A Wisconsin Cheese Board
Lately, I’ve had a bug about dairy terroir. Wine people love to caterwaul on the subject of terroir – the taste of a place or region. But the concept of terroir in dairy tends to catch people off guard.
Think about it, lovers: if grapes exude the flavor of their native soil, so must milk – after all, what do ruminants eat? Local feed, and in the world of artisan cheese, that often means “pasture.”
Over the weekend, I put together a special Wisconsin cheese board for some old friends who used to live in ‘Sconny but now reside in Tennessee. What a treat for all of us to sit around, nibbling sentiment.
Wisconsin Terroir Board
A new farmstead goat cheese from Cross Plains, Wisconsin – the size of an Oreo, gently covered in ash.
Raw cow’s milk flecked with fenugreek seeds — a Dutch specialty made by Marieke Penterman, first-generation Wisconsin dairy farmer.
A curious take-off on Stilton from Mineral Point, made with a washed rind.
Tasting Notes: Marieke’s Gouda was the biggest hit on this board, probably because most of our party had never tasted fenugreek seeds, let alone in cheese. Interestingly, fenugreek aids in digestion — no wonder the Dutch added this to their dense Goudas. Imagine eating a cheese with bits of granola in it — a strange but delicious effect. The roasty, nutty taste of the seeds do not detract from the milk, unlike other herbs (dill or garlic). Marieke Penterman is one of the few cheesemakers who makes flavored cheeses that are expertly balanced.
Hook’s Tilston Point was big’n salty, just as any Stilton-esque stalwart should be. Alone, it didn’t deliver the complexity of other Stiltons I’ve tasted, but it was ideal for pairing with Quince & Apple strawberry rosemary jam (herbaceous, big-berried, not-too-sweet) and Potter’s Crackers (try caramelized onion). In fact, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a combination this much.
Dreamfarm’s Rose Blossom came highly recommended, but our particular flower was dry, dense, and very salty — perhaps it was too delicate to withstand air travel in Madame’s cheese valise. I can imagine that, under the right conditions, this bloomy rind would be springy with a snow-packed center. On my next trip to Wisconsin, I hope to taste it again.
Recommended: I love the three non-dairy products on this board just as much as the cheeses I chose, which is rare. The spruce-scented goat salami from Underground Meats was exceptional. Quince and Apple strawberry rosemary jam will be new go-to match for blues this fall. Check out their online gift boxes, which include a selection of preserves, along with Potter’s Crackers, and Marieke Gouda. It’s a no-brainer gift pack.