August 2016 Cheese Club Selections
Uplands Farm Pleasant Ridge Reserve
Raw Cow’s Milk Cheese, Wisconsin
Most people don’t think about artisan cheese, when they think about Wisconisn, but they should. Because the most-awarded cheese in American history– Pleasant Ridge Reserve – comes from southwestern Wisconsin.
It’s the only cheese to have won Best of Show in the American Cheese Society’s annual competition three times and to have also won the top honor at the other national cheese compeition, the U.S. Cheese Championships. (We just spent a week at the Cheese Society’s annual conference and competition, helping behind the scenes at the judging and we can tell you the competition is stiff. Nearly 2,000 cheeses were entered this year!)
Andy Hatch, the cheesemaker behind this award winner is a true artisan. Cheesemaking only takes place when the pasture is at its best between May and early October because that’s when
the milk has the most flavor. In addition, he only makes cheese on days when the pasture conditions and milk composition meet his quality standards. That selectivity shows through in the final product.
Andy is also a passionate advocate of raw milk cheese. He visited the shop earlier this year and when talk turned to raw milk versus pasteurized (that’s the kind of thing cheese geeks talk about), he told us:
“Raw milk is the key to making cheeses that taste like themselves; cheeses with distinctive character and depth. With pasteurized milk, cheeses are only populated by the same, relatively few commercial cultures sold worldwide. Cheesemaking techniques give us a fantastic variety of shapes, sizes and textures, but technique and commercial cultures can only take a cheese so far. The flavor complexity made possible by raw milk adds another dimension, like listening to music in stereo instead of mono.”
Pleasant Ridge Reserve is a gruyère-style cheese, with a sweetly nutty taste and an an earthy bite. It’s a terrific melting cheese, although we generally just enjoy it with a glass of wine.
Because of the sweet nuttiness of this cheese, dessert wines or a slightly sweet Riesling make particularly good companions. If you prefer dry, try a fruity shiraz. Add a little fig jam with the cheese and you’ll take the pairing even higher. If beer is more your style, try barley wine beer or a wheat beer.
Milton Creamery’s Flory’s Truckle
Missouri and Iowa, Raw Cow’s Milk
Flory’s Truckle is one of the finest cheddars in the U.S. Don’t just take our word for it, at this year’s “Cheese Oscars,”
held last month in Iowa, Flory’s Truckle was named the #1 aged, clothbound cheddar. We’ve loved this cheese since we first brought it in to the case, and it was fun to be there when they accepted their award.
A limited quantity is made each year in Jamesport, by Tim Flory and his family. They use raw milk from their own herd of 30 Jersey cows. They also use traditional methods, which includes wrapping the cheese in cheesecloth to age for a year (the cloth lets the cheese breathe
as it ages) and coating it in lard to slow moisture loss and encourage a rind to develop. (The molds consume the lard so you won’t see any trace of it on the year-old cheese.)
Why is it called a truckle? That’s an Old World term for a tall, cylindrical cheese, generally a cheddar. When the cheese is two months old, the Flory’s drive it to Milton Creamery in southern Iowa where it ages in a dedicated aging facility.
Flory’s Truckle stands up to any imported cheddar, but it is uniquely American. It’s sweeter than most English Cheddars and doesn’t have the sharp, tangy notes that you often find in a clothbound cheddar. Want to really elevate this cheese? Pair it with a dollop of salty caramel!
We like Flory’s with an earthy Saison, a yeasty Belgian ale or a Brown Ale.
Abbaye de Belloc
Pasteurized Sheep’s Milk Cheese, France
Abbaye de Belloc is French Pyrenees sheep’s milk cheese. The milk for it comes exclusively from a single breed of sheep indigenous to the region, the “red-nosed Manech” breed. Each day during milking season, neighboring farmers bring fresh milk to the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Belloc, where Trappist monks turn it into deliciousness.
Farmhouse sheep cheese production in this mountainous region is seasonal, with cheesemaking taking place mainly between December and the end of July. Once they have the milk, the monks follow a cheese making process that dates back to 3,000 years. In fact, it’s believed that many centuries ago, the monks were the first to teach shepherds from the Basque region how to make cheese.
Abbaye de Belloc has a firm, rich and creamy texture, with a pleasantly nutty and complex flavor. As it ages, a caramelized flavor resembling burnt caramel becomes more apparent. Notably, its flavor is complex without being strong or pungent. For that reason, it’s a great (and potentially most interesting) “party cheese.”
Abbaye de Belloc pairs particularly well with Pinot Noir. It’s mild enough not to overwhelm the subtleties of this delicate varietal, but it also has sufficient complexity to stand up to the bolder flavors of a Syrah/Shiraz.