Posts filed under Educational

Getting Some Elevation

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Alpine Cheeses (Mountain Cheeses) are made from the milk of animals that have grazed on the grasses and plants of high mountain pastures and give the resulting cheeses a distinct, rich flavor. There are centuries old traditions and recipes that follow specific rules and regulations in order to be called “Alpine Cheese”. Most people are familiar with the basic “Swiss Cheese”, but it’s actually much more detailed than that. Swiss is just a category of Alpine Cheese; it can actually be Swiss, French, or Italian.

It’s all about something called transhumance grazing. It’s a centuries old cycle that begins in the Spring when the animals begin grazing on all the lush, seasonal plants on the lower mountain pastures, and as it warms through summer, the shepherd and the flock follow the plants to higher elevations. Once autumn arrives with the threat of snow and chill, the flock eats their way back down the mountain. The cycle repeats itself year after year.

Why is the elevation important? The different plants at different elevations make every batch of cheese unique. Many of these lush pastures are in remote corners of the mountains, and the herders build cheese-making huts (Chalets) at various elevations so they could make cheese at any point in their process of grazing without carrying the milk all the way back down the mountain. Too much agitation and jostling can cause ill effects in the milk. So all the cheese-making ingredients and tools stay in the various huts along the mountain, ready for the herder to make their batches and leave them for aging. They would make larger wheels in big batches so they could bring the sturdy wheels back down the mountain to market.

What’s with the holes? Not all Alpine cheese has holes (eyes), but they are one of the most recognizable visual features. The holes are created early in the process by C02 producing bacteria that thrive in the low salt/low acid mix of Alpine Cheese. As the cheese hardens those holes produced by the C02 gas become permanent.

So, what ARE Alpine cheeses? There are quite a number of them:

  • Emmentaller
  • Gruyere
  • Challerhocker
  • Appenzeller
  • Comte
  • Beaufort
  • Montasio
  • Abondance
  • Sbrinz

And the list continues. Many of the above cheeses share similar characteristics such as:

  • Semi-hard texture
  • Natural rubbed (or brushed) rind
  • Larger wheel (usually weighing around 65-80lb on average)
  • Holes (eyes)
  • Very meltable & elastic quality (ideal for fondue)
  • Sweet, nutty flavor, usually low in salt

What should I pair it with? Alpine cheeses tend to pair well with younger, lighter wines such as Beaujolais, because of the subtle grassy/plant flavors in the cheese. If you pair it with too strong of a wine, you’ll lose some of those complex cheese flavors. From that starting point, explore! Everyone experiences taste differently, and experimenting with different combinations is the best way to find the pairing you love. 

 

 

Posted on September 26, 2017 and filed under Educational.

Manchego Madness

Though we have an unfailing love for many cheeses, one that holds a special place in our heart has got to be Manchego. Manchego is a name-protected sheeps’ milk cheese that is made in the La Mancha region of Spain (that is where the name protection comes in). The milk used to create this cheese actually comes from a very specific sheep—the Manchego Sheep.

In addition, this cheese has to be created in the La Mancha region of Spain, and has to meet a specific set of guidelines in order to legally be called “Manchego Cheese”. It is known for its distinctive basket weave pattern pressed onto the outer rind of the cheese. This modern day pattern is actually visually representative of a time when the cheese was originally made inside woven grass molds.

Manchego can be aged to several different flavor profiles:

Semi Curado – young Manchego, around 3 months aged which yields a fruity, grassy flavor with a slight tang

Curado – 6 month aged Manchego that has distinctive notes of caramel nuttiness with a slight hint of acidity

Viejo – Manchego that has been aged for a year begins to take on a crumbly texture, the color darkens and the flavor takes on a sweeter, stronger note

Manchego is a versatile cheese and is incredible on its own as a snacking cheese. Pair it with olives, tapenades, savory or fruit flavored jams, Marcona almonds, and fresh fruit.

It is best paired with wines that complement the light fruit/nut flavors of the cheese such as Tempranillo, Meritage, or even a simple Cabernet. If you’re not a fan of reds, crisp dry white such as an Albarino or a dry Chardonnay are sure to satisfy your palate.

For a new take on Manchego, try these delicious recipes that complement the flavors of this Spanish favorite!

