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American Cheese Month

  • American Cheese Month 2013

    We're super stoked about American Cheese Month 2013!  Here's some press coverage we've garnered so far!

    Watch Lydia Burns introduce our lineup of American Hidden Gems on My Fox Chicago!

    Click here to view our Official American Cheese Month 2013 Press Release.

    ABC interviewed Greg O'Neill, co-owner of Pastoral & President of the
    American Cheese Society.

    Gourmet Retailer gave a shout out to our exciting events this month!

  • American Cheese Society Winners 2013

    This past weekend, the best of American Cheesemakers headed to Madison, WI for the annual American Cheese Society Conference! Congrats to all the winners, and head to one of our locations or our Online Store to enjoy these delicious cheeses yourself!

    Contenders are put through a rigorous judging process, and we at Pastoral are very proud to carry many of the award-winning cheeses:

    ACS WINNERS 2013
    BEST OF SHOW

    Cellars at Jasper Hill, VT
    Winnimere
    (Seasonal Cheese)

    2173
    OPEN CATEGORY – SOFT-RIPENED CHEESES – MADE
    FROM COW’S MILK

    3rd Sweet Grass Dairy, GA
    Green Hill

    2178
    AMERICAN ORIGINALS ORIGINAL RECIPE / OPEN
    CATEGORY – MADE FROM GOAT’S MILK

    1st Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery, VT
    Bonne Bouche

    2nd Cypress Grove Chevre, CA
    Humboldt Fog Grande

    bonne bouche1
    2146
    CHEDDAR WRAPPED IN CLOTH, LINEN – AGED UP TO 12
    MONTHS – ALL MILK

    1st Cellars at Jasper Hill, VT
    Cabot Clothbound Cheddar

    10493
    RINDLESS BLUE-VEINED – MADE FROM SHEEP’S MILK OR
    MIXED MILK

    3rd Rogue Creamery, OR
    Echo Mountain Blue

    echo mountain
    BLUE-VEINED WITH A RIND OR EXTERNAL COATING –
    MADE FROM COW’S MILK

    1st Rogue Creamery, OR
    Rogue River Blue - Seasonal

    2nd Rogue Creamery, OR
    Caveman Blue

    3rd Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., CA
    Point Reyes Bay Blue

    rogue river1
    caveman
    2068
    FETA – MADE FROM SHEEP’S MILK OR MIXED MILKS

    3rd Hidden Springs Creamery, WI
    Farmstead Feta

    8838 (1)
    OPEN CATEGORY – SMOKED CHEESES – MADE FROM
    COW’S MILK

    2nd Rogue Creamery, OR
    Smokey Blue

    8047
    OPEN CATEGORY – FARMSTEAD CHEESES – SOFT – ALL
    MILKS; AGED UP TO 60 DAYS – OVER 50% MOISTURE

    3rd Sequatchie Cove Creamery, TN
    Dancing Fern

    dancing fern1
    OPEN CATEGORY – FARMSTEAD CHEESES – SEMISOFT –
    MADE FROM COW’S MILK; AGED OVER 60 DAYS –
    BETWEEN 39 AND 50% MOISTURE

    1st Cellars at Jasper Hill, VT
    Winnimere

    (Seasonal)

    2173
    GOAT’S MILK CHEESE AGED OVER 60 DAYS

    3rd LaClare Farms Specialties, LLC, WI
    Evalon

    evalon
    FRESH RINDLESS SHEEP’S MILK CHEESE AGED 0 TO 30
    DAYS

    3rd Hidden Springs Creamery, WI
    Driftless Natural

    driftless123
    SHEEP’S MILK CHEESE AGED OVER 60 DAYS

    2nd Hidden Springs Creamery, WI
    Ocooch Mountain Reserve

    ocooch mountain
    WASHED RIND CHEESES AGED MORE THAN 90 DAYS
    WITH UP TO 44% MOISTURE – ALL MILKS

    3rd Uplands Cheese, WI
    Pleasant Ridge Reserve

    2079
    OPEN CATEGORY – WASHED RIND CHEESES – MADE
    FROM COW’S MILK

    3rd Meadow Creek Dairy, VA
    Grayson

    8978
    OPEN CATEGORY – WASHED RIND CHEESES – MADE
    FROM SHEEP’S MILK OR MIXED MILKS

    2nd Hidden Springs Creamery, WI
    Ocooch Mountain

    ocooch mountain
  • Media Buzzing Around Pastoral's Artisan Producer Festival 2013

