Saturday, December 18, 2010

Limerick Winners

Last week, I kicked off a Cheese Limerick contest, with the invitation that the only thing more fun than eating cheese is writing about it. Well, 33 of you agreed and submitted entries. After much deliberation over sake, chocolate and cheese with friends at my dining room table Thursday night, I am finally sober enough to announce the winner of the Cheese Underground Cheese Limerick contest.

Drum roll, please.

The winner of an autographed copy (by all 12 cheesemakers) of the 2011 Portrait of a Wisconsin Artisan Cheesemaker is Melissa Routzahn of Crystal Lake, Illinois, who penned this little treasure:

In my dreams the whole world's made of cheese.
Tommes and Chevres grow like fruit on the trees.
The moon's made of bleu,
Rivers flow with fondue,
And the Limburger wafts in the breeze.

Ahh ... it makes me feel happy and warm inside. Good job, Melissa, your autographed calendar is on its way in the mail!

With so many amazing entries, it was hard to pick just one winner. That's why the official sake-drinking and cheese-eating committee also named six runners-up, all of whom will get a regular 2011 Portrait of a Cheesemaker Calendar (still in the plastic - alas, no autographs, but super cool nonetheless). Here are the runners-up:

Bob Wills, Cheesemaker at Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain, Wis. (cheesemakers are multi-talented) wrote this one:

A young man who pulled mozzarella
was really a muscular fella.
With his strong hand and wrist
no girls could resist
his backrubs, and things they won't tell ya.

Spaulding Gray, the cat from Vancouver, Washington, who writes Cheesemonger's Weblog, won a runner-up prize with this entry:

I have a cheese in my fridge;
It’s named Upland’s Pleasant Ridge.
It’s won best of show,
Thrice but not in a row.
To savor, daily I eat but a smidge.

Amy Wallace of Madison, Wisconsin penned a whole page of limericks, but this one was the judges' favorite:

My favorite cheese comes from Sartori,
One bite and you’ll taste all the glory…
It’s called Bellavitano
It’s truly divine, Oh!
Now I’m hooked, that’s the end of the story!

Kent Roper from Sacramento, California penned this one:

I met a man who wouldn't eat Cheddar
At least not in real stormy weather
He'd cry and he'd weep
He wanted cheese from a sheep
He said that Manchego was better

Deb Dunstan from an undisclosed location (Deb, send me your mailing address) scored brownie points with this "Ode to Chz Geek":

We Hooked a sweet, constantine gal,
From Saxony green fields that swell,
Of valleys driven by Carr,
River bend sheep seen afar,
As she promotes our state's cheese so well.

And last, but certainly not least was Doug Harris, from Stockton-on-Tees in England with this one (watch for a package from the U.S. coming your way, Doug):

Take a cheese, then neglect, let it stew.
Watch it rot and unpleasantly hue.
Just ignore your material
While it gets all bacterial.
Then you'll end with success from the blue.

Thanks to everyone for your creativity and all the entries! You made a cold Wisconsin night much warmer and happier.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Big Plans for Babcock Hall

A Wisconsin institution that's helped create some of the most famous, best-loved and award-winning artisan and specialty cheeses in the nation may be in line for an extreme makeover.

In a press release issued today, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, one of the state's longest-lived industry associations, pledged a gift of $500,000 - yes, that's half a million dollars - to the University of Wisconsin to "ignite dairy industry and public interest in renovating and expanding venerable Babcock Hall."

Babcock Hall, built in 1950, is home to the UW Food Science Department and the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. On campus, it may be best known for its famous Babcock Hall Ice Cream (made in the campus dairy plant), but off campus, around the state and nation, Babcock Hall is renowned as a vital teaching and research hub. It boasts a collection of world-class researchers whose work, training, trouble-shooting and product development skills have helped revitalize Wisconsin's dairy industry.

In giving the $500,000 gift, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association says it's striving to bring attention to the need for reconstruction and expansion of the Babcock Hall dairy plant, now more than 60 years old. Such construction would include an all new dairy plant, research and education space.

John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, says the time is now to reinvest in the university's research center, as the state's dairy farms and cheesemakers have reinvested more than $1 billion in their operations since 2005.

“During a difficult national recession, Wisconsin dairy farms have added cows and produced more milk and cheese manufacturers have added new full-time jobs and built new facilities,” Umhoefer said. “Our Association’s commitment to a modern teaching, research and dairy production plant at Babcock Hall underscores our long-term optimism toward dairy in Wisconsin.”

To accept the gift, the UW Foundation has established a CDR/Dairy Plant Building Fund, which will be open to any and all who wish to contribute to the reconstruction of Babcock Hall's dairy production facility.

The reconstruction of Babcock Hall would be the icing on the cake to Wisconsin’s dairy industry - which generates $26 billion in economic activity in the state, supporting more than 100,000 jobs. Since 2005, the state's dairy farmers have grown milk production 10 percent. Likewise, cheese production has risen to a record 2.62 billion pounds and Wisconsin retains its position as the nation’s No. 1 cheese-producing state.

Today, nearly half of all specialty cheese available in the nation is produced in Wisconsin. Groups including the Dairy Business Innovation Center, the Center for Dairy Research, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and others have contributed to that growth by supporting the state's dairy processors and producers with technical and financial assistance in modernizing their facilities. Now it's time to modernize the nation's most venerable research center: Babcock Hall. Thanks to the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, we're off to a grand start.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dairy Artisan Research Program

Many of you who tolerate my ramblings on this blog were also among the 1,000 visitors to the Second Annual Wisconsin Original Cheese Festival, held Nov. 5 - 7, in Madison, Wis. You witnessed first hand the state's growing number of cheesemakers who debuted at least 10 new artisan cheeses, presented information during a half dozen tasting seminars, and led several tours of their facilities.

