Cheese is great anytime of the year, but as with many foods out there, cheeses can be different in taste, texture, and quality with the changing of the seasons. For example, a number of cheeses will exhibit their peak flavor and texture during the cooler/colder months of the year. These types of cheese are classified into two groups, that is (1) cheeses made from the milk of animals that is produced during peak spring and summer months, usually falling between May and October and (2) cheeses made from the milk of animals produced during peak fall and winter months, usually falling between November and March).
Not only do cheeses themselves vary fundamentally from season to season, but they can also exhibit distinct seasonal variability from region to region. This revolves around when the temperatures turn too cold for animals to remain outside. During peak spring and summer months, animals producing dairy products consume fresh grass, wild flowers, herbs and any other plants, shrubs or grasses that nature may sprout up. On the contrary, as the weather turns colder, these animals remain in sheltered environments and their diets consist mainly of dried hay or silage (grasses which are harvested and gathered at their peak state and preserved for the winter by fermentation processes). With this change in seasonal diets, particularly during the winter months, the animal still produces milk, albeit, the volume and flavors are not at their peak as they would be in spring and summer dairy production; during the spring and summer months, the milk has a distinct sweet, herbal flavor from the grasses and wild flowers the animals consume from the mountain side.
While a number of cheeses are best when aged, this is not the case for all cheeses. Non-aged cheeses are at their peak during the spring and summer months. This would include cheeses such as mozzarella, feta and chevre. Cheeses which are aged, however, can take a longer time to reach their peak flavor and texture. This means that cheeses made from animals’ milk during the spring and summer months may have to wait until the following year to be able to enjoy the full value of the cheese.
Cheeses made from animals’ milk in the spring and summer months which are at their peak flavor and texture by the following winter are:
- Colston Basset Stilton
- Rogue River Blue
- Uplands Cheese Pleasant Ridge Reserve
With the colder months of winter, come cheeses that are produced from the milk of animals whose diet consists mainly of dried hay. These cheeses will be void of many of the distinct, vibrant flavors of cheeses produced from milk produced in spring and summer. However, cheese produced from milk during winter months have a higher fat content which yields very rich cheeses. One of the most highly touted cheeses on the planet comes from winter milk from the same breed of cows that produce summer milk that makes Gruyere called, Vacherin Mont d’Or.
Because of the overall decrease in the overall production of milk during the winter months, winter milk cheeses are generally on the smaller end of the size spectrum while the aging process is over a much shorter time period.
As we delve further into the heart of Fall, with Winter to follow, moods get dull and that spice of life seems to dissipate over the course of time through the year’s last few months and the through the handful of months to start a new year. This is what we sometimes call the Fall and Winter Blues. But, it does not have to be this way. We can always enjoy the finer things Fall and Winter has to offer. For example, waking up on a Fall morning to a nice cup of coffee or tea, throwing on a hoodie and hiking the open trails painted with Fall colors, or, waking up on a winter morning with nowhere to go and wrapping that extra blanket around you for just another hour of sleep. While Fall and Winter can bring out the blues in many a number, I prefer to think the spice of life can still be found over these two seasons, if we just try to look hard enough.
Speaking of the spice of life, Shisler’s can help you bring out the best of Fall and Winter with our line of products that can add that extra zest to any blues-infested mood.
Who doesn’t love a good piece of cheese, complimented with a glass of fine wine. To see our line of fine, aged (or not aged) imported and domestic cheeses, please visit HERE.
Chocolates are amazing anytime of the year. However, they become increasingly desirable and irresistible as the seasons change, especially as colder weather becomes the trend. Shisler’s is well-known for the chocolates we carry, and we are proud to carry signature chocolates from Heggy’s and Stefanelli’s. Our selection of Heggy’s Chocolates is a vast one featuring everything from assorted milk chocolates to maple walnut creams. With such a vast selection to choose from, there is an option for almost everyone. Our selection of Stefanelli’s includes their signature “Sponge Candy” which a combination of sea-foam toffee covered in chocolate. From experience, let me tell you this… once you have one, it is essentially game over as you’ve fallen victim to the domino effect. Once you have one, that turns to two, two turns to three… and so on. Trust me when I tell you this, the effect is real. To see our selection of chocolates, please visit HERE.
