Curd(s) is the word: Five ways to use our squeaky cheese

Just add beer. Photo credit: Golden Age Cheese

They’re a Midwestern staple, and an integral part of poutine, Canada’s national dish- but for the rest of us, if we think about cheese curds at all, they’re merely a novelty snack food. Curds (also known as squeaky cheese, for the sound they make when they rub against the teeth) are made from the curdled milk solids formed in the early stages of the cheesemaking process. The resulting mild, slightly rubbery, strangely addictive nuggets are usually consumed fresh or battered and fried (curds don’t melt completely, but rather, achieve a pleasing, gooey consistency).

Domestic cheddar curds are the most popular type found on the market, produced by small artisan cheesemakers as well as nationally-recognized brands. Haystack Mountain began making curds from pasteurized cow’s milk to meet consumer and wholesale demand. Breweries, in particular, clamored for us to make curds, as they’re a popular bar snack.

Photo credit: Visit Malone

Ask, and you shall receive. Our cheddar-style curds are made milk sourced from family-owned Longmont Dairy, and made by head cheesemaker Jackie Chang and her crew. Currently, we offer plain curds, but Jackie has almost perfected her Bloody Mary Cheddar Curd and Green Chile and Lime Curd recipes, so look for them at your local grocery, cheese shop or farmers market soon.

Speaking of Bloody Mary’s, we have some uses for cheese curds that go beyond the expected (we’re not dissing deep-frying; we just love to play around in the kitchen and behind the bar).

The next time you’re confronted with a bag of curds, resist the urge to scarf them all, and try the following:

Make Bloody Mary’s and martinis more special

We’re semi-purists when it comes to cocktail garnishes- pass on the Bloody Mary’s bristling with a refrigerator’s-worth of ingredients. But a few skewered curds interspersed with spicy green olives or pickled red chilies? Yes, please. You can also stuff olives with curds for a vamped-up version of the Dirty Martini (we recommend pairing with a whey-based vodka like Black Cow).

Amp up your eggs

Add to scrambles just before they set for extra creaminess, or fold into omelets.

Give grits a little more love

Stir until semi-melted, and add a dash or three of hot sauce (we love the ones from Boulder’s own Motherlode Provisions). Psst- they also make a righteous Bloody Mary mix.

Separating curds. Photo credit: Scientific American blog

Make grain-based dishes pop

Toss with farro and roasted root vegetables or other seasonal ingredients (cherry tomatoes, corn and fresh herbs, grilled asparagus and prosciutto, caramelized mushrooms and leeks, kale and bacon…). Curds also play well with barley, bulgur, quinoa, Israeli couscous and orzo pasta. Use as you would feta or mozzarella.

Farro with cheese curds, cucumbers and mint. Photo credit: The Bonjon Gourmet

Marinate in aromatics

Combine with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic cloves, fresh red chilies or chile flakes and fresh herbs or citrus peel; seal in a sterilized canning or Mason jar, and keep for up to one week in the refrigerator. Use in green, pasta or grain salads, heap on crostini or serve with roasted or grilled vegetables.

Photo credit: Lottie and Doof

Beer, Cheese, and Whiskey Pairing

10th Mountain

 

Join us for an amazing evening in which we will have a guided pairing of 3 Kokopelli Beers, 3 Haystack Mountain Cheeses, and 3 10th Mountain Whiskey Spirits.  Tickets must be purchased in advanced, and will sell out quickly.  We require at least 48 hours notice for cancellations.

Holiday cheese pairing tips: Beer rules!

Photo credit: Drunk Sunshine

Photo credit: Drunk Sunshine

Perhaps one of the most intimidating aspects of cheese is how and what to pair it with. Allow us to reassure you of two important points:

  • Cheese is easier to pair with beer than wine. The tannins, acids, and oak (when used for aging) in wine can be problematic when pairing with cheese, whereas beer and cheese have similar production methods (they’re both grain-based, fermented products, and tend to have similar flavor profiles).
  • While there are some key tips to follow with regard to pairing, there are  exceptions to every rule. The bottom line, in our opinion, is to eat and drink what you enjoy, and dissenters and haters be damned!

Still, we think it’s helpful to provide pairing rules of thumb, because a good match is, in the words of a cheesemonger we know, like a good marriage. Both parties should have their own, distinct, positive qualities, but when combined, magic happens.

