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Product Feature: The Cheese Case

Cheese: The adult form of milk. Whether you’re a casual dabbler in cheese consumption or a hardcore tyrosemiophiliac, to many the olfactory thrill of cheese is irresistible. Though the 500-ish varieties recognized by the International Dairy Federation (and as many as 1,000 by other reckonings) share a common identity, the breadth and vastness of different flavors, textures, and uses of cheeses is challenging to conceptualize succinctly, but I’ll give it a shot. Cheese has personality.

We believe in the power of cheese. In earlier days of NWS, what we now call the Grab & Go Case was known as the Cheese Case. As long as we’ve been operating out of the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, we’ve been selling cheese alongside our charcuterie. And not just any cheese.

We believe in small farms and small batches—that terroir is as important as the style of cheese you’re purchasing. If we’re going to sell you cheese, it had better be a unique, curated selection of the finest regional cheeses available.

The real story of cheese at the Smokehaus isn’t just the individual varieties we carry—those (with a few exceptions) are always rotating—but the cheesemakers themselves.

Here’s what you can expect while browsing the cheese in our Grab & Go case.

Our favorite cheesemakers

Shepherd’s Way Farms Nerstrand, MN

Shepherd’s Way Farms’ mission statement elegantly expresses why they’re the kind of company we like to keep:

“At Shepherd’s Way Farms, we believe there is a way to live that combines hard work, creativity, respect for the land and animals, and a focus on family and friends. We believe the small family-based farm still has a place in our society. Everything we do, everything we make, is in pursuit of this goal.”

And the flavor of their farmstead sheep cheeses seals the deal.

From Shepherd’s Way, we regularly carry Hidden Falls and the 2017 1st place Farmstead Sheep Milk American Cheese Society winner, Friesago. From time to time, we get shipments of Shepherd’s Hope and Morcella. Learn more about those cheeses here.

Carr Valley Cheese La Valle, WI

Family-owned Carr Valley Cheese Company has been making high-quality Wisconsin cheeses the old fashioned way for over one-hundred years. Their cheeses are flavorful and accessible, and Sid Cook, their head cheesemaker, is one of the most decorated Master Cheesemakers in North America.

From Carr Valley, we regularly carry the mixed sheep & goat cheese Mobay, and their popular Apple Smoked Cheddar. Learn more about their cheese here.

Redhead CreameryBrooten, MN

Alise Sjostrom (the nominal redhead of the creamery) details the saga of her journey to exquisite cheesemaking in the About Us section of the company’s website (seriously, go read it), but the SparkNotes are as follows:

Making delicious, distinctive, small-batch handmade cheeses was Alise’s destiny.

Our typical Redhead Creamery array includes Lucky Linda Clothbound Cheddar, Little Lucy Brie, and North Fork Whiskey Washed Munster. Learn more about Redhead’s cheeses here.

Jasper Hill FarmGreensboro, VT

Okay, so Jasper Hill Farm doesn’t quite fit the bill of regionally-located cheesemakers, since Vermont is half a country away from us, but sometimes the exception proves the rule, and furthermore, to the New England region, they are a regional cheesemaker.

We’re losing focus of the task at hand.

Here’s a little blurb from their website that breaks down what they’re all about.

Jasper Hill is a working dairy farm with an on-site creamery in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. An underground aging facility maximizes the potential of cheeses made by the creamery, as well as those made by other local producers. Leftover whey from the cheesemaking process is fed to heritage breed pigs, roaming the woodlands beyond the cows’ pasture.

Jasper Hill cheeses are a recent addition to our deli offerings. While our Jasper Hill selections may vary, we’re especially fond of their Alpha Tolman and Willoughby washed-rind cheese. Learn more about Jasper Hill’s cheese here.

Alemar Cheese CompanyMankato, MN

Alemar Cheese Company are small batch makers of French-inspired soft-ripened and fresh cheeses.

