It seems that every year at Thanksgiving, I get tasked with bringing the pie. I don’t mind, because when it comes to baked goods, pie has my heart. Sure, cakes and cookies are tasty, but there’s something about that flaky crust and gooey filling that just speaks to me. Apple pie is my all time favorite and my go-to pie for all occasions. You can’t have Thanksgiving without pumpkin, so of course I make one of those. I usually make a third to round it out, and the last few years I’ve made a ridiculously simple salted caramel pie that always makes at least one person weep.
But this isn’t a post about pie. This is a post about what to do with the extra pie crust that is leftover when you make one double crust and one single crust pie. I’ll tell you a secret. This is hard for me to admit, so please don’t judge me. I use store bought pie crusts. They are just so good and so easy and so much better than I can do at home. Trust me, I’ve tried. But there’s always the extra crust. Enter one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions–the day-after quiche.
The day-after quiche accomplishes so many things. First, you make good use of the extra pie crust. Secondly, when you wake up starving with a terrible headache, breakfast is already made. Third, it’s a delicious, nutritious alternative to eating more turkey. And it’s so easy. So easy. I made it in about 5 minutes flat yesterday at the tail end of the pie making extravaganza and baked it with the pies.
The beauty of quiche is the endless combinations of flavors that you can create. The one I made yesterday is a simple and tasty blend of sauteed onions, mushrooms, a little bit of thyme and paprika, and of course my favorite melting cheese–Haystack Mountain Buttercup.
What you will need:
8 oz baby bella mushrooms
1 small onion
A spring of fresh thyme, or a 1/2 tsp of dried
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper
1 C milk
8 oz Haystack Mountain Buttercup, grated
1 9-inch pie crust
Melt the butter in a pan and sauté the onion and mushrooms. Season with the thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms have softened up and released their liquid. In the meantime, mix the eggs and milk together and season with salt and pepper. Place the pie crust in a baking dish. Put the cheese on top of the crust, scrape the mushroom mixture on top of the cheese, and then pour the eggs in. Bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, and enjoy!
When I’m behind the cheese counter, I often hear from people that they don’t know how to talk about cheese, or don’t know what to ask for, or how describe what they like. Unfortunately, a lot of people feel insecure at the cheese counter, and for good reason–cheese can be a formidable subject. Knowing a few basic terms will help you better communicate with your cheesemonger, so I’ve put together a list of cheese terminology for you to study up on before you hit the cheese counter this holiday season.
Artisan cheese: Cheese that is produced in traditional ways, by hand, by skilled cheesemakers. The opposite of industrially produced cheese. There has been a proliferation of artisan cheesemaking in America over the last 25 years, and by and large if you are shopping at a cheese shop or specialty food counter in town, you will be dealing with artisan cheeses.
Rennet: Rennet is an enzyme used in cheese production to coagulate the milk, allowing the solids (curds) to be separated from the liquid (whey). Rennet is traditionally synthesized from the lining of a calf’s stomach, however, many cheesemakers today use rennet that is derived from thistle or microbial sources. Haystack uses microbial rennet in all of our cheeses.
Vegetarian cheese: Cheese made using thistle or microbial rennet.
Fresh cheese: Cheese that is made for immediate consumption. These cheeses don’t have a rind and tend to have a short shelf life, and include types of cheese like mozzarella and chévre.
Bloomy rind: The soft, powdery, fuzzy rind found on cheeses like Brie and Camembert. The “bloom” is caused by a culture called Penicillium Candidum. Candidum ripens cheese from the outside in, causing a layer of gooeyness (known as the creamline, or if you really want to nerd out, proteolysis) under the rind that will eventually permeate the entire cheese. These cheeses are also called soft-ripened cheeses. The cheeses are best known for mild, milky flavors and a sometimes mushroomy aroma. A few of my favorite American bloomy rind cheeses right now are Haystack Mountain Camembert, Nettle Meadow Kunik, and Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill.
Washed rind: Washed rind = stinky cheese! Washed rind cheeses are typically washed in brine, wine, or beer as they age. The washing cultivates bacteria called Brevibacterium Linens (called B. Linens for short), which is closely related to the bacteria found in human sweat. Hence why some people say cheese smells like feet! While the rind on a washed rind cheese will sometimes be overwhelming aromatic, the paste of these cheeses actually tends to be fairly mild. Washed rinds can be yeasty, meaty, and funky–great to try if you like a little personality. Look for Meadow Creek Grayson if you like it stanky, and Von Trapp Farm Oma if you like it a little on the more buttery side. Haystack Mountain Red Cloud and Sunlight are great examples of this style as well.
Alpine style: This refers to the cheesemaking traditions found in the high mountain regions of France and Switzerland. These cheeses are typically large, aged wheels with a firm texture. Think Comté, Gruyére, Emmentaler, and Appenzeller. Flavor profiles in this category of cheese can range from buttery to grassy to brothy. These are typically great melting cheeses, and there are many very sophisticated Alpine styles that have their place on a cheese board as well. Some great American Alpine styles to try right now are Jasper Hill Farm Alpha Tolman and Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise.
Raw milk cheese: Cheese made from unpasteurized milk. In America, raw cheese must be aged for a minimum of 60 days. Haystack Mountain’s blue ribbon-winning Queso de Mano is great raw milk cheese for holiday cheese boards because of its versatility and ability to pair well with craft beverages. For the adventurous among us, note that as a result of the 60-day rule, it’s virtually impossible to find soft, bloomy rind, raw milk cheeses here in America. A few artisan cheesemakers are beginning to experiment with soft, washed rind, raw milk cheeses aged just over 60 days. Look for Uplands Rush Creek Reserve, Jasper Hill Farm Winnimere, and Sequatchie Cove Dancing Fern if this style of cheese sounds appealing.
With a few of these terms in your back pocket, talking to your cheesemonger should be a breeze. Most importantly, remember that your cheesemonger is there to help guide you, so don’t be scared to ask questions, or try another sample if you didn’t love the first one. My favorite part of the job is sharing knowledge with people and knowing that I’ve helped a delicious cheese find it’s way to the right home. At the end of the day, we’re all here because we love cheese!
