Meet the Maker: A Visit from Andy Hatch of Uplands Cheese

We could begin every blog with the same sentence, but here it feels especially appropriate: My job is awesome.  Really, awesome.   Not only am I able – nay, encouraged – to taste the best cheeses from across the US and the world on a daily basis, I get to share the results of that grueling work with people every day in our classroom.  And sometimes, when I’m really lucky, I get to hang out in a room with the best cheesemaker in the United States, and hear from the maker’s mouth how those cheeses get so darn good.

Last week, we were treated to a visit from Andy Hatch, Cheesemaker and Manager of Uplands Cheese.  Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands is the most decorated and celebrated American cheese, having won the American Cheese Society’s Best in Show award more times than any other cheese in the history of the competition.  And for good reason- Pleasant Ridge is a perfect cheese, redolent of toasted hazelnuts and fresh mango, transitioning from bright and fruity to deep and brothy through the season with grace.  After ten years of making and mastering Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Uplands added a second cheese, a custardy bacon bomb wrapped in spruce bark known as Rush Creek Reserve, a cheese often spoken of by our mongers with a series of sighs and googly eyed gazes.

As our staff sat with rapt attention, Andy lead us through the history of Uplands from the Ice Age glaciers that left the Driftless Region of Wisconsin with a distinctive rolling landscape perfect for smaller scale farming to Uplands’ founding in 2000 by two adjacent farming families, Mike and Carol Gingrich and Dan and Jeanne Patenaude.  We had lots of questions for Andy, from the beneficial microflora in the milk, cheese, and caves to the diet of the cows, but more than anything, our mongers wanted to know how, just exactly how, the cheese is always so. damn. good.  Andy fielded our rapid questions with aplomb, and explained what we had suspected about the cheese’s quality: great fields with great cows lead to great milk, great milk and great cheesemaking lead to great cheeses, and when great cheeses are given great care in the cave, they only get better.  It’s a simple equation, but when all of the variables are controlled for greatness, you can’t go wrong.

After our training, staff members lingered with questions: questions about the future of cheesemaking in Wisconsin, about the breeds of cows used at Uplands (crossbreeds of a variety of cows for better milk, naturally), and several expressions of undying love for two of our favorite cheeses.  We’re lucky folk at Murray’s, surrounded by the world’s best cheeses day in and day out, and we’re even luckier when we come face to face with the people who make those cheeses.

 

Sascha Anderson is the Director of Education at Murray’s Cheese and has never met a cheese fact she didn’t want to know.

How to Enjoy Winnimere to the Max

Beth Griffenhagen works in Marketing and Events at Murray’s Cheese. She doesn’t believe in rules for eating cheese, but does believe in the pursuit of max deliciousness.

First of all, if you are in possession of a wheel of Jasper Hill Farms Winnimere, be very excited. I’m not saying your life is about to change, but your life is about to change. Just look at that beautiful cheese!

What’s the Deal with this Cheese?

Winnimere is made of raw cow’s milk, so you get subtly nuanced flavors that sometimes get lost when milk is pasteurized.  Jasper Hill takes the notion of terroir (roughly translates “taste of the land”) a step further by washing each wheel in a local beer, which gives the cheese a creamy texture and a lightly funky flavor. Are you transported to the rustic landscape of rural Vermont yet? No? What if I told you that Winnimere is wrapped in locally harvested Spruce bark? It’s true, they wrap a strip of fragrant, woodsy bark around every wheel to impart that special, earthy flavor. The result is like nothing you’ve ever tasted. (Ok, it’s a little like Forsterkase if you’ve ever had that, but way better!)

Serving Tips: Sharing is Caring

Most wheels of Winnimere weigh a little over a pound, and this is the type of cheese that is really best to eat in one sitting, two at most. So either you commit to eating a pound of cheese, or you invite 4 to 6 friends over and tell them to bring the wine. The choice is yours! No judgment here!

All cheese should be served at room temperature, but this is especially true for a cheese like Winnimere. If it’s too cold it won’t be as gooey and scoopable, and the flavors will be muted. When you’re ready to serve it, slice off a portion of the top rind to make for easy scooping of the luscious, creamy inside!

Take it to the Next Level

They say “the cheese stands alone,” but the truth is, there are a few ways to make this cheese even more delicious.

Drinks: Off-dry Riesling and fruity reds (mountain-y stuff from Austria works) make great pairings. You can also enjoy with a beer – after all, it’s washed in beer from Hill Farmstead Brewery!

Spread on: Thinly sliced baguette or a hearty cracker is the way to go.

Eat with: I love serving Winnimere with Speck to play up the smoky flavors in the cheese.  (Speck is like bacon you don’t have to cook. Try it immediately.) You can also expand on the savory theme with olives, nuts, and pâté, or any other savory thing your heart desires.

