California’s Artisan Cheese Festival selected winners last week in a Saturday night celebration entitled “California Cheesin’.”
First prize went to Peloton Catering for Beehive Cheese Potato Bacon Fondue.
Second place went to Block Butcher Bar for Toast with Dairy Goddess Farmstead “The Valley” Fromage Blanc with House Cured Lomo, Pickled Onion, Arugula, Olive Oil and Maldon Salt, and third place went to Nick’s Cove Restaurant – for Pt. Reyes Toma & Dungeness Crab Fried Mac n Cheese.
Wisconsin cheesemakers dominated the competition at the recent World Championship Cheese Contest, including taking home the top prize, 2016 World Champion, for Team Emmi Roth USA’s Roth® Grand Cru® Surchoix, a Wisconsin Original hard smear-ripened cheese. This marks the first time a cheese made in the U.S. has won the competition since 1988.
This year’s contest drew a record-breaking 2,955 entries from 23 countries, 31 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. Wisconsin captured 38 percent of all awards, winning 127 awards total, over 100 more than its closest competitor, California, with 25 awards and New York with 24 awards.
Wisconsin cheesemakers won 42 Best of Class awards, 37 second place, and 47 third place awards. This year’s contest marked the sixth consecutive World Championship in which Wisconsin has won more than 30 percent of all awards, claiming 37 percent in 2006, 30.8 percent in 2008, 31.3 percent in 2010, 37.8 percent in 2012 and 39 percent in 2014.
“This award reinforces what people around the world already know-our reputation for making some of the world’s greatest cheeses is well deserved,” said James Robson, CEO of Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB). “Exceptional milk from Wisconsin dairy farms becomes exceptional cheese in the hands of Wisconsin cheesemakers, and that is a hard combination to beat. We congratulate Team Emmi Roth USA on their win, and consider it a win for the entire state of Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin cheesemakers also swept 20 of 110 competition classes: Open Class: Shredded Cheese, Flavored & Unflavored; Prepared Cheese Foods; Mozzarella, Part Skim; Parmesan; Aged Asiago (over six months); Feta; Feta, Flavored; Havarti; Havarti, Flavored; String Cheese; String Cheese, Flavored; Brick, Meunster; Gouda, Flavored; Smear Ripened Hard Cheeses; Bandaged Cheddar, Mild to Medium; Bandaged Cheddar, Sharp to Aged; Cold Pack Cheese, Cheese Food; Cold Pack Cheese Spread; Pasteurized Process Cheeses; and Colby.
Two of Jasper Hill Farm‘s cheeses, Moses Sleeper and Winnimere, were awarded Best in Class awards, with Winnimere ultimately placing in the top 16, at the World Cheese Championships in Madison, Wisconsin. This year’s contest included 2,959 entries from 23 countries and 31 states.
In addition, two of Jasper Hill’s other cheeses, Harbison and Bayley Hazen Blue, placed in the top five in their categories, with scores of 98 or higher. Oma, made by von Trapp Farmstead and aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill, also placed fifth in its category.
More about the winning cheeses:
Moses Sleeper is an approachable and nuanced brie-style cheese. Beneath its thin, bloomy rind lies a gooey, milky core showing a complex array of flavors at peak ripeness: cauliflower, crème fraîche, and toasted nuts. The cheese’s historic namesake, Moses Sleeper, and his compatriot Constant Bliss, were Revolutionary War scouts killed while defending a blockhouse along the Northeast Kingdom’s legendary Bayley Hazen Military Road.
Winnimere is a take on Jura Mountain classics like Vacherin Mont d’Or or Fösterkäse. In keeping with this tradition, this decadent cheese is made only during winter months when Jasper Hill’s herd of Ayrshire cows are enjoying a rich ration of dry hay. Young cheeses are wrapped in strips of spruce cambium, the tree’s flexible inner bark layer, harvested from Jasper Hill Farm’s woodlands. During aging, the cheese is washed in a cultured salt brine to help even rind development. At peak ripeness, this cheese is spoonably soft and tastes of bacon, sweet cream, and spruce.