So it’s a typical Thursday night: you grab a roasted chicken and ‘taters from your neighborhood rosticceria and you’re looking for one more side dish that you can prepare at home to round out the meal. Enter mac and cheese. Sure you could whip up a bechamel and get fancy with a unique blend of spices and all that jazz, but the key to grab-and-go night is minimizing cooking and clean up time. We are fans of Annie’s mac and cheese, but feel that it can often be dry and lacking the melty, oozy goodness that is at the very heart of mac and cheese. Adding all the butter and heavy cream in Normandy will not help you achieve the melty sensation you’re aiming for. Enter Buttercup. Buttercup is our easygoing Monterey Jack style made with a mix of cow and goat milk. You will be amazed by how well Buttercup improves the situation.
TGIF! For most people, the “F” in TGIF is for Friday. For us at Haystack, “F” is for “friable,” which is our cheese vocabulary word of the day. According to maître-fromager, Max McCalman, friable “refer[s] to a cheese’s suitability for cooking in the sense that the lower its melting point is, the more ‘friable’ it is considered. A cheese whose curds are cooked and pressed–Sbrinz is a good example–is less friable than one whose curds are uncooked–say Cheshire. Cheeses with rougher textures and harder consistencies are less friable than smoother, softer ones.” So which of our cheeses are the most friable? Buttercup and Chile Jack are top in this category, so grab yourself some this weekend for some super melty, gooey goodness. Here is some inspiration:
As anyone in the cheese industry will tell you, one of the best parts of living and working in the world of cheese is being able to frequently connect with so many extraordinary people. A few weeks ago, I made a trip out West–to the Western Slope of the great state of Colorado. I traveled a great distance to bring Haystack cheese to the Colorado Makers harvest party, hosted by Anna and Lance of Jack Rabbit Hill Wines and Peak Spirits at their family farm in Hotchkiss. Colorado Makers is a group that highlights the efforts of local artisans, craft makers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs. The event was a celebration of the culinary arts and crafts we create, and a celebration of Colorado and the abundance the state offers.
Any time I head out West I stop in and see Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy founder and chairman of the board, James Schott. James and his wife Carol moved to a small farm in Paonia after retiring from the day-to-day operations at Haystack in 2008. When I arrived, I found James knee deep in an ambitious bean-canning project, fielding phone calls from milk share members, while a batch of handmade, raw milk feta drained on the kitchen counter. Clearly he hasn’t slowed down one bit since retiring from Haystack.
Always eager and willing to share his experience and expertise, James took some time to show me around the farm. James and Carol raise a handful of dairy goats and Highland cattle, and grow some of the most gorgeous and fragrant lavender I’ve ever experienced. I was even lucky enough to help him wrangle a few of the goats out to his back pasture. Watching him interact with the goats is like watching LeBron James dribble a basketball – a man living his truth to the highest level.
Spending this time with James, contemplating how far the craft food industry has come in our state since the founding of Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy nearly 25 years ago, I realized that I was talking to the original ‘Colorado Maker’ himself. A champion of local agriculture, education, and entrepreneurship, James’ founding vision of making high-quality cheeses according to old world traditions still shapes Haystack today. He has made a lasting impression on the state of Colorado and American cheese industry, and has inspired a new generation of Colorado artisans. I am proud to be a member of this new generation and feel a deep sense of pride and duty in helping to share his pioneering spirit.
Alright gang–this recipe has a lot of moving parts, but let me tell you, it’s worth it. Full of warming fall flavors, these relleños will satisfy your soul on these cold nights. For me, melted cheese is the ultimate cold weather comfort food. In this dish, the creaminess of the chévre, paired with the gooey-ness of the melted Chile Jack is, simply, irresistible. If you can prepare some of the components ahead of time, it will cut down on the time you need to put it all together. Best of all, you should still be able to find these ingredients at your local farmers market!
Start by making the sauce. Roast your red pepper however you like–under the broiler, on the grill, or over a gas burner. Pop it in a paper bag to help the skin steam off, and once it’s cool enough to touch, rub the charred skin off with your hands. To save a little time down the line, roast your poblanos at the same time. While the pepper is doing its thing, sautee some onion and garlic in a saucepan, add the seeded and chopped red pepper and the pureed tomatoes, and allow the mixture to simmer. Once the sauce begins to thicken, add the cilantro, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. I used an immersion blender to smooth mine out a touch, but this isn’t necessarily necessary.
While your sauce is cooking, you can prepare the poblanos. Remove the skin the same way that you did with the red pepper, taking great care not to tear the pepper. Leave the top of the pepper, with the stem, intact. Make a slit down one side of the pepper and carefully remove the seeds from inside. A note here–poblanos do have capsaicin (the compound that makes peppers spicy) and if your hands are sensitive, you might feel a tingle, depending on the pepper. Wear gloves for extra precaution.
Next, prepare your filling. Peel and dice a roasted beet (400 degrees for 20-30 minutes), and mix with cilantro, fresh chévre, and shredded Chile Jack. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you want to mix it up with some meat, throw some dry-cured chorizo in there. Place about 3 tablespoons of the filling in each pepper.
Once the peppers are ready to go, make your batter by whisking the eggs and beer together. I like a spicy, savory beer like Hazed and Infused, but anything will work. Add the flour a bit at a time until you have a nice, gloppy consistency. If it gets too thick, thin with a little water. Season with salt and pepper. While you’re making the batter, heat the oil in a deep dutch oven. I like to heat mine to about 350 degrees, but if you don’t have a good kitchen thermometer, test the oil by dropping a few drips of batter into it. If it gets all bubbly and starts to fry, you’re good to go. Batter the stuffed peppers and drop them, carefully, into the oil. I would only fry two at a time, or you’ll overcrowd the pot. You can keep the finished relleños warm in in a low-temp oven until you are ready to serve.
To plate, spoon some sauce on to a plate, nestle the relleño atop the sauce, garnish with a sprig of cilantro, and dig in! Enjoy!
What you need:
For the relleños:
8 Poblano peppers or Anaheim peppers, roasted, seeded and peeled
4 cups peanut or other suitable frying oil
For the filling:
1 large beet, roasted, peeled and finely diced
1/2 cup crumbled Haystack Fresh Chévre
1/2 cup grated Haystack Chile Jack
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the roasted red pepper sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 cups plum tomatoes and their juice, pureed
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the beer batter:
1 bottle beer
2 cups flour
Salt and pepper
This salad is my current lunch obsession. Brad Lynch, Culinary Director of Cured, churns out a few big batches a week. If you can’t make it into the shop to pick some up, it’s easy to make at home. And then you don’t have to share it with anyone. Packaged in a brine of whey, Haystack Mountain Feta adds just the right amount of salt, tang, and texture to the dish.
