Uplands Farmstead Fromage – sans Durndel

The Uplands Cheese facility makes Pleasant Ridge Reserve, and was built 8 years ago in the model of Alpine cheese making. The farmstead cheese makers raise their own herd of cows that are grass fed via rotational grazing. On our WI Milk Marketing Board Wisconsin Cheese Tour, Andy Hatch, Cheese Maker and GM, was a font of information on modern and traditional farming methods, cheese making, flavor profiles, bovine breeds, and more.

Don’t think I know what I’m talking about; all the knowledge I’m dropping in this post comes directly from him.

Uplands Cheese is a farmstead cheese maker, which means they raise and graze the cows that produce the milk for their cheese – all in one convenient pastoral location. This also means that they have intimate knowledge of their cows – what they eat, how they’re bred (closed herd), if any are injured, etc – and, thereby, have intimate knowledge of their milk. Cheese is made from milk that is transferred directly from the milking barn via lines they maintain, and, therefore, does not need to be pasteurized.

What is Rotational Grazing?

Rotational grazing is when the herd feeds on the grass of a different pasture every day, after which the grass in that pasture gets a few days rest. This keeps it in a constant state of growth, ensuring the roughage stays at its peak in sugar content.

Why does this matter?

The milk a cow produces is a result of what it eats. When a cow is fed a diet of hay, the milk tends to be rich and fatty but is less flavorful. The summer-grazing cows at Uplands, however, produce sweeter milk with a fuller flavor complexity, which means the cheese that is made from that milk will contain those attributes as well.

From approximately April to October, Uplands grazes their cows and makes cheese, roughly 180 days give or take 30 for heavy or scarce rains. When the grass stops growing the cows are fed hay and Uplands stops making cheese.

There are three factors to creating flavor in cheese:

  1. Milk – which we just covered, but one other thing to note is that Uplands raises a closed herd, meaning they don’t buy cattle but instead breed within the herd they have that is made up of 9 different breed families. Each breed of cow produces different proteins in the milk, which then creates a different breakdown of amino acids in the aging process of the cheese (we’ll get to this in a minute).
  2. Make – Uplands makes one style of cheese, a Swiss style, similar to gruyere or beaufort, but a recipe they’ve developed over the years from those styles to create their own.
  3. Ripen – Maria, who practically runs the place, washes the cheese wheels with salt twice a week. This creates the natural rind on the cheese and the microbial activity adds to the flavor profile of the cheese. Because each batch is a bit different in the milk stage, each batch will ripen differently. Uplands sacrifices one wheel of each batch for sampling, and every 2-3 months they test the flavor. Most of their cheese is, on average, at peak at the 8-10 month mark.

If you remember, at Hook’s we learned that as cheese ripens, it becomes smoother and pinprick crystals form. To many of us consumers, this is what takes aged cheddar, BellaVitano, and Pleasant Ridge from addictively delicious to deliciously addictive. Andy Hatch, however, told us that this crystallization of the amino acids during the ripening process has cost him precious points during awards season.

I guess we’ll all just have to agree to disagree with cheese judges.

Here’s some fotos of the farmstead and fromage:

washing cheese

Maria does everything.

cheese

Cheese Galore!

racks of cheese

Each rack is a batch from one day's milk

Andy Hatch & Pleasant Ridge Reserve

The veritable font, Andy Hatch

Pleasant Ridge being sliced

I will eat as much as you slice for me.

Posted in WI Cheese Tour | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hook’s: Aged Cheddar, Blues & Squeaky Cheese Curds

Hook’s Cheese Company was founded in 1929 in a building built into a limestone hill that used to be a livery and stable. Their milk travels no more than 5 miles and is from small farms that each raise 25-60 Holsteins and Jerseys.

The flavor profile of their cheddar cheeses comes mostly from the curing, or aging, process. The Hook’s cave can hold 520,000 to 550,000 pounds of cheese at any time. Currently they boast a 12-year cheddar, and in 2015 they will release 15 year cheddar if all goes as planned.