All of Jasper Hill’s award winning cheeses can be purchased where fine cheeses are sold, at Jasper Hill’s retail counter within the newly constructed Boston Public Market, or from Jasper Hill Farm’s online store.
Oregon-inspired culinary events, including a farmer’s market-style artisan food, beer and wine festival, will kick off with the Meet the Cheesemakers and Winemakers Dinner @ the Oregon Cheese Festival during the third weekend in March. For tickets go to http://oregoncheesemakersdinner.bpt.me/
To commence the festival, a sumptuous meal introducing guests to participating guild cheesemakers will be held Friday night at the Inn at the Commons in Medford, Oregon on March 18 from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. The dinner is held for the benefit of the non-profit 501 (c) (6) Oregon Cheesemakers Guild. Each course will spotlight a cheese made by one of the festival’s artisans, paired with a local wine or beer. Special guest include Gordon Edgar, the author of both “Cheesemonger: a Life on the Wedge” and his most recent book, “Cheddar: A Journey into the Heart of America’s Most Iconic Cheese.” Edgar is the Head Cheesemonger for the San Francisco Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, and has been a leader within the specialty cheese industry for more than 20 years. He is widely celebrated for his friendly, down-to-earth approach to the art and science of cheese. Lassa Skinner is also a special guest. She is co-founder and owner of the highly regarded cheese magazine Culture, now in its eighth year. In 1999 she started a cheese program at Tra Vigne restaurant, opened the Oxbow Cheese Merchant in downtown Napa, co-authored Cheese For Dummies (2012) – and started Culture magazine. Skinner is passionate about spreading the love of cheese across the US and beyond, teaching at venues across the country and overseas as well as partnering with chefs, wineries, breweries and all things food-centric.
Saturday, March 19 – Festival
At the festival on Saturday March 19 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., thousands of visitors will sample cow, goat and sheep cheese from Oregon creameries, including Pholia Farm, Ancient Heritage Dairy, Oregon State University, Ochoa Creamery, Tillamook County Creamery, Willamette Valley Cheese Co., Fern’s Edge Goat Dairy, Oak Leaf Creamery, Rivers Edge Chevre, Briar Rose Creamery, Face Rock Creamery, Portland Creamery, Rogue Creamery, and many others.The Oregon Cheese Festival will be open to the public Saturday, March 19 from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Rogue Creamery, 311 North Front St. (Hwy. 99), Central Point, Oregon. Held under two large tents, 15,000 square feet of space, at Rogue Creamery’s Central Point facility, the 12th annual festival will invite guests to shake hands with cheesemakers and other artisans. There will also be baby cows on site to showcase the beginnings of great milk producers. Activities will also be provided for children including games, activity sheets, coloring, face painting and more.”The farmer’s market format will present an interactive experience between makers and visitors, giving everyone an opportunity to talk about the product, the process and learn each individual cheesemaker’s story,” says David Gremmels, President of Rogue Creamery. “It’s a way to truly be connected with the source of the cheese being presented.”
Southern Oregon and other local culinary artisans and beverage providers who are expected to participate include Lillie Belle Farms, Gary West Meats, Applegate Valley Artisan Breads, Ledger David Cellars, South Stage Cellars, Serra Vineyards, Caprice Vineyards, Willamette Valley Vineyards, David Hill Winery, La Brasseur Vineyard, 30 Brix Winery, Wandering Aengus Ciders, Hot Lips Soda, Clear Creek Distillery, Bend Distillery, Wild River Brewing, Sierra Nevada Brewing and Rogue Ales. Samples and /or sales will be offered at each booth.
A $15 entry fee includes tastings and demonstrations; tickets purchased at the door will be $20. Entry tickets can be purchased in advance at http://oregoncheeseguild.org/event/12th-annual-oregon-cheese-festival/ . In addition, a $10 wine, beer and spirit tasting fee is available and includes a commemorative glass with the Oregon Cheese Guild logo. For more information contact the Oregon Cheese Guild website @ www.oregoncheeseguild.org, Rogue Creamery at 866.396.4704, or www.roguecreamery.com. The festival would not be possible without the generous support of the City of Central Point, the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council, and, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Rogue Ales, Culture Magazine, Travel Medford, Cheese Connoisseur Magazine, Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, Umpqua Bank, Haggen Northwest, Face Rock Creamery, Rogue Credit Union, and the members of the Oregon Cheese Guild.