½ lb dried orzo, cooked
8 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small cucumber, diced
2 oz basil, thinly sliced
½ C pitted Kalamata olives, whole or chopped
¼ C capers
¼ C olive oil
8 oz Haystack Mountain Feta, crumbled
Allow the pasta to cool after cooking. Add the olive oil, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, olives, capers, and basil, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with Feta. Makes 4 side servings.
Last week I was relishing in the bounty of gorgeous squash blossoms my garden was producing, now I’m deep in the flip side of that reality with what appears to be thousands of pounds of zucchini on my hands. Did I say thousands? I meant millions.
So I’ve been indulging in nightly zucchini feasts–raw zucchini salads, grilled zucchini, roasted zucchini, zucchini omelettes, and my new favorite–zucchini lasagna. Like every good Boulder-ite, I’m trying to live a gluten-free existence and I’ve found that this dish gives me all of the satisfaction of the real thing with none of the ill-effects of a gluten binge. With some fresh chévre and a few other veggies in there, this is a wonderfully simple, light, and seasonal dinner you can even put together on a school night.
I start by slicing the zucchini on a mandoline slicer. Please be very, very careful when using one of these puppies. I had to lose a few fingertips before I learned where the safety zone is. If you don’t have one and/or are too terrified (rightfully so) to use one, then just slice your zucchini nice and thin with a good chef’s knife. I’ve tried slicing the zucchini both the long and short way, and have found that slicing into rounds is easier and ensures a more consistent cut, but doesn’t look as much like lasagna noodles. So you pick which way works for you.
Next I consider my filling. My favorite is a ragu of onions, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers. Roast the pepper if you’re so inclined (or go ahead–use a good quality jarred version, no one will ever know), sautee the onions in some olive oil, toss in the ‘shrooms and peppers, and let the whole thing cook down to your desired consistency. You can either make an easy, fresh tomato sauce or use a jar of your favorite–I’m still working through last year’s tomato harvest which has been tucked away in the freezer. To make the cheese filling, I blend some softened fresh chévre with a touch of ricotta, olive oil, and fresh herbs. The tang of the chévre brightens up the creamy ricotta and keeps the dish nicely balanced. I like a little meat in my lasagna, but since I’m trying to keep this dish light and fresh, I use just a touch of thinly sliced prosciutto or salami as one of my lasagna layers.
Pre-heat the oven to 425 and build your lasagna while it’s warming up. I always put a little tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish, then a layer of zucchini, then a layer of filling, then some glops of cheese, then sauce, then meat, then zucchini, and so on. The final layer should be zucchini, then sauce, topped off with a delicious melting cheese. I recommend Haystack Mountain Buttercup–a wonderful mix of cow and goat milk that is both buttery and tangy, and an excellent melting cheese.
Pop the whole thing in the oven, pour yourself a glass of wine, and relax while your healthy, light, locally sourced, gluten-free, Paleo-friendly, delicious dinner cooks for 20-30 minutes. You can thank me later.
As a cheesemonger, people ask me every day whether or not to eat the rind of cheese. My answer is always, “rind your own business!” Some people love the rind, others loathe it. Truth be told, there’s no right or wrong answer to the rind question. With the exception of cloth or wax rinds, the rind is generally edible. It is, however, not always enjoyable. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you rind.
The rinds on soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert are called bloomy rinds and are made up a soft, downy mold called Penicillium Candidum. These rinds are meant to be eaten with the cheese. At their peak, these rinds are thin and delicate, and lend flavors of mushroom and earth to the cheese. I highly recommend enjoying the rind at this juncture. However, as the cheese ripens and the rind develops further, it can become leathery and take on a slightly ammoniac quality. In this case, you have my full permission to peel the rind aside to get to ooey-gooey goodness underneath.
Washed rinds, the tacky, orange-rinded cheeses that are best known for their pungent aroma, might be the most controversial of rinds. People who love them, really love them, and wouldn’t dream of eating the paste without the rind. I, however, have found that washed rinds can be gritty and a tad bitter when not in perfect condition. It’s good to keep in mind that even when the rind is suffering, or just too smelly to entertain in your mouth, the cheese inside is still sweet, creamy, and mild–not what you’d think of when you see that stinky little rind!
Natural rinds on hard cheese form as the cheese ages, and are made up of the molds within the cheese, as well as other molds present in the aging room. While eating these rinds can be educational, it’s not always enjoyable. I know many cheese professionals and enthusiasts who eat these rinds in order to be able to profile the cheese better. However, most people will find these rinds unpalatable. They may be chewy, bitter, “dirt-like,” or otherwise unpleasant tasting. If you are into that kind of thing, by all means, munch away!
At the end of the day, the decision to rind or not to rind can only be answered by you. Whether you choose to eat the rind for enjoyment or education, or you’d just rather not–it’s all good!
Wisconsin: the land of cheese and beer. The land of a thousand lakes. Also the land of my birth. Wisconsin holds a special place in my heart, so I couldn’t have been more excited to spend five glorious days with the Haystack team on the shores of Lake Monona in Madison attending the 30th annual American Cheese Society (ACS) conference. Cheesemakers, mongers, shop owners, writers, educators, distributors, and other industry professionals gathered at the gorgeous Monona Terrace to learn, network, and of course- eat a lot of cheese.
I arrived in Madison a day ahead of the big crowd, since I was taking the Certified Cheese Professionals Exam (CCPE) and wanted extra time to settle in and do some last minute review. Almost immediately upon arrival, my friend and fellow cheesemonger Ali Morgan of Scardello Cheese in Dallas, and I set out for some pre-exam-cram nourishment. We headed to The Old Fashioned, a Madison institution known for their selection of Wisconsin craft beers and deep-fried cheese curds. Ali had never had a fried cheese curd before, a fact that I’m still wrapping my head around. Fried curds are a regional delicacy that you will find on essentially every menu in the state. What exactly is a curd? Imagine standing next to a vat of freshly coagulated milk, dipping your hand into it, and pulling out a watery mix of well–curds and whey. The curds are the all of the solids (protein, fat, and minerals) in milk that form the basis of cheese. What’s a deep-fried curd then? It’s sort of a like a mozzarella stick, but so much better. The curds at The Old Fashioned were brown and crispy on the outside, but tender and gooey in the middle. Washing it all down with a cold Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewery, we decided to make it our mission to sample fried curds wherever we could find them and see which restaurant boasted the best.