To ensure the best quality of cheese during the aging process, Tony takes core samples of each batch to test throughout the process. Once a cheese is at its peak ripeness they sell it. If it tastes as though there’s more smoothness in flavor to be had, they keep it in the cave and test it again.

There are two main things I learned about cheese from Hook’s.

The Aging Process

In the aging process, it’s the enzymes in the cheese at work. Most people think 3-5 year cheddar is at its sharpness (acidity). However, the longer it ages, the smoother and more flavorful the cheddar becomes. The calcium lactate in the cheese crystallizes, creating a pleasant, pinprick of crunch when you bite into it.  Personally, that’s my favorite part, but as we later learned at Uplands, that crunch can cost you awards.

Moisture & Cheese

The second thing I learned at Hooks is how moisture interacts with the aging process. Most cheese is sold shrink-wrapped in plastic, and almost all of the cheese in Hook’s cave was also. If not for the plastic, moisture would be lost from the cheese during the aging process. However, this also has implications for how you handle the cheese at home. If you purchased a brick of Hook’s cheddar cheese and wished to keep aging it (why, I don’t know, as they are sure to package each batch at its best) then the best way to accomplish this would be to keep it sealed and let it hang out in your fridge. If, however, you wanted a piece of that tasty, tasty cheddar and then wanted it to keep as long as possible in your fridge, you best not touch it with your fingers.

Instead, unwrap the plastic as far as you are going to slice the cheese, hold onto it by the plastic, and slice with a wire. Make sure not to touch it with your fingers, because the oils and moisture on your skin will make it mold faster.

Hook’s is also famous for their blue cheeses, the creamy Blue Paradise being my favorite. Look for a future post with a recipe featuring this gem. They also make…

Drumroll…

Squeaky cheese curds in 7 different flavors, and have plans to add an 8th, wasabi, soon. They flavor them all by hand in big tubs (yes, tubs of curds) and package them by hand for local farmers markets.

fresh curds

My 3 Favorite Words

As Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.”

And now for the foodie foto porn:

Hook's Cheese Company

Hidden inside inconspicuous buildings is tons of delicious cheese. Literally...tons.

curds

Surely heaven is a tub of fresh, squeaky cheese curds.

awards

Awards Galore

world champion cheese

The only lady to be awarded World Champion

Posted in WI Cheese Tour | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chalet Cheese Cooperative: The Stinky Cheesemakers

All I knew about Limburger cheese before my visit to the Chalet Cheese Coop in Green County revolved around the antics of the Stinky Cheese Man in the children’s book by Jon Scieszka.

Turns out that’s only a part of the story behind this mysterious (to my generation) cheese.

Chalet Cheese is a farmer-owned coop that was founded in 1885. They are the only U.S. producer of Limburger cheese, made with the same culture they used 120 years ago. To make a long story short, Limburger has always been a sort of “poor man’s” cheese, and its pungent aroma and snappy flavor fell out of favor over the years as its customer base aged.

The WI Cheese Tour was the first time I was ever in the presence of Limburger, and I found it to be surprisingly tasty, especially in spreadable form.

The traditional way of eating Limburger is on rye bread, and some fans add a dollop of sweet jam while others add a squirt of spicy brown mustard. I tried the jam and found the sweetness a good complement to the slight bite of the cheese. In truth, I’m not a big fan of rye and I may have enjoyed a nice French bread crostini more.

My favorite cheese of Chalet’s was their Swiss, which had the most intriguing texture, or, “mouthfeel,” if you’re speaking in wino terms. They also make Baby Swiss, Smoked Swiss, and Brick cheeses, all using milk from farms in the Green County area.

