of the following is not a common taste quality?
Sample Question 115.) What sound should a wheel of Emmentaler make when tapped?
Sample Question 116.) Significant swelling, spongy feeling and unwanted holes are likely an indicator of what?
- Presence of Listeria
- coli contamination
- Yeast contamination of curds
- Addition of too much starter culture
Sample Question 117.) A soapy flavor in cheese is caused by which of the following?
- The decomposition of fat, as lipases release fatty acids
- The decomposition of casein, as protease release fatty acids
- A low pH
- Unclean cheesemaking equipment
Sample Question 118.) Tyrosine crystals appear in cheese as the result of the breakdown of which of the following?
Sample Question 119.) The primary government agency that oversees the importation, exportation, production and distribution of cheese is:
Sample Question 120.) The proper procedure for cleaning cutting boards and food contact services is:
- Scrape, rinse, wash, sanitize, air dry
- Scrape, wash, rinse, sanitize, wipe dry with single-use towel
- Scrape, wash, rinse, sanitize, air dry
- Wash, Rinse Sanitize, Wipe dry with single-use towel
Sample Question 121.) Which pathogen is of primary concern for pregnant women when eating raw milk cheese?
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (aka E. coli)
- Camplyobacter jejuni
- Salmonella Typhi
Sample Question 122.) The first principle of an HACCP plan is:
- Establish critical limits.
- Conduct a hazard analysis.
- Determine the critical control points.
- Contact the local regulatory agency for approval.
Sample Question 123.) Which industry does not currently have government-mandated HACCP protocols in place?
Sample Question 124.) At its root, a HACCP plan is:
- A management system in which food safety is addressed.
- A method of establishing traceability in the event of a recall.
- A federally mandated requirement in the cheese industry.
- A system of performance audits to manage food safety.
Sample Question 125.) GMP is an acronym for:
- Government Manufacturing Practices
- Good Manufacturing Procedures
- Government Manufacturing Practices
- Good Manufacturing Practices
Sample Question 126.) Which is not one of the seven key principles of a HACCP plan?
- Development of a hazard analysis of a food facility
- Identification of critical control points in the process
- Identification of corrective action needed to control pathogens.
- Develop a flow diagram to facilitate proper procedures
Sample Question 127.) A European wants 200g of Comte. How many ounces is that?
Sample Question 128.) If a cheese retails for $20.00 per pound and the retailer works on a 50% margin, what did the retailer pay for it?
Sample Question 129.) Convert 1 pound to grams.
Sample Question 130.) Convert 28 grams to ounces.
Sample Question 131.) What is the average weight of a traditional English Cheddar truckle in Kilograms?
Sample Question 132.) Which cheese has the highest fat content as a percentage of the dry matter?
Sample Question 133.) Which 28g serving of cheese is likely to be the lowest in calories?
Sample Question 134.) Which cheese contains the highest amount of Vitamin K2?
Sample Question 135.) Most lipids found in cheese are:
Sample Question 136.) Cheese inventory rotation is usually referred to by what acronym?
Sample Question 137.) What is the preferred cheese wrapping for soft-ripening cheeses?
- Wrapping that allows the cheese to breathe
- Packaging that stops the ripening process
- A wooden container
- Plastic container
Sample Question 138.) Which is the common critical temperature limit for storing perishable foods?
Sample Question 139.) What is the optimal temperature range to maintain the cold chain while cheese is in transit?
Sample Question 140.) On average, how much cheese should be cut and out for display at any given time?
- Average sales of the product for a week
- Average sales of the product for a month
- Average sales for 3 days
- Average sales for 1 day
Sample Question 141.) Which of the following should be done daily in your shop?
- Plan promotions
- Inventory review
- Change displays
- Pull and remove any outdated product
Sample Question 142.) You have an excessive amount of product approaching sale by date, which of the following would not be a solution?
- Running a manager’s special
- Demo until product is sold out
- Return to distributor for credit
Sample Question 143.) Region, style, seasonality and price point are important considerations for:
- Ordering a balanced selection of cheeses for your shop
- Creating marketing materials for your shop
- Hiring cheesemongers for your shop
- Choosing the location for your shop
Sample Question 144.) What is SOP?
- Standard operating practice
- Systems of Procedures
- Standard operation procedures
- Safe operating practices
Sample Question 145.) Cleaning and sanitation do not involve:
- Cleaning and maintenance schedules
- How to deal with spills and cleaning agents
- Chemicals, chemical use and cleaning agents
- Setting and replacing insect pest strips.