On Wednesday July 31, I joined 180 other cheese industry professionals in taking the second ever CCPE. And–thankfully, that’s over. By the time the exam let out on Wednesday afternoon, there was a whole lotta cheesin’ going on in Madison. The first stop after the test was the hotel bar, natch. Then a quick stop at the post-test party hosted by Roth Kase, where peppercorn raclette was droozled over pickles and fresh bread, and the Spotted Cow flowed like wine. From there, it was over to The Merchant, a hip little restaurant/shop nearby the conference center for a fabulous party hosted by Culture Magazine. Their spread was incredible, and although there were no fried cheese curds, they did have two chefs making fresh burrata balls right in the middle of everything. From here things devolved quickly, thanks to the ACS sponsored pub-crawl through the streets of Madison.
On Thursday morning the conference started in earnest, with a keynote address by Odessa Piper, a Wisconsin-based chef best known for launching L’Etoile in Madison, and a leader in the farm-to-table food movement. She lauded the cheese industry for embracing and promoting sustainable practices, calling “cheese…the poster child for…artisanal food culture.” All of this over breakfast, which included heaping trays of Vermont cheese on every table. Thank goodness–cheese is an excellent hangover cure, and there were plenty of bleary eyes (mine included) amongst the crowd.
Each day of the conference was filled educational sessions, with topics ranging from “Encouraging Flavor: Flora Farming and Soil” to “Rumplestilton: Weaving Waste into Wealth.” With more than ten different sessions a day, there really was something for everyone. I couldn’t honestly tell you which session I liked the most- each one I attended fascinated me more than the one before. The unifying theme for me, the thing that made me stop and say “Holy cow (or goat, as the case may be) this is amazing!” periodically throughout the week, is that the mission and core values of the ACS came flowing through every session like a river tearing down a mountainside. The organization, and the conference, exist solely to elevate the industry, to help small cheese companies like Haystack and mom-and-pop-cheese shops like Scardello, be better at what they do. Ah-maz-ing! What a valuable resource for the cheese industry–we are so lucky to have such an incredible organization supporting us–a huge thank you to the staff and volunteers of the ACS who put this event on each year.
Equally as fun and educational as the day sessions, were the evenings spent making new friends and rubbing elbows with cheese celebs all around Madison. The theme of the week: “How many dinners can you fit into one night?” Madison is home to a bounty of incredible restaurants, and I did my best to try each one. My tops picks were The Merchant, Graze, and Nostrano, but I can’t say I had a bad meal anywhere. Ali and I stuck to our mission, sampling a variety of fried cheese curds throughout the week. And, drumroll please….the crowning glory goes to…Graze! Their curds were nicely battered, almost crunchy on the outside and super meltygooey inside–never rubbery.
Possibly the most exciting element of the conference (besides getting to spend 5 days eating and drinking with people who love cheese as much as you) is the annual competition. This year, almost 300 companies entered more than 1700 products in 92 different categories. Talk about stiff competition. Haystack is proud to announce that we brought home three ribbons this year. Our Queso de Mano took best in category for Goat’s Milk Aged Over 60 Days, Chile Jack took 2nd in Monterrey Jack with Flavor Added, and ‘A Cheese Named Sue’ took 3rd in the American Originals Made from Goat’s Milk. Our fellow Colorado cheesemakers at MouCo and Avalanche Creamery also brought home several ribbons–’twas a good day for Colorado cheese.
I’m already counting down the days until next year’s ACS conference in Sacramento, CA. I wonder if they have fried cheese curds there…
This morning I was delighted to find no less than twenty bright yellow squash blossoms scattered about the zucchini patch. Some were still furled into themselves, huddled up against the brightness of the day while others were flaunting their gorgeous color for all to see. Bees buzzed in and out of the flowers, the birds were chirping, a light breeze ruffled the leaves of the nearby apple tree…the whole scene was rather idyllic.
So I did what any good Boulder-dwelling nature lover would do, I grabbed my garden shears and cut those beautiful blossoms right off, loaded them into my basket, and hauled them up to the kitchen. After reading a few recipes, I decided to go with what is apparently the most traditional approach to cooking squash blossoms- fill them with cheese and fry them. It’s hard to go wrong with this particular combination of culinary actions.
I made the batter first, so it could set up a bit before I used it. I combined 3/4 cup corn starch with 1/4 cup flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and some salt and pepper, in a square pan so I could easily dredge the blossoms. I lightly beat one egg with some sparkling water, and whisked it into the dry mix. Once all of the ingredients were incorporated, I stuck the pan in the fridge.
Next, I prepped the blossoms. I needed to remove the inner workings of the flowers, and try as I might to not tear the petals in the process, those suckers are delicate! I ripped most of them, but I figured that both the chévre and the batter would act as a sort of paste to hold them together, and I was right, so do be careful, but if you rip the blossoms- all is not lost. Once the blossoms were prepped and ready to go, I made the chévre filling by combining the cheese (just about a half pound, and well-softened) with a squeeze of lemon, chopped fresh basil, and a touch of salt and pepper.
After that, I got to work stuffing the blossoms. I read somewhere that piping them with a pastry bag is the best way, but since I had already conveniently ripped most of my blossoms open, I found that I didn’t need to go to that extent. I used a small spoon to scoop the yummy stuff into the blossoms and used the cheese to “glue” the torn petals together once they were stuffed. Next I heated up some coconut oil in a deep skillet on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Once it was hot enough, I dredged the blossoms in the batter and popped them in the skillet. A couple minutes on each side is all it took to get these beauties golden brown and delicious looking, with little bits of chévre filling oozing out the tips.
Two weeks ago, I had the esteemed opportunity to attend the 4th Annual Cheesemonger Invitational, an event so rare and so magical that I used vacation time to fly all the way to New York City to work the event, and support my shop, Cured. I competed in the event last year, and wanted to participate in a different context this year, so I offered up my mongering skills as a volunteer for the daytime prep shift. What did this entail exactly? Basically, cutting the cheese–a lot of cheese, as well as other items like bread and salami, and a few other gritty kitchen jobs that don’t need to be revisited here (Ok, fine. The worst part was forming like 500 pounds of ground beef into patties at 9am with a weak stomach). As excited as I was to support the event by helping with the preparations, the real highlight was getting a behind-the-scenes look at the most awesome cheese party on the planet.
