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Pleasant Ridge Reserve

A washed-rind cheese from Dodgeville, Wisconsin

Mike Gingrich, a Wisconsin dairy farmer, always knew that his herd produced great-tasting milk, “especially when the cows first hit the pastures in spring and early summer. …Cheesemakers years ago knew that,” he says. Realizing he had milk with great potential on his hands, Gingrich decided to stop blending his milk with batches from other herds and resolved to start making cheese. He studied up on raw milk cheeses made from grass-fed milk and decided to model his cheese on the French mountain style cheese known as Beaufort, a French Gruyère.

After years of trial and experimentation, Gingrich felt he was ready to produce the cheese in commercial quantity. Still, the operation is on a small scale, only 20,000 pounds a year (this is tiny compared to commercial cheesemakers, who might turn out 200,000 pounds per year).

Cheesemaking is labor-intensive, and washed-rind cheese is especially so. As the cheese ripens, the outside is washed with a salt solution, beer, or even wine (Pleasant Ridge uses a salt solution with added cultures). A hard, inedible rind develops on the outside and complex, interesting flavors develop on the inside. A wheel of Pleasant Ridge Reserve needs washing and turning every day for its first two weeks. As it ripens, the washing intervals become less frequent.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve nabbed Best of Show at last year’s American Cheese Society Competition, beating tough competition. It’s smooth and full, with a wonderfully nutty flavor that lasts long after your first taste; this may remind you of the very best Gruyère you’ve ever had. Pleasant Ridge would make a killer grilled cheese sandwich or cheese fondue, and it would be terrific grated over a vegetable gratin, stirred into macaroni and cheese, or eaten plain and simple with some pear slices or grapes on the side. I can’t wait to pair Pleasant Ridge Reserve with a fruity, medium-bodied Pinot Noir or a light, moderately sweet dessert wine such as a French Muscat or an Italian Moscato.

For more information, visit www.uplandscheese.com.

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