It is always a pleasure to use these digital pages to share ways we can all eat and drink locally. Last week, I was delighted to write with a focus on local dairies and creameries and local artisan cheese makers. I started with an intro sort of post and now am expanding the topic with more photos and a video, too!
In the span of two days, I visited four North Carolina dairies & creameries. In addition I added two artisan cheese makers into the mix. All to share the details on where and why we should all Eat Local Cheese.
It’s Healthy for Everyone to Eat Local Cheese
Coming up: the video from my Eat Local Cheese Segment last week on WCNC’s Charlotte Today. Plus all the delicious details on each of the featured cheeses.
But first, lets talk about why it is healthy to eat cheese in general and local NC cheeses in particular.
There is no doubt that buying and eating local cheese and dairy products is good for the local economy.
Local cheese comes from local milk sourced from local and regional dairy farms. Eating cheese as a part of our daily diets is a wonderful way to eat healthier. And, at the same time, eating local helps keep those dairy farms in business by supporting our local agricultural economy.
This nutritional information below comes from the registered dietitians at The Dairy Alliance. I am most appreciative to my friends at The Dairy Alliance for their help in making this post possible. The Alliance represents local dairies and dairy farmers. And the dietitians there want you to know that drinking milk and eating cheese is always a healthy choice.
Be sure to check out The Dairy Alliance website for nutritional information on all things dairy. And there are recipes, too. Including this one for Ham and Swiss Cheese Quiche Muffins . I tried it (its a crowd pleasing recipe for sure) and it will work well with any of the cheeses in this post!
Some Nutritional FAQs from The Dairy Alliance
That cheese is the second leading food source of dietary calcium in the United States. The first, of course, is milk. Like milk, cheese is a high quality source of protein; and contains many of the essential nutrients our bodies regularly need such as calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A.
Here is some good news if you are lactose intolerant. Try eating firmer aged cheeses. As cheeses age, the level of lactose begins to decrease. So, the lactose intolerant cheese lovers among you may find aged cheeses to be more suitable to your diet.
What about the fat?
According to nutritionists and dietitians at The National Dairy Council, a growing body of research suggests that eating dairy foods, regardless of fat content, is associated with improved bone health, especially in children and teens. The research continues, adding that the consumption of dairy products – like cheese, milk and yogurt can also lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and can help lower blood pressure in adults. Cheese is certainly a delicious and nutritious food that can easily fit into a balanced diet.
Smile and Say Eat Local Cheese
In addition to the writing, I love sharing the information in these eat local posts with a segment on TV. This piece, which recently aired on Charlotte Today, is up on my Facebook page and has been a popular share on social media. Check it out, then read on for more pics and details.
Uno Alla Volta Cheese – Charlotte NC
Many of you who have taken my cooking classes know how much I love Charlotte’s Local cheese maker Zack Gadberry. Chef turned cheesemaker, Zack sells his fresh artisan cheeses to many area chefs and restaurants. The line up includes mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, burrata, ricotta and cottage cheese.
Uno Alla Volta mozzarella, ricotta and cottage cheese are available in Charlotte at all three locations of Pasta & Provisions. On Saturday mornings, buy direct from Zack at the Matthews Community Farmers Market and from his extended family at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market.
I featured one of my favorites, Uno Alla Volta’s Cottage cheese, in this recent Cooking with Local Milk post. The post also includes a video from another wonderful North Carolina Dairy – Lutz Farms.
For more info on Uno Alla Volta cheeses, follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Chapel Hill Creamery – Chapel Hill NC
This longtime farmstead dairy is a front runner in the NC Cheese industry. The creamery and dairy are owned and operated by Portia McKnight and Flo Hawley. Together they produce nationally award winning fresh farmstead and aged cheeses.
The creamery’s Jersey cows, a friendly sounder of swine, and a sweet ox named Flint all live at the farm. The cheese making and aging facilities are both on site, as well.
