Holidays like Thanksgiving are an opportunity to bring out special recipes and foods unique to the season. Although cheese is celebrated year-round here in Wisconsin, there are some seasonal cheeses that make this time of year special.
Lake Effect cheese and spirit contributor Jeanette Hurt shares some of her favorite cheeses and a drink to include on your Thanksgiving table:
This is a washed rind cheese, which gives it a similar look to brie. The middle of this cheese is incredibly soft and Hurt recommends digging straight into with a spoon.
“It’s not like brie in that it’s a bloomy rid, it’s a washed which means they put a bacterial sort of spread on the outside to age it and give it flavoring,” she explains.
Rush Creek is made by Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, Wis. and can only be found this time of year. The milk used for this cheese is from cows that are now off-pasture, creating a rich and creamy profile. Once it sells out, it is not available until next year.
This cheese is similarly difficult to get but, Hurt says, it is worth the wait. Also made by Uplands Cheese, this aged, alpine-style cheese is the most award-winning cheese in history, having won the American Cheese Society’s Best in Show in 2001, 2003 and 2010.
“Pleasant Ridge is made when their cows are completely on pasture, that means they’re not on any silage,” Hurt notes.
This meticulous process of cultivating grass-fed, raw milk is what gives Pleasant Ridge Reserve its rich and salty flavor.
These cheddars can be aged up to 15 years by Hook’s Cheese in Mineral Point, Wis. That age is what, Hurt says, makes them somewhat difficult to eat but definitely worth the price.
“These are usually very expensive cheddars and they really crumble a lot,” she says.
Hurt says this cheese is not only fun to say but fun to serve. Wisconsin produces the most blue cheese in the country and she says this mixed blue should be on your radar for any holiday salad.
“It is a sheep, goat and cow mixed milk cheese, also made by Hook’s and it is just phenomenal, and it is fun,” she says.
Along with cheeses, this holiday season many Wisconsites will be enjoying classic drinks like the Tom and Jerry. Once considered to be a lost drink in the United States, Wisconsin has carried on the tradition of drinking the foamy rum and brandy drink in the colder months.
While batter for the drink can be purchased in most grocery stores in the state, Hurt says there is no substitute for making it yourself.
“If you’re gonna go buy batter, go someplace where they actually make it fresh in-house, that would be my second choice after homemade,” she says.
Hurt's favorite recipe for Tomy and Jerrys is from the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin — and it includes marcarpone cheese.
"It just adds an incredible richness," she says.
1 cup Wisconsin Mascarpone cheese
3 cups powdered sugar
6 eggs, separated (preferably pasteurized or from a local source you trust)
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground allspice
¼ tsp. sea salt
1½ tsp. cream of tartar (use only if using pasteurized eggs)
To make batter, mix Mascarpone and powdered sugar in a large bowl until combined. Set aside. In a medium-sized mixer bowl, beat egg yolks until slightly thickened and pale yellow, about four minutes. Add vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice, stir to incorporate. Stir yolk mixture into Mascarpone mixture until well blended. Set aside.
In a large glass or metal bowl, beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar until the egg whites form sharp peaks that hold their shape when lifted with the beater or whisk. Gently fold egg whites into Mascarpone mixture, until well combined. Batter can be used immediately or stored in a tightly sealed container and frozen for up to two weeks.
1½ quarts (6 cups) milk
12 oz. rum
12 oz. brandy
GARNISH: freshly grated nutmeg
To serve, heat milk in a heavy pot over medium-low heat until hot but not scalded, about five to ten minutes. To make each cocktail, place 1 heaping tablespoon of batter in a mug, pour 4 oz. of hot milk, 1 oz. rum, and 1 oz. brandy. Grate fresh nutmeg on top for garnish. Makes 12 servings.
Jeanette Hurt will be doing an event on Dec. 9 with Great Lakes Distillery bar manager Brendan Clearly for a class and talk about the cocktails that made Wisconsin.