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MouCo’s Ashley Turns Heads in Madison

MouCo’s Ashley is at it again! On March 20, Fort Collins, Colo’s favorite ash-covered cheese earned a silver medal at the 30th Biennial World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Wis. Previously, the Ashley snagged a blue ribbon in the soft-ripened category at the American Cheese Society Conference both in August 2012 and August 2013.

MouCo Cheese Company is owned and operated by Birgit Halbreiter and Robert Poland in Fort Collins. The pair incorporated their company in November of 1999. Back then, their specialty was Camembert—a soft, buttery cheese with a mild nutty flavor. In the last several years, MouCo has introduced four additional varieties of cheese, including the award-winning Ashley in July of 2012. MouCo regulars can’t get enough of this creamy, mildly sweet cheese with its distinctive vegetable ash rind. Ashley’s sweet undertones are best complemented with a salad of bitter greens, a dollop of pepper jelly, or a glass of dry red wine.

Ashley starts the way all MouCo cheeses start: with fresh, local cow’s milk. The cheese curd is gently moved into forms that give the cheese its shape and size. Before the two-week aging process, a mixture of culture and edible vegetable ash is applied to the cheese to aid the development of Ashley’s special rind characteristics. The vegetable ash rind acts like a natural preservative, keeping the cheese extra creamy and mildly sweet. When it’s ready, this natural-rind cheese will be an ashy color with a slight white finish.

The World Championship Cheese Contest was founded in 1957 and is hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. This year, the event drew over 2,000 entries from 22 different countries; the entries were tasted and scored by 50 judges from all around the world. Ashley earned a silver medal in the open soft-ripened category, but she wasn’t the only one turning heads: MouCo’s ColoRouge, and PepBert both placed in the top ten in their respective categories at this year’s contest.