The farm and the dairy are not regularly open to visitors. But, Chapel Hill Creamery does host annual farm days you should most certainly plan to attend. Follow them on social media to catch the details. This 50 acre property is lovely and the dairy cows here are incredibly sweet.
The Creamery is best known for its aged Calvander and Hickory Grove cheeses; and its soft-ripened brie-like Carolina Moon cheese. Use the Calvander as you would any aged firm gouda or Parmigiana. The Hickory Grove is for melting – think grilled cheese, please. And bring the Carolina Moon, to room temp to enjoy with any fresh fruit, berry, jam or jelly.
These popular cheeses are on many Charlotte restaurant cheese lists. McKnight and Hawley continue to keep it all local – even down to the names of each CHC cheese. Each moniker has a story. And, each of these cheeses is named after a part of the area’s history and heritage.
In addition, Chapel Hill Creamery’s Hickory Grove cheese is featured every Thursday at Orrman’s Cheese Shop’s weekly raclette tasting. Nothing beats the taste of warm melted cheese. #TellThemHeidiSentYou
Other Chapel Hill Creamery Cheese to Try
The CHC Dairyland Farmers’ Cheese I referred to in the video is a fresh cheese with a shorter shelf life. Consequently it doesn’t often ship to Charlotte. It’s bright and fresh and delicious. You should look for it at farmers’ markets and specialty grocers, when next you visit the Triangle.
New to Chapel Hill Creamery is a rind-washed cheese called Danziger. It is affectionately named for Papa Danziger, an Austrian immigrant who first settled the property that is now home to Chapel Hill Creamery. Look for it on the market soon – it is soft and creamy with a delightfully pungent taste and aroma.
Boxcarr Handmade Cheese – Cedar Grove NC
At Boxcarr Handmade Cheese, creamery owners and cheesemakers Austin and Samantha Genke were inspired by the cheeses of Italy. And so, they produce incredible washed – rind Italian inspired artisan cheeses using locally sourced North Carolina Jersey and Holstein cow’s milk. In several of their varieties they often incorporate goat’s milk from their farm or from neighboring dairies. The cheeses listed here are all robust cow’s milk cheeses – all washed rind varieties. Each with a soft or semi soft texture and a ripe, full bodied aroma and taste.
Boxcarr’s robiola is one of my favorites. It is made in two variations on the theme. This one, Rocket’s Robiola dusted in vegetable ash which darkens as the cheese begins to develop it’s doughy, wrinkled rind. This pasteurized cow’s milk is tangy and bright. Cut and brought to room temp the body of the cheese is creamy, thick and slightly runny. The cheesemakers describe it as having the taste of butter-roasted mushroom and toasted almond. I call it delicious.
I also showcased Boxcarr’s Lissome and Nimble cheeses. The first is a slightly firm, beer-laden cow’s milk cheese similar to Italian classic, Taleggio. Lissome’s rind takes its orange hue from being washed in beer and brine during the aging process.
The Nimble is a similar cheese, slightly firmer and a bit more mild. Both are delicious with apples and pears or smeared on a crusty French or Italian bread.
Many of Boxcarr’s cheeses are available locally at Orrman’s Cheese Shop at 7th Street Market and at The Loyalist in Matthews. Currently Mere’s in Dilworth is currently featuring Boxcarr’s Rosie Robiola.
Looking Glass Creamery in Fairview NC and in Columbus, NC
Big news is the works for this local NC Creamery!
The original farm and the very popular cheese shop is located in Fairview Nc just outside of Asheville. Last year, Looking Glass owners Jen and Andy, expanded the operation, purchasing the dairy that provides the milk for their cheeses.
This winter they are working on the farm – a bucolic 226 acre property. Looking Glass will continue to operate in their Fairview cheese shop. In the spring and summer of 2019, look for the first of many on-the-farm events at the Columbus NC property. Soon there will be a cheese shop there too!