Laura Chenel’s Chèvre has been recognized by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) for meeting one of the highest levels of food safety standards in the production of its line of fresh plain and flavored goat milk cheeses. The BRC’s Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is an internationally recognized food safety credential becoming a fundamental requirement of major food retailers around the world. GFSI certification insures that Laura Chenel’s production meets food industry and legislative requirements across the UK, EU and US, including most of the recently enacted FSMA rules in the US.
Laura Chenel’s has a history of high level quality production standards in its state-of-the art Sonoma creamery. “Since the plant was completed in 2010, we’ve worked to establish systems that ensure our products are the highest quality and our facility exceeds food safety regulations,” says Eva Guilmo, Quality Director for Laura Chenel’s and sister company, Marin French Cheese. “GFSI certification is an external or ‘third party’ audit that evaluates quality, food safety and operational criteria ensuring that as manufacturers we meet our legal obligations while providing consumer protection to retailers and our end customers.” Retailers commonly require third-party audits from food producers and by achieving this high-level GFSI certification, Laura Chenel’s products will be streamlined for approval by independent and large retail chains. The certification is renewed annually.
BRC is the leading certification body in the UK, recognized across Europe and the US, with over 23,000 certified facilities in 123 countries.
Stonyfield, the leading organic yogurt maker, is introducing three new products aimed at providing customers more ways to enjoy the delicious flavor and nutritional richness of organic whole milk yogurt. With a new line of 100 percent grassfed yogurts and new whole milk offerings for already popular Stonyfield Greek and Pouch lines, consumers have even more reasons to reach for yogurt.
“During Stonyfield’s first years, plain, simple, whole-milk yogurt was all that we made. In the 90s, diet fads led consumers to fear fat,” said Ana Milicevic, Brand Manager from Stonyfield. “But that simply wasn’t the whole story. Since whole milk provides a wealth of benefits –and tastes great – we’re excited to satisfy an increased demand and return to our roots.”
“Organic whole milk yogurt is an incredibly satisfying, traditional food – something I think many Americans are starting to embrace,” says Drew Ramsey, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and one of psychiatry’s leading proponents of using dietary changes to help balance moods, sharpen brain function and improve mental health. “Plus, it’s a satisfying way to get important nutrients like protein and calcium.”
The Next Chapter: Grassfed Yogurt
Stonyfield’s new organic 100% Grassfed Whole Milk yogurt begins in the pasture, with milk from cows who graze exclusively on grass. Rich and creamy and filled with all the delicious, nutritional qualities of full fat dairy, this cup of yogurt is the perfect choice for a whole breakfast or snack.
Stonyfield is proud to be sourcing its organic 100 percent grassfed whole milk from Maple Hill Creamery, another company passionate about producing milk in a way that is good for the planet, good for the cows and good for people.
Maple Hill Creamery cows are 100 percent grassfed, meaning they eat all grass, all the time (no grain, no corn) throughout the year (even in winter!) to produce whole milk with a rich, unique taste. In collaboration, Stonyfield and Maple Hill Creamery seek to make organic 100 percent grassfed yogurt accessible on a national level to more people than ever before.
To help consumers identify 100 percent grassfed vs. other varieties of grassfed (supplemented with corn or grain), Stonyfield has achieved independent Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) accreditation, noted right on the label of every yogurt cup. Stonyfield Organic 100% Grassfed Whole Milk Yogurt is currently available at Whole Foods Markets nationwide in 6-ounce Vanilla, Strawberry, Blueberry and Plain cups as well as 24-ounce Plain and Vanilla.
The Plot Thickens with Whole Milk Greek
Adding to its Greek nonfat yogurt family, Stonyfield’s Whole Milk Greek delivers a rich, creamy taste that only comes from full-fat dairy. The yogurt is packed with calcium and protein and new fruit-filled sidecars allow for flavor personalization. Available at national retailers in 5.3-ounce cups of Plain, Strawberry, Vanilla, Blueberry, Honey and Cherry, Stonyfield will also offer Whole Milk Greek in quarts of Plain and Vanilla – perfect for families or recipe creation.