Potato-Scallion Frittata with Manchego

Grilled Flatbreads with Caramelized Onions, Sausage, & Manchego

Crunchy Slaw with Asian Pear & Manchego

Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Manchego

Manchego Mac with Chorizo

Chicken Stuffed with Manchego, Mushrooms & Spinach (Pollo Relleno)

 

Happy Eatings! 

 

 

 

Posted on March 31, 2017 and filed under Recipes, Educational.

National Dairy Month

We all know there are the five basic food groups, but this month we are celebrating one that is near and dear to our hearts: dairy. More specifically, cheese! So I want to share the delicious possibilities of one cheese that you may be overlooking: Mascarpone Cheese. Mascarpone is a soft, creamy, traditional Italian cheese that can be the star of both sweet and savory dishes. You can use it to thicken up a soup or pasta, add richness to pudding or mousse, or even just mix it with honey and serve with fresh fruit. The possibilities abound. So today I wanted to share a range of tasty recipes that can get you started on your exploration of Mascarpone!

Savory Recipes

Mascarpone Pasta with Chicken, Bacon & Spinach

Fresh Tomato Soup with Mascarpone

Mascarpone Mac & Cheese

 

Sweet Recipes

Mascarpone Coffee Brownies

Espresso Mascarpone Chocolate Bourbon Cake

Homemade Mascarpone Cinnamon Pudding

 

Appetizer Recipes

Mushroom & Mascarpone Tarts

Smoked Salmon & Mascarpone Appetizers

Strawberry Basil Bruschetta

Happy Eatings!

 

Posted on June 21, 2016 and filed under Educational, Recipes.

March is for Noodles

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Pasta is always a wildly popular dish. From macaroni and cheese, to fresh handmade pasta, there is just something so comforting and satisfying about noodles! People have been eating them, in some form, for thousands of years and they continue to be a favorite in a variety of cuisines.

March is National Noodle Month and we thought we’d give you some noodle history and share some cool noodle dishes that are made better by cheese!

In 2005, National Geographic shared that a bowl of 4,000-year-old noodles were found in Northwestern China and is believed to be the earliest example of the popular food.  This coincides with the popular theory that noodles originated in the East, and were introduced to Italy by the Arabs. From there, the popularity of the noodle spread to Europe, and then the rest of the world.  (Check out the story!)

Now the varieties and styles of noodles alone are practically infinite! One thing we know is that cheese can be the perfect complement to a variety of noodles. Whether it’s a hard Italian cheese sprinkled over marinara or a rich cream cheese sauce for fettuccine, cheese elevates plain noodles and excites the palate. Here are some recipes that represent a tiny snapshot of how cheese and noodles can elevate your meals.

Beer Mac & Cheese Recipe

Creamy Penne with Blue Cheese Sauce Recipe

Gouda & Avocado Fettuccine Recipe

Rice Noodles with Sundried Tomatoes, Parmesan & Basil Recipe 

 

Happy Eatings!

 

 

 

Posted on March 10, 2016 and filed under Educational, Recipes.

Hosting a Wine Tasting Party

Hosting a wine tasting party sounds like a blast! Also, maybe it sounds a little overwhelming? No worries, here is a great guide to help you host a stress free and fun tasting party at home. A great idea to start with is to do a tasting before lunch or dinner. Then after the tasting can follow up with a meal that will complement the wines that were sampled, and your guests can opt to choose a wine they liked best to drink with their meal.

A few quick starting points: try to sample around 8 wines max. If you do more, you risk overwhelming your guests with flavors. You can serve the wines in flights of four, with a pause in between. Your guests can sample four wines, write their notes, discuss, and then move on to the second flight. That makes it easier to remember each wine and its characteristics. Set out 4 wine glasses for each guest, and pour from left to right. Give your guests about 2 ounces of wine for each sample (for reference, a standard small shot glass is about 1 ounce). That is enough for several sips. Be sure to start with lighter white wines, and finish with stronger red wines. Tasting the stronger red wines last will ensure you don’t overwhelm the taste buds before you taste the lighter white wines.

Types of Tasting

Regional: Different types of wine from the same area. Taste the differences/similarities of various wines subjected to the same elements (water, sunlight, weather patterns, etc.)

Varietal: Same grape type from different areas. Learn/taste how different areas contribute their own style/character to the same variety.

Category: One wine from each category. This type of tasting could be most open to your own preferences and interpretations.