The Cheesemonger Invitational was started four years ago by Adam Moskowitz, the owner of Larkin Cold Storage, a logistics company for the specialty food industry. He wanted to create an event to celebrate the cheesemonger, who he considers a critical part of the supply chain. According to Moskowitz, all of the dedicated hard work of the cheesemaker and importer is for naught if the cheesemonger isn’t up to snuff. As the crucial link between cheesemaker and consumer, the monger possesses all of the power to make or break the customer’s experience with cheese. So Moskowitz started the Invitational as way to champion the monger, as well as bring cheesemongers from around the country together for education and community building.
The competition is held at Larkin’s refrigerated warehouse in Long Island City. This year, 55 mongers from around the country gathered at 9am to show off their knowledge and skill. The preliminaries, which are closed to the public, included a blind tasting, a knowledge test, a pairing round, and a selling round. Between rounds, the mongers got to participate in education sessions led by the event’s sponsors, such as Columbia Cheese, Creminelli, Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, McClure’s Pickles, Neal’s Yard Dairy, and The Cellars at Jasper Hill, to name a few.
The preliminary rounds were tough and the mongers had to throw down everything they had to make it into the top ten. It was awesome to watch such talented people duke it out over cheese all day long. By 7pm, the event was open to the public, the finalists were announced, and the party was just getting started. Thanks to all of the hard-working volunteers (myself and Haystack Mountain Sales and Marketing Director John Scaggs included), the spread was impressive. Tables flourished with cheese, pickles, charcuterie, popcorn, burgers, fondue– the list goes on. The wine flowed like beer, the beer flowed like wine, and water was scarce. As the crowd built to capacity, the top ten took the stage once again for the final challenges.
The final round of challenges included cutting a perfect quarter pound of cheese by eye and steel, wrapping and labeling said cheese in under a minute, creating compelling cheese selling signage, and verbally hustlin’ cheese to a panel of judges. While the finalists got down and dirty, the crowd enjoyed the abundance of vittles and libations, and of course, the fun of being packed into a warehouse full of turophiles.
Around 10pm, when the party had reached a fever pitch, the finalists came back to the stage to announce the winner. The 2013 Cheesemonger Invitational victor: Justin Trosclair, of St. James Cheese Company in New Orleans. Justin’s career in the cheese industry also includes a two-year stint in the cheese room at Haystack Mountain. Justin is no stranger to the intensity of the CMI competition levels, having come in second last year. His victory was hard-earned and well-deserved. Justin walked away with all of the glory, $1000 cash, and tons of swag. Yea Justin!
A huge thanks to Adam Moskowitz, Liz Thorpe, Michele Pulaski, and everyone else who worked tirelessly to organize this awesome event. The Colorado cheese crew had so much fun, and we appreciate the dedication to education and community that this event represents. Until next year! One love.
Click here to watch the mongers arranging their perfect pairings: Prep Madness
Pimento cheese is classic Southern fare that has recently started popping up on menus north of the Mason-Dixon line. Pimento cheese is essentially a spread made from shredded cheese, pimento peppers and mayo, but everyone’s grandma has her own secret recipe so variations are innumerable. Pimento cheese became iconic in the early 1900s as a spread for tea sandwiches, served on crustless white bread. It was regarded as a delicacy because of the high price of cheese and pimento peppers, which were imported from Spain. Pimento cheese maintained this exclusive status for several decades, but when farmers began to grow the peppers locally and cheese production exploded on an industrial scale in the 1920s, it became everyday fare. Today, pimento cheese is commonly used as a dip or spread, and as a delicious grilled cheese filling. We like to use our 100% goat cheese version as a topping on burgers, or as a creamy dip for crisp radishes and peapods fresh out of the garden.
Pimento Goat Cheese
12 oz Boulder chevre, softened
8 oz Chile Jack, shredded
3 oz jar pimentos, drained
3 green onions, thinly sliced
¼ C mayonnaise
In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients with a wooden spoon. Serve at room temperature. May be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Feeling adventurous? Try adding pickle relish, Worcestershire Sauce, onion powder, Tabasco, smoked chevre (instead of plain), jalapenos, or fresh herbs.
As three weeks of traveling in Bolivia and Paraguay on assignment for various journalistic outlets comes to a close (What, you thought I only wrote captions for weird goat pics?), I’ve finally compiled all my cheesy experiences to share with you.
After a decade of exploring South America (some of it on assignment for culture: the word on cheese), I’ve learned that cheese is ubiquitous throughout the continent. It’s a vital source of protein and other nutrients, and a provides a crucial income for people living in primarily rural areas.
Most of the cheese produced in South America is fresh, due to a lack of refrigeration, hot climate, or both. There are some semi-maduro and maduro (aged) cheeses produced in Argentina, which is the world’s largest producer of Parmesan (not to be confused with Parmigiano Reggiano) outside of Italy. Ecuador, Uruguay, and Chile, also produce some aged cheeses, due to the large numbers of Swiss, German, and Italian immigrants. But these are specialty products, and generally not consumed by the general populace for economic reasons. A limited number of these products are exported to the United States.
In South America, cheese is used as a garnish, or as an integral part of street and regional foods. Depending upon the country or region, cheeses may be made with cow’s or goat’s milk, or, less frequently, sheep’s milk. I’ve read that llama’s milk has also been consumed in the Andean Highlands and used for cheesemaking, but have been unable to substantiate these facts (regardless, it’s not something that’s done these days, so far as I know).
In Bolivia, one finds both cow’s and goat’s milk cheeses, although goats are raised only in specific regions, where vegetation is sparse.
As the poorest country in South America, cheese is definitely an important source of nutrients for many Bolivians. I talked to some market vendors who produced cheese from their few goats and cows, but, to be honest, I avoided purchasing any of their cheese (anyone who’s spent time in a Bolivian marketplace understands where I’m coming from). It’s not a diss on the country, but a reflection on the poverty and lack of adequate sanitation. Still, I remained listeriosis-free after having some “fresh” cheese on the final afternoon of a three-day trek in the Cordillera Real. It had been without refrigeration the entire time, and I would never have eaten it of my own accord, but when your guide prepares your lunch for you (especially in a country where so many go hungry), you eat it.
More palate-pleasing is the use of sweetened, crumbly cheese in empanadas, or gooey, melty cheeses in same. Grated cheese is frequently used atop fideos (pasta). It’s in Paraguay, however, that cheese is elevated to celebrity status, appearing in many of this tropical country’s national dishes. It’s a staple ingredient, alongside corn and corn flour, manioca, and yerba mate. And oh, how delicious Paraguayan food is.
The country has a strong indigenous influence from its native Guarani people, and is South America’s only bilingual country. The tropical climate makes it an agricultural haven, and it’s also a major cattle ranching state.