A Conveniently Packaged Ending
The whole story concludes with a solution for bringing whole milk goodness on the go – with the introduction of Stonyfield Organic Whole Milk Pouches. The entire family will love being able to grab a convenient, hand-held pouch for a delicious, satisfying snack on the go. Stonyfield Whole Milk Pouches are available nationwide in Pear Spinach Mango, Strawberry Beet Berry, Vanilla and Blueberry – all available in single serve pouches. Additionally, each flavor except blueberry is offered in a four-pack as well.
Bellwether Farms, renowned for nearly 30 years of making award-winning sheep milk and cow milk cheeses, has unveiled its first mixed-milk cheese, named Blackstone. The handsome 3-1/4 pound wheels are a blend of local Jersey cow and sheep milk, dotted with black peppercorns and sporting a gorgeous dark rind. The rind results from a mixture of crushed black pepper, oil, rosemary and vegetable ash that is hand-rubbed on each wheel during its six-to-eight weeks aging at the creamery. The first wheels of Blackstone are arriving in Bay Area retailers and restaurants this month.
Bellwether’s proprietor and cheesemaker, Liam Callahan, developed Blackstone for an American market hungry for mixed-milk cheeses. “We like that Blackstone combines the best of both worlds,” says Callahan. “Our premium Jersey cow milk gives the cheese a creamy mouthfeel while our sheep milk deepens the complex flavor.” Callahan named the cheese Blackstone for its resemblance to the volcanic rock outcroppings surrounding the family’s Sonoma County dairy farm. Bellwether Farms is a family business founded by Cindy Callahan in 1986 with a flock of sheep needed to control grass on their Sonoma land. Today, they milk 350 sheep and every cheese, and yogurt is made on the farm by Liam and his crew, while business administration is handled by Diana Callahan, his wife.
Blackstone joins the roster of Bellwether’s popular aged cheeses, Carmody, San Andreas and Pepato. The creamery’s fresh and cultured products include top-selling sheep milk yogurts, Whole Milk Basket Ricotta, Crème Fraiche, Fromage Blanc and Crescenza.
Another cause for celebration at Bellwether Farms is an unprecedented fifth consecutive award for its Whole Milk Basket Ricotta from the esteemed Good Food Awards competition, honoring products that are authentic and responsibly produced. The exceptional flavor and texture of Bellwether’s Whole Milk Basket Ricotta comes from three specific steps: First, it is made using fresh whole Jersey milk delivered daily from a neighboring farm. Ricotta cheese is often made from only whey left over from cheesemaking. Second, traditional cultures are introduced to coagulate the milk for a slow fermentation, developing flavor and transforming it into moist, pillowy curds tasting of rich cultured cream. Faster-acting vinegar or citric acid are commonly used instead of cultures in ricotta making. Finally, the cheese is hand-ladled into perforated basket-style containers to protect the tender curds in transit to stores and restaurants. This distinctive ricotta cheese also took a bronze medal at the 2010 World Cheese Awards in the UK, competing against fresh ricotta from Europe. Bellwether Farms Whole Milk Basket Ricotta is available in specialty stores throughout the Bay Area and select regions across the U.S.
Following the release of a surprise statement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expressing respect for the artisan cheesemaking community and announcing that FDA is “pausing its testing program for non-toxigenic E. coli in cheese,” FDA Deputy Director for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, Michael Taylor, met with raw milk cheese producers on February 12 to learn more about the concerns of the American artisan cheese industry.
This Listening Session was held at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, where Taylor was joined by Dr. Susan Mayne, Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and a number of pertinent FDA staff. In opening remarks, American Cheese Society (ACS) Executive Director, Nora Weiser, expressed that “ACS’s desire to preserve and protect traditional cheesemaking practices; ensure safe, diverse products for consumers; and work with regulators to avoid undue and unnecessary barriers to growth are shared by many allied industry groups.” Weiser went on to name over 20 industry groups that support ACS in this direction, including numerous regional cheese guilds, international cheese organizations, and other dairy industry groups.