Sample Question 146.) facilities should contain the following zones:
- Restrooms and break rooms
- Refrigerated storage and dry storage
- Cheese ripening and aging area
- Food handling/Preparation areas and non-food handling areas
Sample Question 147.) Once milk has passed inspections and is in holding tanks, how quickly must it be used?
- Within 12 hours
- Within 7 days
- Within 24 to 72 hours
- Within 48 to 72 hours
Sample Question 148.) Principle Yield determination factor in milk is:
Sample Question 149.) What is done to all pasta filata cheese before molding?
- More salt is added
- Cream is added
- Annatto is added
- The cheese is stretched
Sample Question 150.) How often does AWA (Animal Welfare Approval) audit farms?
Answers: 1 – 1 2 – 2 3 – 2 4 – 3 5 – 4 6 – 4 7 – 3 8 – 1 9 – 3 10 – 1 11 – 2 12 – 3 13 – 3 14 – 2 15 – 3 16 – 2 17 – 2 18 – 3 19 – 1 20 – 3 21 – 1 22 – 3 23 – 3 24 – 4 25 – 1 26 – 3 27 – 3 28 – 4 29 – 1 30 – 4 31 – 3 32 – 4 33 – 1 34 – 4 35 – 1 36 – 1 37 – 3 38 – 3 39 – 2 40 – 1 41 – 4 42 – 3 43 – 3 44 – 1 45 – 3 46 – 3 47 – 1 48 – 3 49 – 2 50 – 2 51 – 2 52 – 4 53 – 3 54 – 3 55 – 1 56 – 3 57 – 2 58 – 3 59 – 2 60 -2 61 – 2 62 – 4 63 – 2 64 – 4 65 – 4 66 – 4 67 – 1 68 – 4 69 – 3 70 – 4 71 – 2 72 – 3 73 – 2 74 – 4 75 – 4 76 – 4 77 – 4 78 – 2 79 – 3 80 – 3 81 – 3 82 – 4 83 – 3 84 – 3 85 – 3 86 – 3 87 – 4 88 – 4 89 – 1 90 – 1 91 – 4 92 – 4 93 – 3 94 – 3 95 – 4 96 – 2 97 – 1 98 – 1 99 – 2 100 – 1 101 – 3 102 – 3 103 – 2 104 – 3 105 – 4 107 – 3 108 – 4 109 – 3 110 – 2 111 – 1 112 – 2 113 – 2 114 – 4 115 – 1 116 – 3 117 – 1 118 – 3 119 – 2 120 – 3 121 – 1 122 – 2 123 – 3 124 – 1 125 – 4 126 – 4 127 – 2 128 – 1 129 – 3 130 – 1 131 – 3 132 – 3 133 – 1 134 – 2 135 – 2 136 – 2 137 – 1 138 – 3 139 – 2 140 – 1 141 – 4 142 – 4 143 – 1 144 – 3 145 – 4 146 – 4 147 –3 148 – 3 149 – 4 150 – 2.
Seasonal Milk, Seasonal Cheese at Uplands
Listen to an interview with the farmer, the cheesemaker and the cows behind two of the best cheeses in America on Cheese Underground Radio:
Subscribe to future episodes by searching for Cheese Underground in your podcast app!
A bit of the backstory:
Located on scenic Highway 23 between Dodgeville and Spring Green, Wisconsin, Uplands Cheese is one of the best known farmstead cheese plants in the nation. Its flagship cheese, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, is the only cheese in America to ever win both the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest and take Best in Show – three different years – at the American Cheese Society Judging Competition. Uplands is run by business partners Scott Mericka and Andy Hatch. Scott is the herdsman and Andy is the cheesemaker. Together, they and their families produce seasonal milk and seasonal cheese, two incredibly uncommon commodities in the United States, a country where everyone, it seems, wants their favorite food year-round.
Last week, we caught up with the pair just in time for evening milking and helped Scott bring in the cows from pasture. Then, we sat down with Andy in the cheese plant and talked about the difference seasonal milk makes in Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Rush Creek Reserve, and a new cheese he’s working on.