While lacking in natural resources, a relatively high number of Paraguay’s rural people (which is actually the minority of the population) own small plots of land, so keeping a small herd of dairy cattle (or, less frequently, goats) is common.
Paraguyan food reflects its indigenous heritage, as exemplified by chipa (corn flour-and-cheese hardtack); mbeju (manioc, cheese, and lard pancakes); empanadas that make neighboring Argentina’s appear anemic by comparison; and chipa guazu, a soufflé-like, cheesy cornbread. Paraguay’s strong German influence also means kuchen, quark-stuffed bread, excellent ice cream, dulce de leche, and other decadent, dairy-centric desserts. Fluid milk is also consumed, in mate cocido (a sweetened tea), and liquados (fruit shakes).
Thank god I’m lactose intolerant, because it’s prevented my ass from getting even fatter (lard being the other much celebrated ingredient, which is why the baked goods are so damned delicious).
A few days ago, I stayed at Granja El Roble, an agriturismo and working farm up north in the department of Concepcion. It’s owned by a German-Paraguayan couple, who make their own cheese from the milk of their cows. As a special treat for myself, the cheese geek, and a couple of German backpackers, they prepared raclette for us one night (yes, I know it’s Swiss, but when one is on the other side of the world, foods from neighboring countries can seem like home).
Making raclette in the jungle ranks as one of the most unusual experiences I’ve had. Yet it was delicious, and it reminded me of why food is so integral to travel.
Whether taken out of context, like the raclette, or prepared in their place of origin following tradition, these types of culinary experiences usually make for lasting memories. The fact that cheese is often the conduit is just the proverbial whipped cream on the tres leches cake.
[Photo credits: Laurel Miller]
It’s taken this long for my arteries and liver to return to a somewhat working state, and so I bring you this exclusive, behind-the-scenes look of a night in the life of a Cochon 555 judge. It’s a dirty, debaucherous job that involves copious amounts of pork, pork fat, pork innards, cheese, and bourbon. Those nouns nicely sum up Cochon’s March 10 event at the Four Seasons Vail.
But wait: What is Cochon 555? Simply put, it’s the creation of the Taste Network’s Brady Lowe. Lowe conceived the event as a way to promote awareness about sustainable farming practices and heritage livestock breeds. These are domestic breeds—many of which are threatened with extinction—that have been around before the advent of industrialized agriculture. Educating the food community and public about heritage livestock works to protect genetic diversity, and keep small farms in business. Cochon 555 carries out its message via a traveling circus of sorts, by showcasing five winemakers, five chefs, and five family farm-raised pigs in each destination.
Vail is one of 10 stops on the national tour. This year, competing Colorado chefs included reigning champ Alex Seidel (Fruition, Denver), Kelly Liken (Restaurant Kelly Liken, Vail), Hosea Rosenberg (Blackbelly Catering, Boulder), Jason Harrison (Flame, Four Seasons Vail), and Lon Symensma (ChoLon, Denver). They were vying for the title of Prince or Princess of Porc. Come June 16, the 10 city winners will throw down at the Grand Cochon, held at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen.
I was fortunate enough to be one of 20 judges at this unholy gathering of chefs, mixologists, distillers, winemakers, brewers, butchers, charcuterers, cheesemongers, and other assorted gluttons. I was pleased to see that joining me in the judging room was Will Frischkorn of Boulder’s Cured cheese shop; he and wife Coral also contributed a spectacular cheese board for the event (star of the show: Durango’s James Ranch Belford cheese…available at Cured, natch). In preparation for the task ahead, we all warmed up by pouring ourselves some bourbon (courtesy of Buffalo Trace and Four Roses). It was time to get serious.
Each chef is required to create a nose-to-tail menu from a 200-pound pig (which, for the judges, meant tasting upwards of 30 dishes in the space under half an hour). The dishes are then judged, based upon criteria such as presentation and utilization, and, of course, flavor. In case you’re thinking this is some boring-ass bacon-and-loin chop show, allow us to reassure you it is not.
Among the dishes on offer were a soulful Pork Belly Ramen with bacon dashi (I didn’t say there was a lack of bacon) and quail egg, and many, many variations on charcuterie in all its glorious permutations. There was a surprising—and delicious– Malay “bone tea (Lon Symensma),” which is essentially a complex, porky broth with floaty bits. There were crispy bits of spleen and fried ears and positively crack-like siu mai and pork satay with compressed pineapple (Alex Seidel). But best of all, there was dessert.
Believe it or not, a backfat brownie with malted bacon-habanero ice cream, bacon peanut brittle, and Leopold Bros. Michigan Tart Cherry Liqueur (“Sundae on Sunday; Hosea Rosenberg), and S’mores made from bacon graham cracker, lardo fudge, candied pork belly, pecans, and rind marshmallow (Jason Harrison) are not just excellent, but life-affirming. And while we can’t tell you the difference in taste between Liken’s Large Black and Harrison’s Mulefoot hogs, there’s just no comparison with regard to industrial and heritage pork. It’s…porky…as well as tender, often redolent of the supplemental feeds the animals eat (such as acorns, hazelnuts, or whey), and capped with a glorious, snowy mantle of fat. This is the other white meat, although it’s actually pink in color.
Harrison scored the crown thanks to his innovative dessert, as well as savory treats like Porchetta Belly with Carolina Truffle BBQ, Pork Jus, and Lardo Whipped Potatoes, and “The Nasty Bits (head croquette, pastrami tongue, deviled kidney, and brain terrine). To aid with digestion, Fernet Branca was pouring, but with so many regional distilleries to choose from (including Breckenridge Distllery and High West Distillery), the bourbon, rye, and whiskey overfloweth’d.
Then there were the beers and wines, the cheese board from Cured (Boulder), the cocktail punch competition, a mindblowing butchery demo of a whole hog by chef Bill Greenwood of Beano’s Cabin (Beaver Creek), a Heritage BBQ by chef Justin Smith of Bol (Vail), and late-night tartare bar (I find a porkapalooza always finishes nicely with some raw meat snackage). The after-party at Flame gave way to boozy socializing in the hotel bar. Great food, great time, great cause. Get your tickets now for Aspen: I’ll be the one holding the Lipitor.
[All photos courtesy of Galdones Photography]
There are dozens of different goat breeds from around the world, but here in the U.S., we tend to see just a handful (sad, but true). Goat breeds fall into three main categories, depending upon their intended use: meat, milk, or fiber. Some breeds are used for cross-purposes.