Seven ACS members, all raw milk cheesemakers from around the country, lent their voices to advance the dialogue and understanding that are needed to ensure continued growth of the artisan cheese sector. Presenting cheesemakers focused on several key issues:
Taylor emphasized that “we have to work together, and ACS is positioned for leadership in helping FDA understand what works for your product.” He went on to explain that preventive controls (PC) are about industry knowing what is needed and assessing what history has shown is successful. In response to ongoing concerns over changes to the 60-day aging rule, Taylor assured the group that any change to the rule will not be a surprise to stakeholders, and that this open dialogue is a prelude to any future rule-making or comment process. He stated that we must “look at raw milk cheese in [the] context of the PC framework.”
Mayne agreed, stressing the importance of science. She pledged that FDA will seek outside consult from academia and science in approaching artisan cheese safety. She sees moving forward in three steps: dialogue, which was furthered at the Listening Session; data, which must be shared openly; and scientific engagement, with technical discussions informed by what cheesemakers are doing.
Spurred by Taylor and Mayne, those present agreed that the next step is to pull together a group of relevant stakeholders, technical experts, and appropriate FDA staff to convene and discuss what preventive controls might look like for raw milk cheesemaking, and how testing can play its appropriate role in verifying controls. Jeremy Stephenson, cheesemaker at Spring Brook Farm in Vermont and member of the ACS Board of Directors, captured the theme of the meeting when he stated, “Concrete, measurable steps need to be taken on the part of FDA at every level to give the cheesemaking community confidence that regulators are operating in the spirit of FSMA. We need and value good regulation both to protect our customers as well as our collective industry.”
By Lorrie Baumann
As the market for quality cheeses grows, cheesemakers like Marieke Penterman of Marieke Gouda depend on professional cheesemongers to continue educating their customers about the products in their cases. That’s particularly important if, as some cheesemakers say, the cheese market is not driven so much by a definition of “local” that depends solely on geography as it is by a definition of “local” that connotes a community of like-minded people who share a cultural context. It’s cheesemongers who tell the stories that communicate that cultural context to their customers, Penterman observes. “It’s fun to see the cheesemonger community grow and develop a passion for the cheeses. It’s a kind of community,” she says. “Those people are so essential to the food industry. They represent us in the stores, and they talk about us, and they pass on that passion for cheese. It’s just phenomenal.”
Penterman herself experiences that sense of community among those who appreciate fine cheeses, she says. “When you go to a food show, it’s always fun to see people enjoy it, and it’s so rewarding and encouraging in what you’re doing.”
The awards that Penterman has won at many of those food shows are permanent symbols of how much her cheeses are enjoyed. Since she started making cheese in 2006, Penterman’s company, Holland’s Family Cheese, has won more than 100 national and international awards, including awards for all of its Marieke Gouda varieties. She has recently added Marieke Gouda Honey Clover, Marieke Gouda Cranberry (seasonal) and Marieke Gouda Jalapeno to her line. Marieke Gouda Bacon is the very latest flavor in the line, made in collaboration with Nolechek’s Meats, a butcher that’s local to Marieke Gouda’s home in Thorp, Wisconsin.
“They have been phenomenal. They put our Gouda in their brats and their hot dogs, so we thought we’d put their bacon in our Gouda,” Penterman says. “Bacon Gouda is really phenomenal!”
Marieka Gouda Foenegreek, which has won multiple awards, was one of the first cheeses Penterman made when she went into commercial production. She’d been thinking about adding walnuts to her gouda, but she’d hesitated because bringing tree nuts into a food facility is not done lightly. Then she tasted a fenugreek Gouda during a visit to the Netherlands and decided that the nutty flavor of the fenugreek seeds satisfied that craving without adding the tree nut complication, so she decided to try making it herself. It didn’t go well at first.
“It was so smelly in the house. I cooked the herbs in those days in our home kitchen,” she recalls. The simmering fenugreek smelled so bad that she changed her mind about adding it to her cheese, but then her husband, Rolf, suggested that she go ahead, give it a try and see how it turned out. “He doesn’t like to waste things,” Penterman says.
