By Lorrie Baumann
A few cheesemakers who brought their wares to the Summer Fancy Food Show this year are offering new mixed-milk cheeses that they hope will be a gateway for inexperienced consumers into artisanal cheeses from the milk of animals other than cows. These cheeses blend flavors from the milk of goats and/or sheep to result in cheeses that have flavor notes that might be unfamiliar and interesting to neophyte cheese-lovers, but they’re combined with the reassuring familiarity of tastes of cow milk.
One of these is Landmark Creamery’s new Switchgrass, a mixed cow and sheep milk cheese for which the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research collaborated on the recipe. The cheese has sweet, nutty characteristics like a sheep milk cheese, but because the cheese is made from cow milk as well, it can be offered at a retail price point in the lower $20s range rather than the price point dictated purely by the cost of sheep milk.
Landmark is a small Wisconsin creamery, just four years old, owned by Anna Thomas Bates and Anna Landmark, who make and age their cheeses in space belonging to other cheesemakers. The company has just launched a new Kickstarter campaign that the two Annas hope will produce the financing for new aging equipment and get them into their own aging space, Bates said.
LaClare Farms Cheesemaker Katie Fuhrmann is pursuing a similar idea with her GoCo, a fun cheddar cheese made with cow curds melded with goat milk curds. She’s also offering Blueberry Merlot Chandoka, a holiday spread made from her Chandoka, which tied for a second place in the Brest of Show category at the 2015 American Cheese Society Competition & Judging. That version of Chandoka was aged by Standard Market, but LaClare Farms, owned by Fuhrmann’s parents, Larry and Clare Hedrich, now has enough aging space to allow Chandoka to stay home to be aged there. The Blueberry Merlot Chandoka is a deeply decadent cheese spread, soft enough to be dipped out of its container with a finger when it’s at room temperature. The Merlot helps give it a beautiful caramel color as well as a deep fruitiness that helps to round out the flavor of the blueberries. This cheese is rich enough to make a satisfying after-dinner dessert as well as a cocktail party offering.
If you were lucky enough to have the chance to visit the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board booth during the Summer Fancy Food Show, you probably enjoyed the flight of five Wisconsin cheddars that the WMMB had there. These included Vat 17 World Cheddar from Deer Creek Cheese, Hook’s Triple Play-Extra Innings from Hook’s Cheese, Heritage Weis 5-Year Cheddar from Red Barn Family Farms, Red Rock from Roelli Cheese Haus and 8-Year Aged Cheddar from Widmer’s Cheese Cellars.
Widmer’s Cheese Cellars is known for traditionally-made cheeses with assertive flavors, but Master Cheesemaker Joe Widmer also knows how to make a cheese that’s perfectly balanced so that these strong flavors comfort and satisfy. The Hook’s Triple Play is another example of these interesting mixed-milk cheeses, as it combines milk from cows, goats and sheep. Extra Innings is an extra-aged variety of the original Triple Play, which received a third-place award in the 2015 American Cheese Society contest. The Vat 17 World Cheddar was made from a mix of cheese cultures from the different styles of cheddar cheese that are made around the world, ending with a cheese that combines the flavors of a familiar American-style cheddar with the nuances of British cheddars. Altogether, these five cheeses offered a world of new flavors from a cheese you thought you already knew.