    Spring has sprung, and with it, our excitement about our Third Annual Artisan Producer Festival has started to escalate.  Check out what some of our favorite foodie sites have to say about it!

    Eater talks about the Festival's takeover of the Chicago French Market.

    Zagat brings us a double whammy, featuring the Festival alongside the Cochon 555 tour, which stops in Chicago just in time for the Festival.

  • Making Cheese at Uplands

    Now I was going to have some firsthand experience with something that I had only read about.

    rush creekIf you ask any cheesemonger at Pastoral about any cheese in the case, you can get anything from a bare bones description like “English clothbound cheddar” to a more prosaic description: “This is made at Kaserei Stufel by a father and son who own a small dairy in the beautiful Swiss Alps…” and suddenly you’re an expert in the history of the Stadelmann family. Usually, we absorb these priceless nuggets of information by reading and communing with our fellow turophiles (that's a fancy word for a cheese connoisseur). In December, however, I had the privilege of visiting Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, Wisconsin where we get two wonderful cheeses: The award winning Pleasant Ridge Reserve and the amazing, highly seasonal Rush Creek Reserve.

     

    baby cows uplands cropped
    Young cows at Uplands - These future Rush Creek makers will be pasture fed all summer long.

    I’d talked about Uplands Cheese and Andy Hatch (the head cheese maker) countless times; I've sold dozens of wheels of Rush Creek and who knows how many pounds of Pleasant Ridge Reserve in my few years as a cheesemonger. I knew about how their cows are pasture fed in the summer, the spruce bark banding around the wheels of Rush Creek, the merits of unpasteurized milk – all things I’d learned in my time at various cheese shops. Now I was going to have some firsthand experience with something that I had only read about. On the long bus ride up there, I immersed myself in Paul Kindstedt's American Farmstead Cheese to try to buff up my knowledge on the more scientific aspect of cheese making. I met Andy in Madison and we drove to Dodgeville where we began making Rush Creek the next morning.

    Andy Hatch washing handsjpg
    "Anytime you touch anything," Andy told me "Rinse your hands in the saniwash."

    I met most of the staff in the flurry of pleasantries, cut short by the early hour. Cows, I now know first-hand, are early risers and so are cheese makers. The factory was a shockingly sterile environment. Sanitizing solution was everywhere. Hats, boots, and aprons were required. "Any time you touch anything," Andy told me "Rinse your hands in the saniwash." It was fascinating to see that for as long as Rush Creek ages (two months), the initial steps take only a few hours to go from milk, to curd, to wheels.

    Cows, I now know first-hand, are early risers and so are cheese makers.

     

    I won't trouble you, dear reader, with an exhaustive account of every step of the process, but I will share one particular step that I found interesting. It’s called flocculation. Rennet is added to the milk to form the curd and it takes a little time for it to work. Andy added the rennet to the milk and when enough time had passed he told me we were going to see if flocculation had happened yet. I was expecting a high tech device like a pH reader but he simply grabbed a clear pitcher and filled it with water. I watched as he dripped a few drops of milk into the water and watched, unsure what he was seeing. The milk swirled and spun around like smoke as I was expecting but then the tiniest little solid flakes of white fell out of the swirling milk and floated silently to the bottom of the pitcher. The solids in the milk were beginning to clump together as the rennet did its work. No longer was this milk, but curd and whey, the beginnings of cheese.