Looking Glass Creamery is probably best known for a cheese called “Chocolate Lab.” Chocolate Lab is a washed rind aged cheese. Throughout the aging process each round of cheese is gently hand bathed with Highland Brewing Company’s Black Mocha Stout, Then the rounds of cheese are finished with a rub of crushed cocoa nibs from French Broad Chocolate.
At Looking Glass Creamery, they also makes several varieties of blue cheese, including a variety called Green River that I just love. Its rich and creamy and just strong enough.
Also new at the dairy, an Alpine swiss cheese called Bearwallow. Its a milder cheese – perfect for melting, grilling and slicing to stack up as an integral part of a classic ham and cheese on rye.
Finally, I leave you with another Looking Glass Creamery classic a melt in your mouth dulce-de-leche style caramel sauce called Carmoolita. Spoon over ice cream, drizzle over French toast or simply eat it by the spoonful. Don’t just buy one jar – you’re gonna want to have an extra on hand at all times.
Guernsey Girl Creamery in Shelby NC
Guernsey Girl is the smallest of all the creameries I am showcasing in this post. However, cheese maker and dairy farmer, Ashely Bridges is a 4th generation North Carolina dairy farmer. Ashley makes Cheddar cheese, cheese curds and soft cow’s milk chevre all made with milk from the dairy’s Golden Guernsey cows.
Guernsey Girl cheeses are available at the farm store right on the property in Shelby at 3370 Bridges Dairy Road. You can check their Facebook page for details.
Hidden Gem Alert: Honey Hog Restaurant in Fallston, NC
Guernsey Girl cheese curds are regularly available at the Honey Hog restaurant in Fallston, NC. The restaurant is just up the road from the creamery. The cooks at Honey Hog bread and fry these fresh made curds and serve them with a side of ranch. Yes, I believe I will !
Ashe County Cheese – West Jefferson, NC
The last cheese in this Eat Local round up is Ashe County cheese. This is the oldest running cheese operation in North Carolina. It was originally opened by the Kraft company and, now independently owned, is still possibly the biggest cheese making operation in the state.
Cheese makers here source local and regional milk. Ashe County is not a farm, but its fun place to go and see the basics. Go to see how its done and have fun shopping in the Ashe County Cheese story ( which by the way has a massive new candy section). You’ll find a schedule of Ashe County Cheese’s cheese making sessions on their website.
In Charlotte you can fine Ashe County cheeses at lots of local farm stores and at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market Thursday – Sunday at the All Natural Farms booth in Building B; and on Saturdays at the Clearview Farms booth in Building A.
Pardon My French, But here is how to properly cut the cheese 🙂
When it comes to cheese knives, there is no one size fits all. Fresh cheeses spread easily with a butter knife. Softer cheeses like the Chapel Hill Creamery Carolina Moon, the Boxcarr Robiolas or the Looking Glass Creamery Green River Blue need a knife that won’t stick to the cheese as you slice. Use a knife like the one pictured here with the serrated edge and the open blade for the best results. Firmer aged cheeses like the Chapel Hill Creamery Calvander are perfect for grating; you’ll find a hand grater or microplane works well. For slightly less firm cheeses such as the Looking Glass Bearwallow or the Guernsey Girl Creamery Milkhouse Cheddar, use a slicer for the easiest way to cut and serve.
And here is a little tip. When you are cutting a wedge of cheese to serve, don’t start at the end. Cheeses age from the outside to the middle. For the fullest flavor, you will want to serve a slice that goes from the firmer rind all the way to the softer middle.
Want the map?
As I was traveling from dairy to dairy, for fun, I decided to make a map documenting my cheese tasting adventures. My plan is to add to the map as I continue to visit other dairies around the state. Meantime, I’m happy to share this with you to print up and keep to use as a reference point.
For more places to eat and enjoy local NC cheese, check out the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail and the NC Cheese Trail, which features dairies and creameries in the middle and Eastern part of the state. Both of these organizations have great printable maps, too; and sponsor local NC cheese festivals you’ll want to plan to attend. Be sure to #TellThemHeidiSentYou !
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