Plays well with others. Photo credit: Healthy Recipe Ecstasy

Plays well with others. Photo credit: Healthy Recipe Ecstasy

Read on for what we feel are the most crucial points to remember in pairing cheese, be it with wine, beer, spirits, or “dry” or other specialty sodas.

  • Match intensities. For example, a big, bold, young Cabernet Sauvignon or chocolatey Stout will completely overpower many cheeses. Conversely, a soft, delicate varietal will be lost when paired with a super funky or sharp cheese.
  • Bear in mind terroir. Don’t just assume “this grape varietal will go with this cheese,” because variations in climate, geography, vintage, and production method vary greatly. The same is true of cheese. Ultimately, tasting before you buy or serve is the best way to determine if you have a match; barring that, talk to your cheesemonger, or refer to this handy post!
  • Aim for similarties or contrasts. A rich, buttery cheese such as a triple crème or brie will go well with a wine or beer with similar qualities. That said, too much butteriness is overkill. You want your palate to be refreshed and cleansed by the beverage. Strive for balance, and when in doubt, bubbles go with every style of cheese.
  • Think about what you’re trying to achieve. If you have a super bomb, special cheese, talk to your local wine shop about what to serve with it.  Conversely, if you have a rare, 1959 Chateau Lafite, you want to make sure you find a cheese that does it justice.

Some of our favorite pairings for Haystack cheeses follow. Use them as a guideline for pairing similar styles:

Camembert or othery earthy, mushroomy bloomy-rinds: Beaujolais or other soft, fruity-driven red wines.

Snowdrop or other floral, grassy bloomy rinds: Sauvignon Blanc, Lambic, or Belgian Ales.

Haystack Peak or other grassy, slighty salty/ash-coated bloomy-rinds: Fruit-driven white wines like Pinots Gris, lambics, or Pilsner.

Queso de Mano or other nutty cheeses: Hefeweizen or light-to-full-bodied red wines.

Sunlight or Red Cloud or other stinky/washed rind cheeses: Bring on the beer, baby! Belgians, ales, hard cider, lambic, or floral IPA’s. Wine? Try fruit-driven whites like a dry Riesling.

From pilsners to porters, all beers pair well with cheese. Photo credit: Vine Pair

From pilsners to porters, all beers pair well with cheese. Photo credit: Vine Pair

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Grilled Sausage with Grapes, Wilted Bitter Greens, and Queso de Mano

Photo credit: BBC Good Food

Photo credit: BBC Good Food

In honor of American Cheese Month and this weekend’s Great American Beer Festival, we came up with a recipe that celebrates both:

GRILLED SAUSAGE WITH GRAPES, WILTED GREENS, AND QUESO DE MANO

This rustic, hearty dish is ideal for chilly nights. Serve with crusty bread for sopping up the juices, and a great lager.

Serves four

8 good-quality pork sausages, such as sweet or hot Italian

1/2 bunch seedless purple table grapes, washed, and stemmed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Extra virgin olive oil, (approximately 2-3 tablespoons)

Two sprigs thyme

1 medium shallot, finely minced

1/8 to 1/4 cup red wine

5  handfuls young arugula or other baby bitter greens

1/4 pound Queso de Mano, shaved with a vegetable peeler

 

Preheat the grill until coals are white hot, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On an unlined baking sheet,  toss the grapes with just enough olive oil to lightly coat them; then season with salt and pepper, add the thyme, and toss once again to distribute seasoning.

Roast for 15 minutes, checking grapes every 5 minutes and using a spatula to move them around. The grapes are done when they’re slightly golden and a bit shriveled, and have released some of their juices.

Remove the pan of grapes from the oven; the juices should have caramelized somewhat. Pour the red wine into the hot pan, and use a spatula to scrape up the caramelized bits, being careful not to squash the grapes. Allow the residual heat from the pan to evaporate most of the wine so that you’re left with a thin glaze. Scrape the contents of baking sheet into a small frying pan and set aside.

While grapes are roasting, add the sausages to grill.Cookuntil done, place on a clean plate, and cover with foil to retain heat.

Reheat the grapes and glaze in the frying pan over medium-high heat, adding a bit more wine if necessary. Check seasoning, and remove from heat.

Divide the arugula amongst four dinner plates, making a mound of it in the center of each. Add two sausages to each plate, and then top with the grape/glaze mixture. Garnish the top of each with shaved Queso de Mano (use a vegetable peeler).

©The Sustainable Kitchen ®