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
Pasteurized cow’s milk
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.
Roth Cheese- GranQueso
Pasteurized cow’s milk
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
Pasteurized cow’s milk
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.