I didn’t take as many notes during this tour, but I did take more pictures. Here are the snapshots of Chalet’s cheese making process:

 

Chalet Cheese Coop

Chalet Cheese Coop

milk entering cheese vat

Bring it on!

vat of curd

Not a hot tub

 

cheesemaking

"Washing" the cheese with a salty brine

Ripening

Taking a core sample to test the holes in the Swiss

Chalet cheese awards

Awards Galore

Cheese Tasting

Tasty, tasty cheese tasting

Posted in WI Cheese Tour | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

June Dairy Month & Winning Wisconsin Farm Facts

In honor of June Dairy Month I had the pleasure of enjoying an incredible, cheese-filled weekend in the Madison, WI area with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

Truly, it was divine. A bus full of media and food bloggers traveled hundreds of miles to learn from 3 cheese makers, sample dozens of tasty, tasty morsels, eat 4 courses expertly prepared by Chef Dan Fox, and enjoy endless libations all in the name of schmooze.

Prepare yourself for a series of updates detailing what I experienced, see pictures of what I saw, and learn more about the special cheese making processes that do this state proud.

In the meantime, here are some Fun Farm Facts about Wisconsin milk and cheese production:

Wisconsin Leads the Nation In:
Sheep and goat milk production
Number of Dairy Farms (18,000)
Number of cheese plants (126)
Number of licensed cheese makers (1,290)
Total U.S. Cheese production (2 billion pounds, 26% of the nation’s cheese)
Number of Happy Cows (100%)*

90% of milk in Wisconsin goes to cheese making

Wisconsin wins more cheese awards than any other state and country combined (booyah)

Wisconsin ranks first among all states in the production of Cheddar, American, Mozzarella, Brick, Muenster, and Limburger cheeses.

Foreshadow…Limburger, though stinky, yes, is pretty delicious.

There are more Master Cheese Makers in Wisconsin than anywhere else in the world.

*Unproven, yet still likely true. Dunk your Oreos in that, California.

Cow Stats (or, Moo Measurements if you like alliteration):

In an average day a dairy cow will: eat approximately 90 pounds of food, drink a bathtub full of water, produce 5-6 gallons of milk, and weigh about 1,400 pounds.

Cows spend an average of 6 hours a day eating and an additional 8 hours chewing their cud. Most cows chew at a rate of at least 50 times per minute. Very few cows ever report symptoms of TMJ.

There are approximately 340-350 squirts of milk in a gallon. Milking machines were invented in 1865. It’s unknown how many farmers suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome.

Every cow spot is like a snowflake – no two are alike.

Posted in WI Cheese Tour | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

SloPig: Thankfully, I don’t keep Kosher anymore.

I grew up in a Kosher household. This meant separate dishes for meat and dairy, no shellfish, no mixing meat and dairy, and no pork. Sometime after college, Evan corrupted me, and I excused myself from the laws of Kashrut. Pork, however, was never something I really got into; that is until Sunday night at the SloPig event. Until then, I had no idea how deprived my childhood truly was!

We were fortunate enough to obtain press-passes to the SloPig Milwaukee event, in addition to last minute babysitters (Thanks, Sheryl and Mike!). The event was a celebration of “fine swine and robust spirits,” created by two Madison area foodies. The event housed three main events: a chef competition, a bartender competition, and the ability to gorge yourself on some of the tastiest dishes and drinks in the city. For you, Loyal Readers, I did just that.

Favorite Food: Chef Tory Miller for L’Etoile

While much of what I ate were some of the tastiest things I’ve ever consumed, nothing was quite as scrumptious as the 7 courses created by Tory Miller of L’Etoile. I should mention that I’m not even sure if I had all 7 of the offered dishes. L’Etoile’s booth was the very first booth we visited, and also the very last. At first, it was because of the flavorful soup with chunks of pork and delicate noodles all marinating together in a tasty pork broth. Later, it was the promise of donuts. As soon as I took my first taste, I felt bad for all of the other chefs. How exactly does one compete with a donut? Well, it turns out you can’t in my book. Chef Miller did NOT disappoint. That lard-filled, maple-lard glazed donut was the most delectable thing I have ever eaten. That’s really saying a lot, too, after years of attending the Twin Cities food and Wine Experience. I won’t lie. I went back and had three of those donuts. I’m fairly certain that each one shortened my life significantly, but I can honestly say I don’t feel bad about it.

