We are proud to announce that on August 28, 2010, our Pleasant Ridge Reserve won the American Cheese Society's annual competition, besting over 1400 of the nation's finest cheeses to be crowned Best of Show.
This is especially exciting for us, as it is the third time we have earned this honor in the past ten years, making our cheese the most decorated in the competition's history. Pleasant Ridge Reserve was named ACS Best of Show in 2001 and 2005, and was named Best of Show in the 2003 US Cheese Championships, also making it the only cheese to win both of the two major national competitions.
Pleasant Ridge Reserve, a farmstead artisan cheese, is made on our dairy farm here in southwest Wisconsin. Named after the land formation on which our farm sits, Pleasant Ridge Reserve is made in the tradition of Alpine cheeses like Gruyere and Beaufort. Like the Alpage versions of these cheeses, we only make Pleasant Ridge Reserve from May through October when our cows are eating fresh pasture. This grass-fed, raw milk produces flavors in the cheese that can't be replicated by "ordinary" milk.
In mid-summer, when the cows are at the peak of their production, a batch of cheese may yield up to 78, 10-lb wheels a day. Because we're very particular about using milk from only the best pasture conditions, the weather largely determines how many batches we can make in a year. When the pasture conditions aren't ideal, we sell the milk. Some years we're able to make more cheese than other years. This may seem like a luxury, but using only the ideal milk is the most important way we ensure the quality of our cheese.
We age all of our cheese in ripening rooms built into the creamery. Here, the cheeses are washed several times a week in a brine solution, which encourages the development of certain bacteria on the cheese rinds. These bacteria, along with the microflora indigenous to our raw milk, develop flavors in the cheese over time. As the cheeses age, their flavors become more complex and concentrated.
Each batch develops its flavors at a different pace, and an important part of our work in the ripening rooms is to taste each batch again and again to determine when they are ready to sell. We age a small percentage the cheese produced for over a year, and these "Extra Aged" batches of Pleasant Ridge Reserve are available only in the fall and early winter.
You can view a short video about how we make our Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese.
Rush Creek Reserve is made only in the autumn, as the diet of our cows begins to change from the fresh pastures of summer to the winter's dry hay. While Pleasant Ridge Reserve is aged many months in an effort to express the flavor complexity of our grass-fed milk, Rush Creek Reserve is designed to show off the richer texture of our hay-fed milk and the delicate ripeness of a soft, young cheese.
Like Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Rush Creek Reserve is made with raw milk, and the two cheeses are aged side-by-side in our ripening rooms, sharing the environment that gives our cheeses their characteristic savory flavors. Rush Creek Reserve is inspired by the French Vacherin Mont d'Or, and is bound in spruce bark, which gives shape to the soft round and imparts a sweet, woodsy flavor to the cheese. Combined with the savory flavors born from the rind, this gives the custard-soft paste a deep but delicate richness, reminiscent of beef broth or finely cured meat.
If you would like to know more about our Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Rush Creek Reserve, here are some tips for storage and usage.