We arrive at Uplands Cheese just as Uplands herdsman Scott Mericka is coming in from building fence. He’s dressed in a bright blue t-shirt filled with holes, shorts that are a little too short, and knee-high rubber boots. I tell him I’ve never met a farmer before who wears shorts, and he laughs, and makes a joke that at least they’re not Daisy Dukes. We start walking out to the pasture to bring in the cows for the evening milking. We’ve gotten a lot of rain in southern Wisconsin this summer, and the pastures are unusually lush for late August.
“We’re milking a little over 200 cows right now and catching up on things that we couldn’t get done in the springtime,” Scott says. The cows at Uplands are rotationally grazed, which means the cows are moved to a different paddock every 12 hours with fresh grass. The cows are also bred seasonally, which means they all give birth to calves in the spring and are dry – or don’t need to be milked – for a few months in the dead of winter. This is the old-fashioned way of farming, long abandoned by most dairy farmers who like to get paid for milk year-round. But unlike Scott and Andy, most dairy farmers don’t own their own cheese factory.
“Most farmers don’t get a chance to own their milk market,” Scott says. “I have a way to control the milk price and volatility, which is really important for a young family. It’s nice for both Andy’s family and my family to be able to control the price we’re getting paid for our milk.”
At this point, we look up at the sky and see a thunderstorm is headed our way, so we let Scott do his thing with getting the cows in. They know that his whistle means it’s time to head to the barn.
We stand off to the side, and the cows slowly start walking past us on the way to the barn. It’s not raining yet, and one of them, a dark cow named Cocoa, walks right up to me and demands attention. “Ah, I see you found Cocoa, or that Cocoa found you,” says Scott, referring to the black cow that is currently head-butting me, demanding to be petted continuously.
After we get the cows up and into the barn, we head into the cheese plant, where cheesemaker Andy Hatch and Esther Hill have a table filled with dozens of plugs of Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Andy and Esther are evaluating several vats of cheese and invite us to participate. We take our time, because it’s August, and that means Andy’s not making cheese. That’s because August in Wisconsin is usually hot and dry, and neither the grass nor the milk usually hits exceptionally high quality standards. So, Scott and Andy instead sell their milk to another manufacturer, and take time to work on other stuff. For example, today, Scott’s been building fences, and Andy took the time to answer his email, which means Cheese Underground Radio is sitting at his table.
As we taste different vats of Pleasant Ridge Reserve, I ask Andy to talk a little about what seasonality of milk means to a cheesemaker.
“There are a couple of ways to look at it,” Andy says. “First, there’s the poetic way: that we are preserving the bounty of summer. We make cheese seven days a week, and the cows are in a different pasture every day. It’s almost a log of the season, as if we’re bottling time. And, then there’s the practical way: it’s a competitive strategy. Seasonal milk is giving our cheese the most distinctive flavor possible.”
Andy starts making Pleasant Ridge Reserve in the spring, after the cows have calved in the pastures, usually starting the first week in May. Then he and his team will make Pleasant Ridge every day for a solid 80 days. They take a break in August because of the weather. This year, he could have kept making cheese straight through August because of the mild weather and steady rains, but his cheese caves are full. That’s why he’s planning an expansion for more cheese aging space. He resumes making Pleasant Ridge again in September into October, and then switches to Rush Creek Reserve in October into November.
After Rush Creek season is over, Andy says he still has a few weeks of beautiful grass-based milk in early November. It is this period of the year where he is experimenting with a new cheese: a small-format soft cheese, which to date, has only been tasted by Andy and his team, and the farm’s pigs. He’s still perfecting a recipe and is in no rush to release a third cheese to the market.
“There are only so many times in a cheesemaker’s career where you’re at the drawing board and you can do all sorts of goofy stuff. Once you hone in on a cheese, and the market has expectations for it, now you’re talking about a life of refining and tweaking,” Andy says. “So, to be at the drawing board is fun. We’re playing around with different shapes – rounds, squares, pyramids. We’ve learned a certain amount about cultures and ripening techniques. This year we’ll use last year’s trials and narrow it down pretty quickly. We know more about what we want. But then again, there’s what we want, and then there’s what the market wants.”
I tell him that he’s already making two world-class famous cheeses, and maybe he’s earned the right to be a little selfish and make a third cheese that makes him happy. He demurs. “I’m in love with Pleasant Ridge Reserve, really,” he says. “I wouldn’t make anything else. And maybe we won’t in the long run, but I know there’s milk there that can be made into another cheese.”