    That may sound dramatic, but after talking about cheese for so long, seeing it forming before my eyes was pretty amazing. After we made that day’s batch of Rush Creek, there was plenty more to do. Dozens of batches of cheese were at various stages of aging. We flipped wheels, bound some with spruce bark to help them keep their shape, patted down older wheels whose rinds were beginning to grow. Then there were the hundreds of boxes that needed to be built to ship all this cheese!

    I found a little box in a shipment to Pastoral with my name on it.

     

    After two incredible days I had to come back to Chicago. Rush Creek ages for two months so I had to wait a long time to taste the batch I worked on. (At least we weren’t making five year gouda!) Finally, a few weeks ago, I found a little box in a shipment to Pastoral with my name on it. My batch was ready to eat! The wheel was white and orange and springy to the touch. The inside was gooey and smooth with a delicious grittiness on the rind. The paste is savory with just enough funk to make me wonder how long this wheel is going to last in my fridge. In addition to this just being a great cheese there was the extra level of enjoyment from the knowledge that I'd helped make it. I had scooped some of the curd into the forms, I had stirred the vat of milk while the starter cultures worked their particular brand of molecular magic. I'd seen this cheese at (most) of the steps on the way and it only made it more delicious to me. Cheese from start to finish.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat some Rush Creek.

    ????????????????????????????????????Alex Eberle is a Cheesemonger at Pastoral Broadway who recently moved to Chicago from Washington State. When he's not geeking out over casein micelle matrices, he's embarrassing himself at stand up open mics or karaoke.

  • Announcing Two Great February Classes!

    We're pleased to introduce our Winter Classes Program in February with TWO great offerings!

    Pastoral hosts classes at our locations in Lakeview on Tuesdays and in the Loop on Saturdays. They run for approximately 90 minutes and range in price. Pupils are extended a 15% discount that can be used within one week of attendance.

    Bubbles, Cheese and Chocolate

    triple class

    As we draw nearer to Valentine's day, we invite you to join us for an evening of decadence and delight!

    Whether you're bringing your sweetheart for a romantic night out for two or going stag, treat yourself to an experience that's sure to impress! Sparkling wine, delicious cheeses and sensuous chocolates form one of the sexiest threesomes ever conceived, and we're here to share that titillating experience with you!

    The Time: Saturday, February 9, 2013, 7PM
    The Place: 53 E. Lake Street
    The Price: $50
    The Link to Enroll: Bubbles, Cheese & Chocolate Class

     

    Battle of the Cheesemakers: America vs. Europe

    eu_us_flag

    If you love your French Bries, English Cheddars, Spanish Manchegos and Italian Blues, just wait til we put them head to head with some of their American Artisanal counterparts. The United States may be a couple centuries behind in tradition, but no one can deny the power of the good ol' American Spirit. Domestic cheesemakers have been working hard since the Artisan Cheese movement began in the 1980's.

    Will the United States come out on top, or will the European Masters dominate? You'll get to decide for yourself during this great evening of friendly rivalry. (Trash talk optional).

    The Time: Saturday, February 23, 2013, 7PM
    The Place: 53 E. Lake Street
    The Price: $45
    The Link to Enroll: Battle of the Cheesemakers: American vs. Europe

  • Thanks for a Successful American Cheese Month

    Thank you!

    Now that the Holidays are in full swing, we wanted to spread some holiday cheer and thank everyone for helping us to make October an incredibly successful American Cheese Month! We raised a grand total of $1500 for the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award, and we have all of you to thank for helping us reach this milestone.

    AmericanCheeseMonth_logo_transparency-1024x862

    We wanted to thank the following Cheesemakers for visiting us in Chicago and spreading the word about their delicious American Cheeses. Consider Bardwell Farm, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., and Uplands Cheese Company all held tastings at our stores to teach our patrons about their amazing American-made cheeses. Everyone enjoyed their delicious and educational visits.

    A special thank you goes to Saxon Homestead Creamery for hosting the Cheesemaker Dinner at Nightwood Restaurant. This delicious meal was a lovely and touching benefit for the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award. It was truly an amazing evening.