As for why breed diversity is slim pickings Stateside, one needs to understand that we’re one of the few cultures in the world that doesn’t routinely eat goat. Goat is the most widely consumed meat worldwide, and a staple throughout Latin America, Africa, Central Asia the Caribbean, Middle East, and parts of Europe.
While goat is gaining ground on North American high-end and ethnic menus, we’re just too squeamish (and anthropomorphic) for it to catch on as a mainstream protein source. It’s a shame, because goat is good eating (look to future posts on this topic).
Cultures that consume goat meat also prize their milk as a source of vital protein and other nutrients, often in the form of yogurt or cheese. In certain parts of the world, goats are even used as pack animals. For most of the planet, goat and its by-products provide subsistence, and have serious economic, as well as social, value.
We also don’t prize goats for their fiber, although we’re all familiar with cashmere (derived from the fine, silky hair of the Kashmir or Cashmere goat, or Pygora or Nigora goats), and mohair, which comes from the Angora goat (not to be confused with the Angora rabbit, which is also used for its wool).
What North Americans love goats for (besides their inherent cuteness and ability to clear brush) is milk, primarily for use in cheesemaking. The most popular dairy breeds here mostly aren’t American in origin, but were brought to this country as dairy animals. Over the generations, due to improvements in breeding stock, these breeds have become prized for their various attributes, which range from milk yield and butterfat content, to temperament and mothering abilities.
Below, a guide to the most common American goat breeds:
Nubian: Although they have a rep for being a bit bratty and exceedingly vocal, this Middle Eastern/North African breed with the beguiling long ears and Roman nose produces high-butterfat milk. The Nubian’s yield is lower than that of other breeds, which is why they’re sometimes cross-bred. In color, they often have intricate spotted, patchy, or stripey patterns.
Alpine: These prolific milkers hail from the French Alps, and are immensely popular because they’re sturdy, gregarious, and adaptable to any climate. They vary in color.
LaMancha: Despite its misleading name, this “earless” breed originated in Oregon in the 1930′s. LaMancha refers to the windswept plains region of central Spain, as the breed is believed to have likely descended from the native Murciana goat. LaMancha’s do have ears, of course; it’s the pinna, or external portion, that’s missing. They’re prized for their high yields of butterfat-rich milk, friendly nature, and hardiness.
Toggenburg: This very old breed from the Switzerland’s Toggenburg Valley is the Honda of goats: mid-size, sturdy, and moderate (with regard to milk yield and butterfat content).
Saanen: One of the most “goaty” looking caprines, Saanens are white-to-cream in color, with forward-pointing, slightly floppy ears and a calm temperament. They have the highest milk yield, but a low butterfat content.
Oberhasli: If ever there were a goat beauty pageant, these gregarious, russet-to-bay animals with their black dorsal stripes, legs, and muzzles (a pattern known as “chamoisee”) would kill it. Oberhasli’s are growing in popularity here, but they originated in the Swiss Alps, where they’re widely used because of their high yield and butterfat content.
Nigerian Dwarf: Despite their name, which sounds like something from a kinky Craigslist ad, these are miniature goats of West African origin. While some cheesemakers such as Oregon’s Pholia Farm use Nigerians for their production, the breed is really making its mark on the urban goat husbandry market. Most cities require backyard goats to be crossed with Nigerians or Pygmy goats, to keep them at a manageable size. Despite their small stature, Nigerian’s produce a high volume of milk, making them ideal for caprine-loving urbanites.
Ignore the rather unglamorous-sounding name of this recipe. What it lacks in euphoniousness is more than made up for by its flavor, a sublime blend of the savory, salty, pungent, creamy, and herbaceous.
It’s also ridiculously easy to prepare; keep some frozen ground pork in your freezer, and you’ll always have a top-notch appetizer on hand for drop-in guests.
Recipe by John Scaggs, Haystack Mountain
Serves up to 15 as a starter
1 pound high-quality ground pork, room temperature
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves, chopped fine, plus several sprigs for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 good-quality baguettes, cut on bias in 1/4-inch-thick slices
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients. Spread about one tablespoon of pork mixture on each piece of baguette, and place on foil- or parchement-lined baking sheet. Garnish crostini with another dusting of grated cheese, and bake until pork is firm but not hard, and crostini are crisp, about five minutes. Serve immediately, on a platter garnished with oregano sprigs.
Note: Leftover uncooked pork makes for a great addition to pasta sauce or meatballs.
You know how sometimes, when you’re traveling, you stumble across a restaurant, café, bar, or specialty food shop that just draws you in? Maybe you’re not even hungry or thirsty, and yet, next thing you know you’re inside, and suddenly, all is right with the world. That, friends, is Mission Cheese.
Owner Sarah Dvorak opened her cozy wine and cheese bar nearly two years ago, in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood. Her goal was to “celebrate American artisan cheese,” and clearly, she tapped into the San Franciscan mania for celebrating all things domestic, vintagey and hand-hewn. The place has been packed ever since.
A few days ago, while in SF on a working holiday, I met up with a friend at what’s become my out-of-town version of “Cheers.” Everybody may not know my name, but the staff and atmosphere are always convivial, and, perhaps because cheese geeks tend to flock together, it’s ridiculously easy to strike up a conversation. Just ask your neighbor what what they’re eating.
Everything about Mission Cheese is captivating, from the rustic, reclaimed woodwork, concrete walls, and glazed, olive-colored tiles beneath the bar, to the homey striped cotton napkins and milk bottles-turned water vessels. Behind the bar, glass-fronted, reach-in cheese coolers house a carefully selected, rotating curation of some of the finest cheeses in America (not to, ahem, brag, but Haystack Mountain is among the Chosen).
The menu is short and sweet, featuring three regional cheese plates for $12 a pop. Each comes with a generous selection of sliced baguette, dried fruit, and cornichons. There are also delectable hot sandwiches, seasonal salads, and a few cheese-centric classics such as Raclette.
In addition to the Raclette (which comes blanketed over cornichons and garlic-roasted potatoes), we sprang for the California plate and housemade pickled sunchokes (in a word: addictive). I chose the local plate because it featured a couple of cheeses that were new to me: Boont Corners, an aged, natural rind goat’s milk number from Pennyroyal Farm in Boonville (hints of hazelnut and cream, with a lovely, shard-like texture), and Bay Blue, the new release from Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company.
Bay Blue is one of the most gorgeous of its genre I’ve ever experienced, with notes of vanilla, cake batter, and blueberry, a slight gritty texture, and a sweet cream finish. It will convert even the most blue-averse.
