Cheese contributor Jeanette Hurt joins us throughout the year to talk about some of the best cheese the Dairy State has to offer. And she says we’re especially fortunate to live in a state that is abundant with award-winning cheeses perfectly suited for sharing with guests for your Christmas or New Year’s party.
From the American Cheese Society's Best of Show (the Oscars of cheese awards) to the World Dairy Expo: "It doesn't matter which competiton it is, if you tally everything up, Wisconsin cheeses have more awards than any other state or country."
Overall, Wisconsin has won 5,857 awards and counting, which is "crazy when you think about it!" says Hurt.
We don't expect you to try every single award-winning cheese from Wisconsin, but Hurt brought a few readily available suggestions as well as recommendations of what to pair with them:
Big Ed's Gouda from Saxon Creamery
A lovely, creamy, gold-colored cheese won the Best of Class at the 2018 World Championship Cheese contest. "A creamy, crystalline, clear milky flavor ... it almost smells a little grassy," notes Hurt.
Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese Company
Aged in a range of months, it's farmstead alpine style cheese that the dairy farmers take very good care of, according to Hurt.
"The cows are rotationally graze, and the milk only comes from when they're fully on the grass. This is probably the most award-winning cheese on the planet, or certainly the United States. It's the only one to ever win the American Cheese Society's Best of Show in three different competitions," she explains. "It's got a little bit of that Swiss or alpine flavor, but it's not overpowering. It's a lovely cheese."
The Pleasant Ridge Reserve also won the U.S. Cheese Championship, the World Cheese Championship, and the ACS Best of Show in the same year — the only cheese to do that according to Hurt.
Grand Cru from Roth Cheese
The 2016 World Cheese Championship winner, the Grand Cru was the first American cheese to win the global contest since 1988. The cheese also won the 1999 American Cheese Society's Best In Show award.
"It's a wonderful cheese," says Hurt. "It's an aromatic cheese, but it's also a great cheese to add to fondues or a croque monsieur. It's got a little bit of a deeper flavor and more of a bite and has more of a lingering effect on your pallet."
Black Pepper BellaVitano from Sartori Cheese
Hurt recommends biting into the peppery rind to enhance the cheese. "It's peppery, yet creamy, you've got the cheddar/Parmesan ... it would go well with coffees, darker stouts, [and red wine]."