    Saxon creamery cheesemaker dinner

    We also cannot forget all of the good Samaritans that donated to this wonderful cause at all of our stores! We raised hundreds through donations at the register and purchases of our American Cheese Month Specialty Sandwich.

    American Cheese Month was a true success, and we are grateful for all of your support to help us remember our friend Daphne Zepos and celebrate the beauty and joy of American Cheeses.

    Daphne Zepos Teaching Award

    daphne and cheese board

    The Daphne Zepos Teaching Award is an annual scholarship awarded to a USA-based cheese professional who use the funds to travel, learn and further their education on cheese, and we are proud to help benefit this great cause.
    You can still donate to the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award on our website HERE

    Thank you for making American Cheese Month such a great success!

  • My Favorite Cheese: Flagsheep

    flagsheep(1)NAME: FLAGSHEEP
    PRODUCER: BEECHER'S HANDMADE CHEESE
    MILK: PASTEURIZED COW AND SHEEP'S MILK
    RENNET: MICROBIAL
    SEATTLE, WA

    2012 Best of Show, 1st place for Original Recipe : Open Category – made from sheep’s milk or mixed milks.”

    This is language that evokes in me the kind of excited curiosity I felt as a 4 year-old hiding under the table as my mother wrapped the family presents on Christmas Eve. When I found out that Flagsheep took Best in Show at the 2012 American Cheese Society (ACS) competition, I felt proud. Of myself. I mean, I’m proud all the time for sustainable and environmentally conscious dairy producers and American cheese-makers and cheese retailers and cheesemongers and cheese enthusiasts et cetera ad nauseum.

    But the pride I felt when I heard about Flagsheep beating all 1,710 caseinous competitors was because I somewhat childishly adopted it as my own personal victory. Because Flagsheep is my spirit cheese. It’s made in the middle of a metropolitan area. It’s robust and a little bit in-your-face but it’s ultimately charming.

    The occasional flaw may show up, just to make things a little more interesting. Flagsheep is me in fermented milk form. And I’m proud of my cheesy alter ego, and I’m proud of myself. Incidentally, it’s also my favorite cheese. These guys find antibiotic and rBGH-free milk from cows fed on a high-quality diet that are never treated with hormones. They have the audacity to bring this milk to the middle of a city and create an English-style cheddar with some sheep’s milk mixed into it.

    The result is a cheese that tastes like a dirty English clothbound introducing a prime aged gouda to a playful young manchego willing to mix milks a little bit. Tyrosine crystals pop as your teeth cut through the fudge-like paste of the cheese, and flavors of toasted walnuts and dried grass waft through your nasal passages as the sharp cheddar makes your mouth water.

    Eat Flagsheep on its own, on a carmelized onion cracker or shaved over some serious Caesar Salad. I like to pair mine with a malty brown ale or a velvety Merlot.

    Rachel Aseltine is Pastoral's Web Store Manager. She loves eating artisan American cheeses while listening to records featuring banjo and glockenspiel.

  • My Favorite Cheese: Humboldt Fog

    2146NAME: Humboldt Fog
    PRODUCER: Cypress Grove Chevre
    MILK: Pasteurized Goat's Milk
    RENNET: VEGETARIAN
    ARCATA, CA

    Let me start by saying that Humboldt Fog is not my favorite cheese. My tastes change with the weather so ‘favorite’ depends on the day. In spring I want grilled asparagus and high acid goat cheese.

    Autumn finds me craving butternut squash soup with the nutty flavors of an aged cow’s milk alpine shaved on top, floating as a garnish. Since I’ve tasted Humboldt Fog some five plus years ago, I regard it as one would a first love. Working as a professional cook, I am always trying to pair ingredients that bring out the best in each other.

    Humboldt Fog with its soft, satiny rind of surface ripened white mold, the two graceful layers of goat cheese and line of vegetable ash running through the center gave me that first encounter. When my Chef first cut into the hand-crafted wheel, looking at it, I thought it was cake. Tasting it astounded me.