BON APPETIT, you crazy cheese lovers!

Melts Recipes

MURRAY’S BREAKFAST MELT 

with Fontina Fontal and Nueske’s Bacon from the Murray’s Melts Pack

Click here to see Liz Thorpe making our Breakfast Melt on Martha Stewart

Cook bacon in your preferred method – we cook it in the oven for maximum crispness and minimal greasiness.

Place English muffin split-side down on your skillet or griddle — cook until toasted. Turn and top each half with a slice of cheese. Reduce heat, cover, and cook until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

Melt butter in your skillet or griddle; crack egg onto melted butter and cook until whites are set; flip and top egg with a slice of cheese.  Cook until it’s done for you (runny or set).

Transfer the fried egg to your muffin, top with bacon and the other half of the muffin.  Devour and enjoy!

BCT – BACON, CHEESE & TOMATO

with Aggiano, Fontina and Bacon from the Murray’s Melts Pack

STRAIGHT OUTTA COMTE

with Comte from the Murray’s Melts Pack

MONGER FAVORITES… no instructions required!

  • Fontina Fontal & Caramelized Onions (Michele)
  • Gruyere with Fennel & Curry Mayo (Andrew)
  • Pepperjack on white bread (Nick)
  • Cheddar, apple and bacon – use yellow cheddar and mix in some Cabot Clothbound (Sascha)
  • Egg, bacon, tomato, avocado and any Alpine melter like Gruyere (Josie)
  • Bacon, tomato and a mix of Gruyere and Fontina Fontal (Liz) + a cup of Murray’s tomato soup (Mike)
  • Brie, Jambon Royal, Cornichons, and Dijon (aka the Frenchie at Murray’s)
  • Pepperjack, Tasso Ham & caramelized onions (Jason)

Our Grilled Cheese Secrets (sshhh, don’t tell anyone)

From Steve Millard, Master Melter / Bleecker Store Director

Bread: Use either really good thick cut bread, like sourdough Pullman cut ½” thick.  Or go the other end with really cheap sandwich bread.

Butter: Butter is paramount to a superb grilled cheese sandwich.  I recommend Vermont Butter and Cheese sea salt butter.  Let the butter sit at room temperature for at least an hour to soften.  Spread an even coat of butter on the bread — not too much to make it greasy, and not too little to not even matter.

Cheese: Any cheese will melt, but not every cheese will make a delicious grilled cheese.  Look for alpine-style, melting, cheddar styles – here are a few great ones.  Generally speaking, blue cheeses do not make for good grilled cheese sandwiches.  Hard, Grana-style cheeses will work as an added flavor, but should not be the main cheese.  If you’re in  a hurry, soft cheeses like Brie and any cheese that you first shred will take less time to melt.

Think in terms of flavor combinations and what sort of grilled cheese sandwich you want to make.  You can add meats, vegetables, caramelized onions, roasted peppers, jams, relish, pickles, etc. to any grilled cheese.

Method: Cook on a flat surface. A panini press works the best at about 400 degrees.  A flat surface griddle will also work – just use some weight (such as another pan) to press the sandwich on the griddle.  Whether you’re using a press or a griddle, flip the sandwich half way to ensure even toasting.  The bread should be adequately toasty and not greasy.  Don’t rush the sandwich: 4-5 minutes will make for a sublime grilled cheese that will have wonderfully melted cheese and perfectly toasty bread.

Add-ons: Chips, tomato soup and a crisp, bubbly beverage.  I love GuS Dry Soda — soda helps cleanse the pallet and make each bite the more enjoyable.   Of course, beer is a perfect combination, I like a Pale Ale with a nice hoppy kick.

Staff Picks: Valentine’s Day Edition

Love is in the air! At Murray’s we get a lot of requests for cheese that will help make the night extra special, and we always know just what to recommend. Here are our staff picks for the sexiest cheese around – Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Robin:  A ripe Époisses is beautiful, and its silky texture just makes you go “Mmmm….”

James:  Monte Enebro is luscious, thick, and velvety in texture. Plus it has the best rind in the world. Peppery and saucy, like any good woman should be.

Carlos:  Podda Classico is sharp and has great curves.

Cielo:  Humboldt Fog. It’s made by ladies and it’s SO GOOD.

Elizabeth:  Brebisrousse d’Argental is bursting out of its bold red rind. Oozy, mild and unexpected.

Andrew:  Winnimere! Because it’s creamy, oozy, and complex.

Deena:  Zimbro is nice and plump, plus it’s wrapped in cloth so you get to undress it.

Beth:  Burrata is the oyster in cheese form, except it tastes like gorgeous mild milky goodness instead of the sea.