Set the Scene

Cover the table with a white tablecloth (or butcher paper); the white color will help you easily examine and describe the colors of the wine. The friction-free surface also makes it easier to swirl the wine in your glass.

Serve your white wines slightly chilled, and your red wines around room temperature. Wines that are too cold or too warm will lose some of their more subtle flavors.

*Fun tip: Do a blind tasting. Wrap the bottles with foil or a wine bottle cover and label each wine by number. Blind tasting ensures swanky names or a well-designed label doesn’t accidentally affect your tasting experience.

Make sure you set out some neutral crackers or some crusty bread for your guests to munch on between tastings. They will act as palate cleansers and make sure the flavors of multiple wines won’t get muddled up on your taste buds.

Also be sure to set out little pads of paper so your guests can write down their tasting notes. You can find tasting note charts online that can be printed out and used for notes as well.

Tasting the Wine

Look: Examine the color of the white against a white background; is it a warm honey color? A rich burgundy? Is it translucent or more opaque?

Swirl: Swirl your wine around in your glass so it will aerate (air will be added to the wine to enhance the flavors & aromas)

Sniff: After swirling, inhale the scents of the wine, what do you smell? Your sense of smell contributes a great deal to what you taste in the wine itself.

Sip: Take a good sip. Hold the wine in your mouth; swish it around, allowing it to coat your taste buds. What does the wine feel and taste like? Is it thin and acidic? Rich and velvety? 

 

Savor: Draw in some air through your teeth and let it mix with the wine on your tongue. Since your mouth and nasal passages are connected, inhaling air through your mouth while the wine is on your tongue allows you to taste and smell more complex scents and flavors. Your tongue by itself only has five basic tastes.

What do you taste? Do you like it?

Aromas & Flavor: Enjoy tasting the wine, and jot down descriptive words or phrases you think describe it best.

Texture & Weight: Is the wine light? Crisp? Is it rough or smooth? Full-bodied?

 Overall “Balance”: A “good” wine should taste harmonious, with various flavors present without one flavor dominating over the rest.

Persistence on the Palate: A good indicator of wine quality is how long the wine flavor lingers on your tongue. If it disappears the moment you swallow it, it may lack concentration of flavor, or it was made with substandard grapes. A great wine lingers on your tongue after you’ve swallowed it, and you can savor the aftertaste.

Compare your Notes:

After you’ve tasted and written down your notes, talk with your fellow tasters. Share your likes and dislikes, and pick your favorites.  Taste your wines again as you discuss them, it’s possible you will discover a new flavor or a change as it sits out in the open air. Have everyone pick their favorites and then reveal the labels!

Now that you’ve finished your tasting, its time to eat! Pick a wine with our meal and pay attention to how the flavors change and interact with the food you’re eating.

 

Have fun & enjoy! 

 

Posted on January 12, 2016 and filed under Educational, Holidays.

Milk Matters!

There are countless varieties of cheese out there, and they’re all made in a multitude of ways. We all know that one of the main components of cheese is milk, but did you know the type of milk that is used influences the taste of your cheese a great deal? Knowing the flavors of milk that is in the cheese will help you determine some of the flavor characteristics of the cheese itself.

Cow’s Milk – One of the most commonly used types of milk; it creates a sweet, slightly acidic tang to the cheese.

Goat’s Milk – Most often used in chevre cheese, it creates a light, chalky, piquant flavor that has a mineral undertone.

Sheep’s (ewe) Milk - The milk with highest fat content naturally, it adds a full, sweet, buttery flavor to the cheese.

Yak’s Milk - Yak is another high-fat milk that lends a sweet flavor and a grassy, fragrant aroma.

Camel’s Milk – This milk is slightly salty and leaves a sharp aftertaste.

Water Buffalo’s Milk - This mild and creamy milk is used most often in mozzarella cheese and lends a rather rich taste to the overall flavor profile.

Reindeer’s Milk - Very high in protein and fat, this milk as a very rich, buttery flavor that enhances the cheese.

Mare’s Milk – This milk is similar to cow’s milk, and lends and mild sweetness to the flavor of the cheese.

Different varieties of milk can also be blended to create a more complex, unique flavor that can be enjoyed with simple pairings to complement the complexity of the cheese itself. If you’d like to add a twist to your pairing party, why not try a variety of cheeses made from a range of milk types? Now that you know just how varied cheese can be, happy explorations!

Posted on August 20, 2015 and filed under Educational.