Favorite Bartender: Micah Melton of Aviary

The punch competition was much harder for me to judge. The last three years have left me unable to drink much, so my tolerance is next to nothing. As a result, I probably didn’t even try half of the different concoctions available. That being said, of those I did try, none were quite as refreshing as Micah Melton’s Plantation Punch. I can’t remember what was in it exactly, aside from Plantation Rum, some sort of fresh juice, and magic. I do remember that I loved it and had two cups full. While it didn’t have the same punch (haha) as the others I’d tried, it was there, cleverly masked by fresh, juicy goodness. Therefore, I feel I should warn you that drinking too much of that would be deadly.

Final Thoughts
Before I get too deep into my reflection, I need to share the Cream City Cuisine Rule of the Night: Don’t ask what a dish is until you’ve already tried it. Had we not followed that rule, we truly would have missed out on some fabulous culinary experiences. I would also like to add porkoma to our official Cream City Cuisine dictionary. Nicely done, Mandi.

Mandi was right in that the event was lacking female representation. Just saying. I would also like to agree on the difficulty of picking a favorite. In the beginning, I was pretty diligent about taking pictures of the chef’s name, followed by the dishes. After a few rounds of punch, however, I got sloppy with this practice. I wish there had been some sort of program that had the chef’s name, restaurant, and a list of the available dishes. This would have greatly helped me keep track of what I liked. I imagine it also would have helped me get to more of the booths. Overall, however, I thought it was a fabulous event. I also felt really cool wearing a press pass. I hope to go again next year, although hopefully on a Saturday night instead of Sunday night.

Posted in CCC Updates | Leave a comment

SloPig Recap & IMHO, Winners

My mother has a few sayings that not only sum up her views on life, but also stick with me into adulthood from when I first heard them as a child. One, which I know is not original but nevertheless rings true to how my mom taught me to live life, is “eat dessert first for life is uncertain.” Another is “pork enhances the taste of just about anything.”

This past weekend I got the chance to marry these two adages in one grand event, SloPig, a celebration of heritage pigs and artful cocktails.

6 local chefs.

8 bartenders.

Over 50 pork-infused dishes.

I’m still suffering from a bit of a porkoma after last night’s decadence, and I don’t think I even made it to every morsel. I was pretty much full after my first trip past L’Etoile’s seven dishes, and sorta drunk after the folks at Bell’s Brewery got to me. However, don’t fret, lovely readers, I soldiered on for you. For you I ate what surely was my body weight in porcine products, only occasionally asking what it was I was putting into my mouth and only then after the fact.

You see, even though I grew up in a household full of sizzling bacon, tasty pork chops, and scrumptious sausage, we generally steered clear of the organ meat and other unfamiliar hoof-to-mouth cuts. That all changed at SloPig. I ate heart, liver, head cheese, pig skin, lard, and pig’s feet. And that’s just the stuff I asked about. And it was delicious. So delicious that I had a hard time picking my favorites, but here they are in no particular order…

Favorite Food: Chef Tory Miller for L’Etoile

Truly all of the food I tasted last night was un-freakin-believably delicious. We have some mighty talent in these here parts, and every chef should be dang proud of what he accomplished. The moment Chef Miller said the word “donuts,” however, was a tipping point from which there was no return. Not just any donut, but lard-filled, maple-lard-glazed donuts to be exact.

Here’s a picture of me eating my second donut for all of you food porn aficionados out there.

To. Die. For.

Literally. I might actually die just from eating these donuts and I can’t bring myself to care that a few years have been taken off my life.

I’m sorry to all other competing chefs – you’re dishes were delightful, but the competition was over for me at L’Etoile.

Favorite Punch: Hinterland

The punch competition at SloPig was a bit more difficult to navigate. I enjoy boozy cocktails, and, as happens, after tasting the first two or three the rest sort of become a hazy mix of pig ice sculptures in your mind. More on that in a future post.

