Alemar Cheese Company
Last winter, Claud told me a friend, Keith Adams, was making organic cheese in Mankato. I asked, “will we get some…how much…and when?” I am a cheese fanatic. I put cheese on eggs, sandwiches, soups, pasta…and I don’t mean sprinkling a little Parmesan, I mean grating loads of sharp aged cheddar over marinara. I could eat cheese and crackers for every in between meal snack. I have a manifestation board, like the one they tell you to make on “The Secret”, with all of the things you want to attract into your life. There are more than three pictures of cheeses on my board.
About two months ago, Claud brought home a wheel of Keith’s cheese for me to try. He barely made it through the door before I tore it out of his hands and grabbed the crackers.
Bent River Cheese from The Alemar Cheese Company
I cut through the rind and, because it had reached room temperature on the drive, the creamy cheese poured out. I inhaled the pungent odor (not too stinky, but the real smell of cheese). My mouth watered. Claud said, “It’s like Camembert,” like I was listening. I wanted to slow down and take it all in. It was creamy beige in color. I sliced a small wedge and ate it plain. I wish I had a picture of the blissful expression spread across my face. “Good isn’t it?” Claud said. I just giggled in response. I tried another on a cracker, then on a cracker with tomato, then with tomato and basil, then with a slice of salami on a cracker, then with salami, tomato and basil, then on a cracker plain again, then on a Snickers. I realized I made a huge mistake: I don’t even like Snickers plain. I came to my senses and realized how sad I would be later if I ate the whole wheel.
How does milk miraculously transform into this creamy deliciousness? I asked Keith if I could follow him around for the day watching the cheese making process at the Alemar Cheese Company. He obliged. The day began with an early morning drive to the dairy. Keith makes cheese from milk that has been taken from cows on the same day. On the hour or so drive to the dairy, I asked how this whole cheese making idea came to fruition.
He had a nice job at a publishing company with health benefits, a steady paycheck, and people he enjoyed working with, but a key component was missing… passion. Keith wanted to do something on his own, something he loved. He believed he would be a better example for his children if he didn’t sacrifice this desire and instead showed his two daughters how he went for his dream win or lose. That passion, lucky for you and for me, happened to be Artisan cheese making.
Once again, I had to look this up. According to the American Cheese Society, the word “artisan or artisanal implies that a cheese is produced primarily by hand, in small batches, with particular attention paid to the tradition of the cheese maker’s art, and thus using as little mechanization as possible in the production of the cheese. Artisan cheeses may be made from all types of milk and may include various flavorings”.
Once Keith became determined to make cheese, he had to decide where he would purchase his milk. He studied all of the dairies in the area and finally found what he believed to be a perfect match in Cedar Summit Farm, an organic dairy located in New Prague, MN. One of several reasons Keith chose the organic milk from this farm is because of the people who run it and the way they treat their animals. He told me, “they have total integrity and care for their animals. Their operation is about more than the bottom line.” The fact that the milk tasted so fantastic didn’t hurt either. Everyone at the dairy was welcoming and warm. The farm was straight out of a picture book.
A calf at Ceder Summit Dairy
They have a country store with milk, eggs, spices, coffee, and more. I bought some fresh milk and vanilla ice cream to take home to my family. Jack even liked the milk!
Finally, I went back to see the rest of the cheese making process. Keith dressed up in white Wellington boots and a hair net and provided detailed answers to every question I had. He even showed me a monthly magazine all about cheese. I considered ordering a subscription but decided it would be torture to see pictures I couldn’t taste.
Please click on this link to watch a movie of Keith making cheese and our visit to the dairy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_aa-dh8Uh0. Please come back later today to see this. This Camembert style cheese is called Bent River Cheese. His cheese company is Alemar Cheese Company: www.alemarcheese.com. The dairy he partners with is: www.cedarsummit.com.
If you go into your grocery store and cannot find this cheese, please give them the website and ask them to order it for you. You won’t be disappointed.
Bent River Cheese Burger
Bent River Cheeseburger
Time: 30 minutes
1 glass of your favorite wine
1 pound ground buffalo meat (optional, substitute ground beef)
1 pound ground beef
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ C. Bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
½ wheel Bent River Cheese, sliced
1 tomato sliced
6 leaves romaine lettuce
1 Tsp. olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tsp. strawberry jam
6 Burger buns
6 Tsp mayonnaise
6 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Take a sip of your wine and continue to drink throughout cooking time. Mix together the ground meat, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, eggs, salt and pepper and form into patties. Grill about five minutes each side. Just before finished, topped with cheese to melt. In a hot skillet add the olive oil and the onions. Pour over the sugar and jam. Cook until the onions become caramelized. Toast the buns on the grill. Place the cheesy burger. Spread mayo and mustard on the bun. Layer with tomato and lettuce. Top with bun. Enjoy!
Deep Fried Bent River Cheese with Strawberry Jam and Basil
Deep Fried Bent River Cheese
Time: 20 minutes
1 Wheel Bent River Cheese
1 Tbsp. milk
2 C. bread crumbs
5 C. peanut oil (or whatever frying oil you prefer)
2 Tbsp Strawberry jam
Basil to garnish
Note: Bent River Cheese is best if eaten within three weeks. If you bought a few wheels, you may want to get them into the freezer before the three weeks are up. Then, you can thaw it out and make this recipe because it’s easier to do if still a bit frozen.
Cut the wheel into small wedges. Combine the egg and milk in a small bowl. Pour the bread crumbs into another bowl. Heat the oil to 300 degrees in a deep fryer or appropriate pot for deep frying. Roll the cheese in the egg wash and then into the bread crumbs. Make sure it is completely covered in crumbs. Deep fry for one minute. Take them out and serve with the jam. Enjoy.
Bent River Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts in Morrel Sauce
Bent River Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts in Morrel Sauce
Time: 40 minutes
1 whole chicken (or two breasts)
2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
1/4 wheel of Bent River Cheese
2 Tbsp butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you opted for the whole chicken, please see my video on deboning so you can cut the breasts off. http://www.youtube.com/user/SimplyFoodify#play/uploads/6/OSPHniPsCTw I prefer starting from the whole chicken because for close to the same price you will have chicken left to cook tomorrow and the bones to make a delicious soup or stock. Slice the breasts open and stuff them with the Bent River Cheese. Rub the salt on the breast skin. Melt the butter in a skillet. Place the chicken in the melted butter in the medium heated skillet. Let the chicken cook and turn brown for about five minutes. In about that time, the chicken should be easily flipped over. Allow the other side to brown. Place the skillet in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked.
I made mine on a bed of fried eggplant and a creamy morrel mushroom sauce. You could do this or make any sauce and vegetable combination you prefer. Enjoy!