We also sampled a wedge of Foster Lake, a delicate, oozy goat Camembert from Southern Oregon’s Fraga Farm. The Pacific Northwest has become the nation’s goat cheese epicenter, and hard-to-find exports from micro-dairies such Fraga are a rarity, even in nearby San Francisco.
That’s the thing about being in the cheese business. Even though many of us are producing the “same” product, there are endless variations related to terroir, species, breed, cheesemaker, etc. It’s always fun to visit other producers and retail and wholesale outlets to see what’s out there, and find inspiration and revelation. We heart places like Mission Cheese, and the cheesemakers who make it all possible.
People have very strong feelings about certain types of cheese. Just the other night, I was at a bar with some friends, one of whom was keeping a death grip on a half-wheel of Epoisses I’d given him. For the uninitiated, Epoisses–which hails from Burgundy–is one of the most sublime cheeses on earth, but it’s also one of the most odiferous. The fumes from the cheese wafted across our table, practically hovering in a fog around us. Earlier in the day, we’d paired it with some Calvados, and the results were nothing short of revelatory.
Stinky cheeses possess what are known as “washed rinds.” When you hear a cheese likened to dirty feet or sweaty socks, funky armpits, or described as punchy, yeasty, beefy, meaty, or barnyard, chances are good it’s a washed rind. This style of cheese also possesses a signature rind, which is sticky and orangish, reddish, pinkish, or brownish in color. Their interior can range from soupy (cue the aforementioned Epoisses) to semi-firm.
Washed rinds get their name from their “make” process. They’re washed with brine (or beer, wine, grappa, brandy, etc.), which facilitates the growth of Brevibacterium linens, or B. linens, a bacteria that gives these cheeses their signature stink. It also prevents unwanted molds or bacteria from entering the cheese, while enabling good organisms to ripen it and develop its distinctive flavor. B. linens itself is responsible for the color, texture, and smell that are the hallmarks of most washed rind cheeses.
B. linens can exist naturally in the air where the cheese ages, but usually it’s added to the brine. The cheeses are usually washed as they age, as well. Cool trivia: B.linens also naturally exists on the human body, which explains why these cheeses are often said to smell like feet. Despite their signature funk, bear in mind cheese of any type should never smell like ammonia, which is a sign it’s overripe. Washed rinds in particular are prone to this characteristic. As long as they’re not too far gone, you can remedy the situation by allowing them to air out for up to an hour before serving,
We love washed rinds, which is why we produce two versions of our own: Sunlight, and the award-winning Red Cloud. Both are punchy, semi-firm cheeses with flavors ranging from toasted almonds to freshly-cut grass (Sunlight is the less assertive of the two, although both are fairly mellow as washed rinds go). To quote well-known cheesemonger and author Gordon Edgar of San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery Cooperative: “Red Cloud is an incredibly underrated cheese. Many people have tried — and failed — to make a raw milk, washed rind, goat cheese that is consistently good, but Haystack has this one down. Red Cloud is firmer than you might imagine for this style, but is meaty, fruity, tangy, and complex. This is one of my favorite American cheeses.” Thanks, Gordon!
I can’t help noticing that men in particular seem to have a thing for washed rinds. Maybe it’s a holdover from their bachelor days, when they happily wallowed in their in their own filth, living amidst dirty clothes, sheets, and dishes. Perhaps it’s more primal than that: he who was the smelliest produced the most blatant pheromones in order to secure a mate.
Whatever the reason, dudes usually dig stinky cheese, in the same way they love beer. This is convenient, because washed rinds and beer are a love match like no other. This Valentine’s Day, give that someone special (even if that person is you, and even if you’re female) the gift of romance. Nothing says, “I love you” like a super funk cheese and a six-pack of craft brew.
Some pairing tips:
Belgian ales, Lambics, hard ciders, and IPA’s are particularly washed rind-friendly. The rule of thumb is to match intensities between beer and cheese, or strive for contrast (this also applies to wine, spirits, or N/A beverages). Pair beer with our Sunlight or Red Cloud, or world-class cheeses such as Munster (the real deal is a primo soft, stinky cheese from Alsace; Muenster is a semi-soft American invention that is fairly bland); Livarot; Pont l’Eveque, or Taleggio. For domestics, we love Rush Creek Reserve (Uplands Cheese Company), Red Hawk (Cowgirl Creamery), and Grayson (Meadow Creek Dairy).
Are you a Bart’s Trustafarian Burger (Haystack Mountain chevre, arugula, honey, bacon)” person, or a “There’s a Hippie in My Home (veggie sandwich)” type? If it’s the former, read on. The latter? No offense, but this one’s not for you.
It recently came to our attention that Oskar Blues’ Home Made Liquids and Solids location in Longmont makes a damn fine hamburger, using beef and pork from their own ranch. Last week, we went in for a fix, and ended up chatting briefly with chef de cuisine Louis Thomas. He told us a little more about the brewery’s innovative agricultural endeavors, as well as revealed the secrets behind the famous “Wusstah Re-mastered” burger.
Haystack Mountain: So, you have a ranch out in Hygiene called Hops and Heifers. What are the details?
Louis Thomas: We started the ranch in 2010, and the beef program in April of last year. Hops and Heifers is actually located right next to Haystack Mountain [the landmark). We have approximately 20 head of Angus on 50 acres, plus two acres of high-trellis hops. We also raise Berkshire pigs, and have additional cattle at our sister ranches in Wellington and Kersey. Geoffrey Hess is our ranch manager.
HM: And where does that beef end up?
LT: Primary in our burgers, because they're such a big part of our business. We also do chicken-fried steak, and the pork goes in our Berkshire burger, and smoked belly. We'll also reserve special cuts of beef and pork for our quarterly beer dinners.
HM: In our line of work, whey--which is the by-product of cheesemaking--is often fed to pigs as a high-protein dietary supplement. Do you use anything from the brewery to feed your livestock?
LT: We do. We give them the spent grain, which is low in sugar, and high in protein. It's economical and healthy.
HM: Speaking of health, tell us about your Wusstah burger.
LT: Well, I lived in Worcester, Massachusetts, before I moved here, and I grew up near there. It's ham that's been brine-cured in Mama's Little Yella Pils, then whiskey barrel-smoked. The burger is topped with mustard (also made with Mama's), and unmelted, aged cheddar.
HM: We will definitely see you soon!
[Photo credits: Oskar Blues Brewery]