The concoction that really floated my boat, however, was the beer-based booze from Hinterland. I’m not one for super sweet drinks – alcoholic or otherwise – and this mix was a refreshing Goldilocks of punch…just enough fizz, just enough sweet, just enough booze.

Final Thoughts

First, I think an event like SloPig could be greatly enhanced by the addition of a femme fatale chef competitor. There was one lady bartender leading an entry in the punch competition, and it was a bit disappointing not to see more women representing in what is an, admittedly, male-dominated industry.

Second, and somewhat-related, one punch was named Crimson Tide. A lady bartender would never make such a moniker mistake.

And last, it was really difficult picking my favorites. Not just because all the competitors did such a fantastic job, though they did, but also because as the night wore on my ability to distinguish great from exceptional deteriorated in direct proportion to the number of punches I tasted.  As such, keep an eye out for my next post in which I uncover my Honorable Mentions and, basically, tell you about all the other good stuff I tasted. Bonus: the official SloPig winner of the chef’s competition and the official winner of the punch competition will be highlighted.

 

Posted in Events | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Food Waste

So, I know that we normally don’t do this, but I need to talk about a special called The Big Waste, I just watched from Food Network. The show pits chefs Anne Burrel and Alex Guarnaschelli against Bobby Flay and Michael Simon in a competition to create the best three-course banquet meal for 100 guests. The catch is they need to use only food that has been discarded. Most of the special shows the four chefs visiting local grocers, farms, and restaurants to see what food they can salvage. The result was alarming!

I was a bit horrified to see how much perfectly edible food is thrown away on a daily basis, mainly because American Consumers have ridiculous standards. At one location, a whole chicken was ready to be thrown in the garbage because a wing was broken. There was nothing wrong with the actual chicken, but because it wasn’t pretty, they knew it wouldn’t sell.

This got me thinking about Milwaukee. I was not naive enough to think we are exempt from this problem. I was happy, if not a little surprised, to see that there are efforts to reduce and reuse the food waste produced in Wisconsin. I read an interesting article about garbage disposals, and how ground up food waste is turned into energy and used to clean our water. You can read the article here.

I also read about Growing Power, which uses food waste as compost and another article about a proposal by the Potawatomi tribe to use food waste to power their casino. You can read that article here.

So, back to The Big Waste. I won’t tell you who wins at the end, but I will say this is worth watching. It really got me thinking. I wonder what I can do to reduce food waste, and, honestly, how to obtain some of it. I’m still not sure how I feel about dumpster diving, which they did at one point in the show, but I’m intruigued by the quality of the food they found. It’s also ridiculous that so much food goes to waste when so many are hungry.

Food Network is airing their special again on January 14th at 3:00 (central time) and January 15th at 4:00 (central time). I recommend you watch it.

Posted in CCC Updates | 2 Comments

Savory Beef Tips & Noodles

This recipe is a combination of many I read in the past weekend. I had some yummy beef tips from Gahn Meat Company (they needed a photo, so I made a dish), I needed a recipe, and voila! Savory Beef Tips & Noodles was born.

The meat, after simmering an hour and a half, comes out so tender and flaky while the sauce is layered with flavors of garlic (of course), red wine (ditto), and spices. Enjoy.

Savory Beef Tips & Noodles

Pairs better with Chianti than fava beans and liver, just saying.

Ingredients:

2 lb. Beef Tips
3 tbsp. flour, divided
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups baby portabella mushrooms, halved
3/4 cup beef broth
1/4 cup red wine
1 packet Beefy Onion dry soup mix
3/4 cup water
1 package egg noodles

Preparation:
1. Pour yourself a glass of red wine to drink whilst cooking.

2. Heat olive oil in deep skillet over medium heat and saute onion, garlic, and mushroom until onion is glossy, approximately 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile toss beef tips in large bowl with 2 tbsp. flour until evenly coated.