    The subtle citrus twinge of goat’s milk paired so well with everything, I could not believe its adaptability. Porcini Mushrooms brought out the earthiness. Honey brought out its sweetness. Pears and apples its acidity. All pairings were perfectly balanced and wonderful in revelation.

    Humboldt Fog is celebrating its 20th year; 20 years since the fog in Humboldt County California passed over the hills of the Cypress Grove Creamery and inspired this multiple award winner. I can think of no better way to acknowledge it than to pair it with a crisp white wine or wheat beer and lean back in a chair wrapped in nostalgia for a first love.

    Geordan Stenson cooks at Trattoria Number 10 in Chicago and is a cheese enthusiast/wholesale cheese monger at Pastoral. He also graduated from Kendall College
    with a degree in culinary arts.

  • My Favorite Cheese: Winnimere

    2173Name: Winnimere
    Producer: Jasper Hill Farms
    Milk: Raw Ayrshire Cow's Milk
    Age: 60 days
    Rennet: Traditional
    Greensboro, VT

    Smelly, ooey, Raw, and….Made in…really you must be joking…a remote part of the Swiss alps, perhaps? No, really…AMERICA! Winnimere is her name, heralding from the talented hands at Jasper Hill Farms. Wrapped with spruce bark, this 60 day-aged washed-rind, raw cow’s milk cheese owes its existence to a similar cheese from a famed golden-peaked mountain in Switzerland, Vacherin Mont d’Or.

    Typically this cheese is only made in the cooler months, when the cows do not have access to fresh grasses. What makes Winnnimere particularly unique is that the cheesemakers are choosing to use the milk in its raw form. The problem with making a young raw milk cheese in America is that once it reaches the 60 day age minimum to be sold in the USA, it is, (usually) hog feed!

    Typically, a cheesemaker pasteurizes the milk, adds synthetic bacterial cultures (that mimic those originally found in the raw milk) and market that cheese after three, maybe four weeks. So, how does Mateo Kehler overcome this problem? Rumor has it that he is slowly ripening the cheese at just less than forty degrees Fahrenheit. This slows the ripening process, which allows the cheese to be palatable at the relatively mature age of 60 days.

    Intermingling like a well-developed veal jus, the flavors are beefy, big, but brought together nicely. Sheyboygan bratwurst, grainy mustard and sautéed greens come to mind as one wades through the silky, velvety paste of this young beauty. Washed with a lambic beer made down the street at Hill Farmstead brewery, the paste from this twenty-four ounce wheel will energetically run from its rind (if not given an appropriate stopping point, that is). Pair it with Flemish sour ale or a bottle of Beaujolais, oil-cured olives, and fried potatoes.

    Pat Huber hails from the home of Tennessee Williams and the world-renowned lyricist Nelly, this southpaw cheese monger is a lover of all things wild and raw.

  • My Favorite Cheese: Tumalo Classico

    classico-borderName: Classico
    Producer: Tumalo Farms
    Milk: Pasteurzied Farmstead Goat's Milk
    Age: 3-6 months
    Rennet: Traditional
    Bend, Oregon

    My favorite American Cheese is Tumalo Classico. I love the story behind it as much as I love the flavors. More than just an aged gouda, this one has burnt citrus flavors and honey accompanying toned down butterscotch and carmel flavors. There is also a distinctly almond flavor in the more nuanced wheels. I also love that Flavio, the maker, got interested in Dutch culture while living and working in Japan, studied cheesemaking in Brazil where they learned from the Italians, and now makes it in Oregon, all after having made his fortune in Silicon Valley. I love this cheese because it is absolutely delicious, and it's just so darn worldly!

    Also, it doesn't hurt that the cheesemaker's name is Flavio. I have noticed some big differences in the wheels between stores, sometimes being a little older and flavorful, sometimes younger and far more nuanced.

    Colin Coyle moved to Chicago from Peoria three years ago to finish school and liked the city so much he decided to stay. He loves the arts scene here, and enjoys spending time at the lake and finding new things downtown.

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