Of Minnesotan-by-way-of-California cheesemaker Keith Adams’s meteoric rise to success, their website has to offer this anecdote:

Two years into production, he entered Bent River in the nation’s largest cheese competition, the American Cheese Society competition, and came in third place for cow’s milk Camembert-style cheese, prompting food critic Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl to write: “It’s like starting to throw javelins one day, and coming home with an Olympic bronze two years later; it’s unheard of.”

Alemar easily occupies the largest piece of real estate in our Grab & Go case. Staples include their Bent River Camembert and Blue Earth Brie. Regular visitors to the case include the Surly Bender-washed rind Good Thunder, and grape leave-wrapped Sakatah. Alemar’s newcomer St. james Tomme is also looking to be a regular fixture in our deli. Learn more about Alemar’s cheese here.

Caves of FaribaultFaribault, MN

Cave-aged cheese! There’s something a little spooky, a little mysterious, and pretty awesome about the thought. Making use of the MN corn belt region’s natural sandstone gives this cheese a distinctive character.

World champion and master cheesemaker Jeff Wideman, of Maple Leaf Cheese in Monroe, WI sends the amazing Fini cheddar to the caves for affinage (a more involved continuation of the aging process) after two years of conventional aging. The caves accentuate the floral notes in the cheddar, and add earthy tones to the finished product.

Our standard CoF offerings are St. Pete’s Select bleu cheese and Fini sharp cheddar. Learn more about Caves of Faribault’s cheese offerings here.

A few others you can always expect

White cheddar

Whether it’s Milton Creamery’s Prairie Breeze or Sartori Montamoré, we love a good sharp white cheddar, especially those with nice citrusy undertones.

Goat cheese

Montechevre Goat Cheese Medallions, or as we like to call them, Goat2Go are a quick, cheap and easy dose of goat cheese goodness, which is why we always keep a few boxes on-hand. Various other goat cheese offerings come and go with the seasons, and half of the aforementioned Mobay (a customer favorite) is goat cheese.

Aged (yellow) cheddar

In addition to Caves of Faribault’s Fini, we really like Widmer’s 2-Year Cheddar. If we’re not carrying some variety of aged yellow cheddar, something has gone wrong. Ensue panicking.

Widmer’s Brick cheddar spread

Spreadable cheddar cheese—sounds way less classy than the experience entails. This sharp and smoky blend of Brick cheese and white cheddar will please refined palates, but is accessible enough to make everyone in the family happy. The best way to eat it is on a nice buttery cracker, but don’t limit yourself. This stuff is versatile.

Hausmade cheese

More accurately hausmade cheese spreads, but it’s too late for splitting hairs. We’re already here.

NWS Boursin

Cream cheese, butter, lemon zest, and fresh handpicked herbs. This smooth and creamy cheese spread might be tempting to eat by the spoonful, though we recommend it alongside crackers and salmon (or juicy, medium-rare steak medallions). This hausmade cheese is a staple of our catering offerings and the sample platters we put out during business hours.

NWS Pimento

This rich and mildly-spicy cheddar cheese, peppers, and mayonnaise spread makes a mean ham & cheese sandwich, or an excellent dip. Set this out at your family gathering or game day celebration and watch it quickly disappear.

Scallion Cream Cheese

We don’t keep this one in the Grab & Go case, but we can whip up a 4 oz, 8 oz, or 16 oz container of it for you in a jiffy! This cream cheese is the foundation of many of our most popular sandwiches, including the Cajun Finn, Northern Bagel, Great Summer Caper, and the vegetarian Fuzzy Bunny. Smooth and mouthwateringly savory.

Are you still with us? This has been merely a cursory look at our cheese options, with just a little bit of our cheese-buying philosophy, but we hope it has piqued your interest.

Where you get your cheese is important. Happy, well-treated animals yield better milk, and thoughtful, passionately-made cheeses beat out mass-produced cheese product any day.

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