If there's one thing in my life that's telling and appropriate, it's that I married a man from Wisconsin. America's Dairyland! Home of the Mars Cheese Castle! I love me some cheese. There's one ad that is more truthful than all others - the one that proclaims cheese makes everything better.
I got to take a little field trip to the Hillsborough Cheese Company. It was quite an honor because this is not a factory kind of place where the general public can don a hair net and wander in. The boutique creamery operates on a small family farm where Cindy, cheese maker extraordinaire, grew up. Considering I've only been to the kind of boutique where you try on silken dresses that run up your credit card bill, I had no idea what to expect. On a rainy gray day I showed up in my galoshes, having been warned to wear something with rubber soles that could get goopy. The small creamery where all the hands on labor is done is quite refreshing in this age of factory grade rubber that passes as cheese. Don't even get me started on the stuff labeled "cheese product."
I got to actually go to work and get my hands dirty whipping up a batch of jalapeno chevre. It was a tactile pleasure to get in there mixing up the grated bits of pickled jalapeno and black pepper. The green flecked snowball that was the end result tasted magnificent. I used it in sweet potato quesadillas that night and polished off the rest on some simple wheat crackers.I also bought some of the aged sweet ash. It was a marvel to see the little round glob of cheese in all its stages and then bite into the finished product. I served the sweet ash to guests outside by our patio fireplace one night. We had a simple fireside nosh of cheese, Italian bread, and grapes. I was up and down refilling drinks and opening wine so I didn't even get to enjoy my sweet ash! Damn my share the wealth spirit.
My other favorite was the ricotta. Banish any thoughts of grocery store ricotta you have. This is nothing like it. I have been dreaming about fresh ricotta since we returned from Italy. In July. I had it every morning for breakfast and have searched all over for a decent stand in until our budget takes us back to Sorrento. Well, folks I found it! The Hillsborough Cheese Company's ricotta is simply divine. It's creamy and rich without being grainy or leaving remnants of a weird after taste like the whole milk stuff sold in the super market. This ricotta, my friends, is the real deal. My sons clamored for it as an after school snack, and I had no choice but to share the wealth. Needless to say, it was devoured in minutes. Next time I shall buy two containers and stash one for myself. And no more sharing for this girl!
I am a devotee of the Hillsborough Cheese Company. It stands for all thing values I embrace - local, fresh, good food made with passion, zest, and flavor. Cindy, the cheesemaker, is so knowledgable and humble. She makes a superb product and is driven by quality, not images of grandeur. I'll be making a special trip to some farmers markets a good hike away from me to buy up some Hillsborough Cheese Company Cheese. But I can't promise it will even make it home.
Here's where you too can relish the flavor:
South Estes Farmers Market in Chapel Hill
Eno River Farmer's Market in Hillsborough
Weaver Street Markets (in Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Carrboro)
A Southern Season in Chapel Hill
Western Wake Farmer's Market in Cary
Saxapahaw Farmers Market in Saxapahaw