Cheesy: new cheeses and butters from Wisconsin | Bleader

Cheesy: new cheeses and butters from Wisconsin

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Wisconsin butters
File under: it's a tough job but someone's got to do it.

Last night I went to a tasting of new cheeses and butters from Wisconsin creameries, a trade and media event put on by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. I worked in a cheese store in Saint Louis years ago (yes, there was plenty of cutting the cheese, and no, the jokes about it really never got old), but haven't really kept up with what's come onto the market since then.

Several cheese makers and one butter maker talked about the products they'd brought, starting with Al Bekkum of Nordic Creamery, who began with a warning: "This is not the best summer butter I've ever made." The drought has dried up the grass on his farm, which affects the quality of the milk his cows produce, he said. "It's a challenge for someone who's built a reputation on making a grass-based product."

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I've been buying Nordic Creamery butter from farmers' markets and Green Grocer for a while, and while I can definitely taste a difference between that and grocery-store butter, I can't say my palate is fine-tuned enough to tell that it's not quite as good as butter from previous years. Which is to say: it's really good, as is the cultured butter with sea salt and the cinnamon-sugar butter he brought. There was also a hand-rolled butter from Farmhouse Kitchens, lighter in color but still rich and creamy.

Other favorites from the tasting:

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Montage, a slightly tangy sheep/cow blend from Clock Shadow Creamery that's been aged on wood planks for six to eight months. Cheese maker Ron Henningfeld said that they also make buffalo mozzarella but sold out before he could bring any down, and on Saturday they'll be making their first Camembert.

Marigold, a buttery, slightly nutty cheese from Roelli Cheese (makers of Dunbarton Blue). It's made from the milk of "intensely grazed" cows, which means that they can't produce it at the moment—there isn't enough grass. I'm hoping they're able to start again soon, because this is a pretty great cheese.

Ziege Zacke Blue, a collaboration between Roelli Cheese and LaClare Farms. It's only faintly streaked with blue, so it's mild—the blue is more of an accent than a dominant flavor. LaClare has only been making cheese since 2008 but seems to be a bit of a wunderkind: in 2010, they won the U.S. Cheese Championship for their Evalon, a hard goat cheese.

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