But did you know that many of these cheesemakers are alumni of the Dairy Artisan Research Program, a joint effort of the Babcock Institute, the Department of Food Science at UW-Madison, the Dairy Business Innovation Center, and the state Department of Agriculture?

The Dairy Artisan Research Program provides airfare for individuals who wish to travel abroad to conduct research on dairy production methods in other countries. In return, program participants present what they have learned to others, and write a paper about their findings, which is published and distributed to help the Wisconsin dairy industry.

Alumni cheesemakers who participated in the festival include:

George & Debbie Crave: The Craves traveled to Switzerland in 2004 to study affinage, and have since been recognized as one of Wisconsin's leading farmstead dairies. They sampled their many cheeses at the festival's Meet the Cheesemaker Gala.

Andy Hatch: Andy traveled to Europe in 2009 to study new cheesemaking methods. At the festival's Meet the Cheesemaker Gala, he debuted his new, much-anticipated Rush Creek Reserve, modeled on France's Vacherin Mont d'Or.

Larry & Clara Hedrich: In 2009, the Hedrichs traveled to the Netherlands and Germany to study goat cheesemaking. Their daughter, Katie Hedrich, sampled the family's Evalon cheese at the festival, and also participated in the "Next Generation Cheesemakers" seminar.

Willi Lehner: Willi traveled to the British Isles to study affinage in 2005, and has since developed an award-winning line of bandaged, English-style Cheddar.

Jon Metzig: Jon traveled to Ireland, England and Switzerland in 2009. He debuted his new St. Jeanne cheese at the festival, a washed-rind beauty named for his grandmother.

Diana Murphy: Diana traveled to Vermont to attend a Mediterranean Cheesemaking session in 2007. She was a panelist at the festival's "The Rise of the Woman Farmstead Cheesemaker in Wisconsin."

Anne Topham: Anne has traveled to Italy and France through the Dairy Artisan Research Program. She sampled her new Chevre Provencal at the festival's Meet the Cheesemaker Gala.

Bob Wills: Bob traveled to Honduras in 2009 to help emerging cheesemakers hone their craft. Bob debuted his new Water Buffalo Mozzarella at the festival's Meet the Cheesemaker Gala.

Many thanks to the Babcock Institute, DBIC, DATCP and UW-Madison for making travel opportunities possible for Wisconsin cheesemakers. I'm looking forward to the innovation that continues to occur through the Dairy Artisan Research Program.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Cheese Limericks

Writing about cheese is fun and I think more of you should try it.

That's why I'm sponsoring a Cheese Limerick Contest. The winner gets an autographed copy (by all 12 cheesemakers) of the 2011 Portrait of a Wisconsin Artisan Cheesemaker. If that's not enough to inspire you, then this cheese limerick by Christine Perfetti should:

There once was a woman from Oregon,
who really liked eating her parmesan.
She said with much glee,
"I'm in love with my cheese."
And her friends thought,"oh what a moron."

Here are the rules:

1. Write a cheese limerick.
2. Email it to me with your mailing address before 5 p.m. on Dec. 16.
3. A bunch of my friends will sit around my dining room table, eating cheese, drinking the leftover sake in my fridge from my cheese festival, and pick the winner.
4. I will then mail the winner the super cool autographed calendar, but probably wait until the next morning when I'm sober so I don't send it to Siberia.

See, wasn't that easy?

Oh yeah, the winning entry will also be published on this blog. So send me some good cheese limericks, people!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Cheeses of the Season

Anyone can give cheese for Christmas. But only super cool people deserve cheese to match the colors of the season. Here are my suggestions for matching your artisan cheese plate to the shades of the upcoming holidays.

Red Errigal, Hook's Cheese, Mineral Point, Wis.
This mixed milk (sheep and cow) creamy Cheddar-style cheese is crafted by the dynamic husband and wife cheesemaking duo of Tony & Julie Hook. Made with fresh milk from the same local, small, family farms from southwest Wisconsin that have been supplying the Hooks for 30 years, this reddish/orange cheese is a great addition to the holiday cheese plate. Call the Hooks to purchase via mail-order.

Green Crest DolceGreen Crest, Seymour Dairy, Seymour, Wis.
Cheesemaker Mike Brennenstuhl crafts this amazing Italian style Dolce Gorgonzola, which features a green mold imported directly from Italy. It boasts a creamy mouth feel and crisp flavor. Purchase online here.

Bohemian Blue, Hidden Springs Creamery, Westby, Wis.
This sheep's milk blue cheese is an ode to the Bohemian grandparents of cheesemaker Brenda Jensen. She even penned the description on the label: "For people with artistic or literary interests who disregard conventional standards of behavior." Made in partnership with the Hooks at their plant in Mineral Point. For sale online at Hidden Springs Creamery.

Snow White Goat Cheddar, Carr Valley Cheese, LaValley, Wis.
This creamy white Goat Cheddar is made in large, 38-pound wheels and cave aged for six months. In 2008, it was named the best cheese in the country, taking Best in Show at the American Cheese Society. For sale online at Carr Valley Cheese.