Portrait of a Wisconsin Cheesemaker Calendar on Sale Now

Cheesemaker Calendar, Wisconsin CheeseAs we head into fall, then winter, it's time to think about things like calendars for next year. Jeanne Carpenter, the genius behind Wisconsin Cheese Originals, has just the thing for you - a gorgeous calendar featuring all of your favorite Wisconsin Cheesemakers. And it's not just a lot of fluff - the calendar features exceptional photos and information about each cheesemaker and their products. It's a great way to learn a little bit more about Wisconsin cheese, especially if it's something you're not familiar with.

For example, look to the left over there: that's Andy Hatch on the cover. He's pretty popular right now - not that he wasn't before, but you know what I mean- because he's the cheesemaker at Uplands Cheese Co., makers of Pleasant Ridge Reserve, the cheese that won Best in Show honors at the just concluded 2010 American Cheese Society competition. He's holding the very cheese that won (in fact, Uplands only makes one cheese). Pretty cool! Among the other cheesemakers included in the calender are Willi Lehner of Bleu Mont Dairy, Brenda Jensen of Hidden Springs Creamery and Myron Olson of Chalet Cheese Cooperative, who is responsible for the resurrection of Liederkranz, a German cheese that resembles Limburger.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Wisconsin Licensed Cheesemaker Scholarship, which Wisconsin Cheese Originals gives to a Wisconsin resident pursuing a license in cheesemaking (required in the state). So by purchasing this calendar you benefit an up and coming artisan cheesemaker as well.

So enough of those boring chocolate lab puppy calendars, those "Waterfalls of the West" calendars, those dreary tropical beach scenes. Think bigger for next year....think something you love....think cheese. I'm certain this is what you're going to need to set a new tone going into 2011.

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Portrait of a Wisconsin Artisan Cheesemaker Calendar $19.95 - - for more info and to order, click HERE

a portion of the proceeds benefit the Wisconsin Licensed Cheesemaker Scholarship fund

Albina City Nuts

Albina City Nuts Scott and Heidi Bell of Albina City Nuts

We're spoiled in the Pacific Northwest; we're so used to the wide availability of local produce, local mushrooms, local cheese and local beer that it's easy to forget there are still many things we like that come from far, far away.

Albina City Nuts was born out of just such a realization. Scott Bell is a former waiter and bartender at the Crystal Ballroom who's now a cheesemonger at the New Seasons Arbor Lodge store in Portland. He traces the genesis of his company to observations gleaned while working the cheese counter: "I'd be looking at all of the jams, nuts and spreads we had and they were all European. I was thinking about that in relation to all of the local cheese we carried and I found myself wishing there were local options." The entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and soon enough, a company was born.

Scott sources products from all over the region, from Northern California to Oregon to Washington (it helps that  Oregon is the largest hazelnut producer in the nation). From there he and wife Heidi work their magic with a variety of spices and honey syrup to craft unique and interesting flavor combinations. Intrigued, I asked Scott about the recipe development process. "We'd make a syrup of honey, sugar and water and then experiment by, say, adding chiles. The syrup would be incredibly spicy but then we'd coat the nuts with the syrup and you'd barely taste the spice." Early experiments such as a rosemary based flavor were rejected by initial testers before they arrived at the three flavors they currently sell (see below for more details on those). "The fun part," Scott says, "is getting to play with different flavors and seeing what works."

Scott and Heidi have been using a commercial kitchen in North Portland one day a week to make their tasty treats (currently producing about 100 lbs. per session) but are looking at increasing production to two days a week soon, just in time for the holidays. Look forward to a number of new and interesting treats in the future including candied hazelnuts and chocolate covered hazelnuts - they've even been tossing around the idea of a chocolate hazelnut spread. Now THAT would be something really, really good!  And whether you like  sweet or savory varieties of nuts, supporting Albina City Nuts is another great way to go local with your food.

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Albina City Nuts 503.956.9141 albinacitynuts@gmail.com

Currently available at New Seasons, Steve's Cheese and Foster & Dobbs in Portland.


Candied Walnuts

Walnuts kissed with honey and anise - a lovely combination of earthiness and sweetness. I love the anise, which elevates these walnuts a step beyond an ordinary, everyday candied nut.

Sweetly Spiced Almonds

Almonds sweetened with honey and spiced with cinnamon and cardamom. The spice is subtle but pleasant and warms you up right away.

Sweet & Salty Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts with a touch of honey and the added spices from Ancho chili, chili de Arbol and cinnamon. I really enjoy the sweet/salty thing so these nuts worked for me....while I'm hard pressed to pick a favorite of the three styles of nuts, if forced to choose this would be my pick.

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Additional note: In case you're wondering about the name, Albina is an area of North Portland, once a city in its own right, that was annexed into Portland proper in the 1890s.

Claudia Lucero of Urban Cheesecraft

Claudia Lucero of Urban Cheese

Awhile back I happened upon cheesemaking kits for sale at Alberta Co-op in Portland. Made by Urban Cheesecraft, these packages contain all of the items you'll need to make cheese at home: rennet, cheesecloth, cheese salt, citric acid, a thermometer and perhaps most importantly, directions! I loved them immediately and had to find out who was behind these gems.

Claudia Lucero is a crafty, entrepreneurial sort - the kind of creative person who makes her own clothes and ferments her own sauerkraut. She's a former social worker originally from San Diego who currently works as Director of Operations at the Rock n' Roll Camp for Girls. She says that she got the idea for starting her company when she was looking for local sources for cheesemaking materials. While she found that she could pick up disparate supplies here or there (or order from the East Coast) there was a scarcity of resources for making cheese. From idea to reality took a few months, but she's put together several types of cheesemaking kits - Queso Blanco, Goat Cheese/Chevre and Mozzarella/Ricotta - which are now available for sale online as well as in several Portland stores (see list below).

Lucero started Urban Cheesecraft at a good time; she's managed to hit a sweet spot in the evolving world of making stuff at home...these days it seems like almost everyone is brewing, fermenting and canning and if you're doing that kind of thing, it's not much of a stretch to make your own cheese as well. Her kits take the guesswork out of making cheese and allow users to concentrate on having fun - the most important part!

Urban Cheesecraft kits are available in Portland at some New Seasons stores, Alberta Co-op, Foster & Dobbs, Urban Farm Store, Mirador, or order online from the Etsy store here. Each kit contains enough materials to make 10 batches of cheese....all you have to do is supply the milk. You can also find Urban Cheesecraft at the Montavilla Farmer's Market in Portland on Sundays. Follow the Urban Cheesecraft blog here.

Claudia Lucero will also lead a cheesemaking demonstration at 11am at The Wedge Festival in Portland on October 3rd.

[photo courtesy Claudia Lucero]