The cheese was aging when Penterman got a call from the Dairy Business Innovation Center to alert her to a 2007 competition. She picked a cheese to enter, and she asked one of her team members to pick a cheese. Rolf picked a third cheese, the Marieke Gouda Foenegreek. “Rolf picked the Foenegreek, and right away it won a gold award at the 2007 championship, so it was pretty cool,” Penterman says.
American consumers’ enthusiasm for Marieke Gouda and for Gouda cheeses in general is elevating both the availability and the quality of fine cheeses in the marketplace as cheesemakers improve their products to meet consumers’ expectations, Penterman says. “You can see the consumer starting to realize what good cheese is. Consumers are willing to spend a little extra to taste good cheese and to support local farmstead cheesemakers,” she says. “Overall cheese quality has improved. Flavor profiles are getting better. People are traveling and tasting cheeses and returning passionate about cheeses. I think that in general the quality for sure made a big jump in the last 10 years.”
By Lorrie Baumann
Face Rock Creamery is a three-year-old operation on the southern Oregon coast that’s already producing award-winning Cheddars with “in your face” flavors. Face Rock Creamery 2 Year Extra Aged Cheddar won a first place award for aged Cheddars between 12 and 24 months from the American Cheese Society in 2015 and its Vampire Slayer Garlic Cheese Curds won a first place award for flavored cheese curds in the 2013 American Cheese Society competition. “We’ve been really fortunate to win these awards right out of the gate, and it’s given us some credibility and momentum, so that’s been wonderful,” says Face Rock Creamery President Greg Drobot.
Face Rock Creamery is located in Bandon, Oregon, a town of about 3,000 people with a heritage of cheesemaking. Cheese had been made in Bandon for about 100 years from milk produced at dairies upstream along the Coquille River and barged down the river to the cheese factory that employed 50-60 of the town’s residents until 2005, when a large cheese company bought the creamery to shut it down.
Drobot happened to have moved to Bandon in 2005 to pursue a real estate project, and when the project was completed, he was looking for something else to do when local resident and friend Daniel Graham suggested that he think about starting a new creamery and reviving that part of their heritage. “I thought at first it was nuts…. I didn’t know anything about cheesemaking, but it’s such an integral part of everyone’s like here that it stuck with me,” he says. “When we reopened, we had community members coming in in tears to talk about how they felt that the cheese plant was a part of their family legacy. I’m really proud and happy that I can do that.”
He wrote a business plan, got a loan, and suddenly, he was starting a cheese business. He took his plans up to Seattle and showed them to Brad Sinko, a son of Joe Sinko, who’d owned the cheese plant before it had been bought and closed. Sinko was the founding cheesemaker for Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, another award-winning maker of fine Cheddars, and after he’d finished reviewing the drawings for the new plant, he said he might be interested in coming to work there. “He was top of the world, a rock star in the cheese community, and I didn’t even think it was a possibility that he’d come back to Bandon,” Drobot says. “I about fell off my chair when he told me that. It changed things a lot.”
Sinko moved back home to Bandon, and the plant started operating in May, 2013. The plant employs about 25 people directly and provides employment indirectly for about another 15, including delivery drivers and service providers. Holstein, Brown Swiss and Jersey cow milk is sourced from Bob and Leonard Scolari’s family dairy just up the valley, where a temperate climate and coastal rains mean that the cows can be on pasture about 70 to 80 percent of the year. Products include conventional aged Cheddars as well as flavored varieties like In Your Face, a three-pepper Cheddar; Vampire Slayer, which is flavored with garlic; and Super Slayer, which has both peppers and garlic. “Cheese is, for a lot of people, intimidating, but we want to make sure people have fun and enjoy their cheese, so that’s the route we went, especially with some of our flavors,” Drobot says. “We put kind of a fun twist on it.”
The Face Rock Creamery cheeses are currently sold in 2,500 retail locations across 10 states. “We would like to continue to move west and continue to spread the word about Face Rock,” Drobot says. “We want to continue to make wonderful cheeses. We would like to be nationally distributed. We’re never going to be a commodity cheese, we’re always going to be small batch, but the flavors have national appeal.”