From small family-operated dairies to the aging rooms of renowned cheesemakers, Wisconsin is shaping the way the world eats cheese.
There are 300 different varieties of cheese produced in the United States, and according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, “Wisconsin produces 600 varieties, types and styles of American, international-style and original cheeses that win more awards than any other state or country.”
“Wisconsin has approximately 12,000 dairy farms,” says the Milk Marketing Board, “with over 1.26 million cows producing an average of 20,630 pounds of milk per year.” Wisconsin cheese makers then use 90% of that milk to make incredible cheeses, producing 2.6 billion pounds of cheese a year! Talk about your mac & cheese. That’s over 25% of all domestic cheese made in the United States.
Cheese is a favorite among the Wisconsin Foodie team (Prairie Ridge Reserve, anyone?), and when unexpected guests arrive or we need an appetizer for a dinner party, we always turn to Wisconsin cheese.
Here are a few guidelines from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board for pairing cheese with the proper accompaniments:
Mild, rich and creamy, soft/fresh cheeses like Mascarpone, Ricotta and Feta are great for using as a spread or dip. Pairing them with sweet treats like honey and maple syrup is a delicious contrast for these salty cheeses. Fruity, floral wines pair well with their creaminess as does the earthy flavor of green tea.
Soft-ripened cheeses are snowy-white and delicious at room temperature or served warm out of the oven. These cheeses, including Brie and Camembert, have an earthy, creamy flavor that pairs well with fruits like melon and berries as well as sun-dried tomatoes. Sparkling wine, Pinot Noir and beer infused with fruit, such as a cherry lager, also complement this style of cheese.
Blue and Gorgonzola, two well-loved Blue-veined cheeses, are known for their crumbly texture and distinct flavor. Sweet and nutty accompaniments such as fruit, almonds, and spices such as ginger help balance the saltiness of these cheeses. Spicy gin, flavored beers and red wines are bold beverages that bring out Blue-Veined cheeses’ intense flavors.
Semi-soft cheeses are a smorgasbord of flavor – ranging from mild and buttery to earthy and pungent. Favorites such as Fontina, Havarti, Muenster and Monterey Jack pair well with roasted vegetables like mushrooms and asparagus as well as with sweets that include poached fruit and sugared hazelnuts. Try them with a fruity wine or good lager for the perfect sidekick.
Looking for more cheese pairing suggestions? Download the Wisconsin Cheese pairing guide (download now)
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Edible Milwaukee is a free quarterly publication, dedicated solely to the production, distribution, and consumption of food in Greater Milwaukee, Port Washington, Sheboygan, Racine, and Kenosha.
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