3. Add beef tips to skillet and sear meat on all sides, approximately 3-5 minutes per side. Add beef broth and red wine, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 1 hour.

4. In small bowl whisk together dry soup mix, 1 tbsp. flour, and water. Add to skillet, cover, and simmer additional 30 minutes. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Serve tips on top of noodles with another glass of  red wine on the side.

Posted in Beef, Main Dishes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Short & Stout Beef Stew

My friends and I held an inaugural Chili Cook-Off in October and enjoyed it so much that we decided to make it a seasonal event. Thus the “Rock Out With Your Crock Out” was born. Today we’re holding Part Deux: Stew Challenge, and I’d like to share the recipe I made. I call it Short & Stout Beef Stew for the short ribs and Guinness I used in the recipe.

The recipe combines two cuts of beef, as the more cuts you use the more flavorful the stew. I used short ribs mainly for the catchy name, and a lot of the fat melted into the broth and needed to be strained (in my opinion). Consider using soup bones or beef neck to get that flavor without so much fat. I also used stew meat because it was cheaper, but because this isn’t a stew that cooks for 10 hours, you may want to consider using a brisket trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces.

This stew also builds flavor throughout each step. It sounds kind of putzy to “add this, set aside, rinse, and repeat” but that ensures flavor is layered throughout cooking time and really melds together. Because I made it last night for today’s competition, I didn’t get a chance to taste it, so I hope you enjoy.

Short & Stout Beef Stew

My kitchen smells like beef & beer. That's a nice start to a personal ad...

Ingredients:

1 lb. Beef Stew Meat
1 lb. Beef Short Ribs
2 tbsp. flour
salt & pepper to taste
5 tbsp. oil
1 cup turnips, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup parsnips, diced
1 cup potato, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup portabella mushroom, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bottles or cans Guinness beer
1 packet Beefy Onion dry soup mix
2 cups water
4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped

Preparation:

Heat oil in dutch oven. Toss meat with flour, salt, and pepper, and then brown in oil on all sides (3-5 minutes per side). Set aside.

Place portabella mushrooms in dutch oven and saute until glossy, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Place turnips, carrots, parsnips, potato, and onion in dutch oven and heat until onions are glossy, approximately 10 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and set aside.

Return meat to pot and add beer. Bring to a boil and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Whisk water and soup mix in bowl and add to meat. Bring to boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until meat is tender, about 1-2 hours.

Remove short ribs and clean meat from bones. Shred and add back to pot along with veggies. Continue simmering on medium-low for 1 hour. Add mushrooms, thyme, and rosemary, heating through and letting herbs meld, approximately 20 minutes.

Serve with a side of crusty bread.

Cooking Time: 3 Hours
Serves: 6-8 adults

Posted in Beef, CCC Updates, Main Dishes, Soups | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Upcoming Contests

We here at Cream City Cuisine don’t enter every cooking and baking contest we stumble across. We do, however, enter most every cooking and baking contest we come across.

There are two such contests to take note of:

1. Cook’s Corner Homemade Apple Pie Recipe Contest

We don’t have a family Apple Pie recipe. We can, however, make a mean crust, we can peel and slice apples, add some sugar and cinnamon…maybe some dried cranberries, flour, lemon juice, and/or walnuts. But we don’t want to do that. Everyone will be doing that.

Instead we’ve developed a super secret Apple Cream Pie recipe to be unveiled after September 25th if we don’t get chosen as finalists or after October 1st if we do get chosen.

2. Journal-Sentinel Holiday Cookie Contest

We’ve got a great recipe for a holiday themed cookie, complete with winter imagery, chocolatey-goodness, a somewhat putzy recipe, and ooey-gooey deliciousness.

The recipe is a family one and will be posted in time for you to bake a batch for your holiday party and wow your friends.

Got any delicious recipes to submit? Feel free to join us in trying to win scads of fabulous prizes whilst simultaneously making food judges incredibly fat.

Posted in CCC Updates | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment