We discovered a new cheese (new to us) at our favorite country cheese shop, Bolen Vale Cheese in Connorsville, Wisconsin. It's an aged raw-milk farmstead gouda, "Marieke," from Holland's Family Cheese in Thorp, WI. According to the good old Google Maps, that's exactly 69.7 miles from our Bide-A-Wee, out Wisconsin 29 east of Chippewa Falls.
I'm not sure how much age is on this cheese; it's not so old that it's getting those crystalized salt encrustations, but it has started to develop lovely caramel notes. It's also nicely sharp and rich, definitely a cheese-stands-alone sort of cheese.
To accompany it I made a little apple-blackberry goop--apples from our land and the blackberry preserves also made from our own hand-picked berries. To match the caramel flavors in the cheese (and to fill the cabin with the smell of browning apples), I let the peeled, chopped apples (two quite small ones) brown slowly in a little butter, till they were quite dark in spots. Then I just added a couple tablespoons of the homemade preserves, a pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper. Served it with toasted whole-grain sourdough.
It's best if you prepare this on top of a wood-burning stove, while outside the windows the hills are resplendent under a fresh coat of snow. It makes the endless winter a little easier to take....
Our woodstove, from the Four Dog Stove company of St Francis, Minnesota, has a name. It's name is "Haggis" (thanks to Melinda, Bide-A-Wee's official Nomenclature Tsarina).
The local foods* tally for this cheese course:
Marieke gouda from Thorp, WI, 69.7 miles from Bide-A-Wee
Apple-Blackberry Compote, Our Land
Homemade whole-grain sourdough, all Minnesota flours, from Whole Grain Milling and Natural Way Mills
Hope Creamery butter, Hope, MN
Non-local ingredients: salt, pepper. The sugar in the preserves is beet sugar from Crystal Sugar HQed in Moorhead, MN; so, while industrial, it's more local than, say, C & H.
This is a pretty dang local cheese course, in my opinion.
* I am swearing off the term "locavore." It is a dumb and awkward-sounding word. It would seem to designate someone who feeds on the locals, or on places. I've gone along with it in the past because it is in fairly common usage, but I've decided we need some standards, and not just any old thing will do. If someone comes up with a better term for the philosophy and practice of local, seasonal eating, I'll be happy to consider it. I'm still mulling the pros and cons of my own coinage, terroirista.
Text and photos copyright 2009 by Brett Laidlaw