Finally, if all this were not enough to cure the Fall and Winter blues, let our selection of gourmet foods help rejuvenate, not only your mood, but your taste buds. Wake up on a cold Winter morning to a buttered roll, and instead of using “Land O’ Lakes” butter, try some of our locally, homemade Rolled Amish Butter. If you’re in an undeniable mood for pancakes or waffles, choose from our selection of locally, homemade maple syrups and try them in our wide selection of flavors including: Blackberry Pecan, Blueberry, Cinnamon Sticky Bun, Lavender, Red Raspberry and Shagbark Hickory. With such a selection of incredible flavors, you really cannot go wrong. And, if you are up for a delicious, hot cup of tea, we some fantastic honey that will compliment any cup of tea. To see our selection of specialty foods, please visit HERE.
Photo Credit: Stephen Hamilton
We all know that Wisconsin is known for its cheese-making prowess and it has become well-deserved honor through the course of history. Cheese and cheese-making have become such a mainstay across Wisconsin that vehicle license plates carry the slogan “America’s Dairyland” while lawmakers have officially coined the bacterium found in Monterey Jack cheese as the official microbe of the state of Wisconsin. A little over the top? Perhaps, but to each their own. However, one thing that takes Wisconsin’s love for its cheese from interesting to just… mind-blowing… is the use of cheese as melting agent for its city streets during winter.
In 2013, Milwaukee commenced a program that would use cheese brine to prevent citywide roads from freezing over during winter. The melting solvent was a mixture of cheese brine and traditional rock salt. The purpose behind this program was to execute a more cost efficient means of treating roads during the year’s harshest weather.
According to Jeffrey A. Tews, operations manager for the city’s public works department, “You want to use Provolone or Mozzarella, which has the best salt content. You have to do practically nothing to it.” Tews and his crew, in the program’s infancy, spread the solvent across the streets of Bay View, a neighborhood on Milwaukee’s north side.
A group of experts noted that efforts to reuse the brine from cheese was only a matter of time before that came to fruition, especially considering a state so enamored in cheese like Wisconsin.
A local city official in Milwaukee noted that the state is trying to extract every possible use out of cheese it possibly can. He went on further to note that if the program continues to make leaps and bounds, it will most likely be implemented by cities all across the country. While the prospect of this program does sound like a genius idea, it does come with the potential for negative impacts, as does any newly piloted program in its infancy. Some of the issues that may surface range from:
- Would the brine put out a cheese odor that would become bothersome for residents?
- Would the scent attract rodents or other animals?
- Would the pros of using cheese brine in the mixture of this solvent be enough to justify the transport and storage requirements for the brine, over the long haul?
If at first this sounds like a laughable program, think about the facts in play. Wisconsin produced well over 2 billion pounds of cheese in 2012. With such lofty amounts of cheese production comes an overwhelming supply of brine, which would otherwise be sent to the waste plant. Cheese brine, by city requirements, is allowable as a treatment on roads if limited to an 8 gallon to one ton rock salt ratio. The benefit of using brine in solvents for treating roads works for both parties, the dairy plants and the city’s public works departments. The dairy plants save on hauling costs for those municipalities in need of brine for road treatments who are willing to travel to the plant and haul it away for them (saving an average of $20,000/year) while the municipalities save on the cost of rock salt with the addition of brine to their treatment solvent (saving an average of $40,000/year). In the long run, it would seem that while there are both pros and cons on the table, I would suspect that the benefits of using brine to treat winter roads would tremendously outweigh the shortcoming of its use. I could see this become a nationwide program over the next decade.