Come ‘n Get It: Rush Creek Reserve
The months of October through December bring loads of reason for excitement: holidays, celebrating with friends and family, lots of eating and drinking, fall and the beginning of winter (more exciting for some than others but I love snow!) and the release of…
Rush Creek Reserve
(the equivalent to a cheese-nerd birthday).
This much-lauded second cheese from award-winning cheesemaker Andy Hatch at Uplands Cheese Company in Dodgeville, Wisconsin is a nod to the farm’s continued devotion to seasonality and happy cows. Initially released in 2010, this soft, savory gem is modeled after Vacherin Mont d’Or, a soft autumnal cheese made in the Jura region of France as well as Switzerland. After spending 2009 tinkering with different ideas and batches the 2010 release exploded, including a nod in the New York Times, and the first batch of 4,000 wheels was snapped up immediately. Since then production has increased over 400% and even then, Andy says, the wheels are almost completely reserved by retailers and restaurants before they’re finished aging. In France Vacherin Mont d’Or is made with raw milk and aged for 25 days. The soft rind is wrapped in a round of spruce bark to lend flavor and structure, and is frequently eaten with chocolate spread as a holiday treat (YUM). As the cheese has to be aged for an additional 35 days to be sold raw in the States each step of the French process had to be tweaked and tinkered at Uplands. As demand for the cheese has hastened the release to October (rather than November, as in ’10) the production spans the Jersey cow’s transition from a diet of grass to that of primarily hay, as production kicks off in August.
As it does in France, production of Rush Creek Reserve comes at the end of the Pleasant Ridge Reserve season, creating a delicious and useful outlet for late summer and autumn milk, which is richer in fat, but needs time (like all grass-fed milk) to develop flavor. Younger cheeses like Rush Creek are dependent upon the quality of the milk, skill of the cheesemaker and outside influences like aging caves and conditions for their flavor. As a result the spruce that Andy uses to wrap the cheeses does more than just maintain their shape. This year’s batch has a distinct woody note but is less bacon-y than previous years, with more abundant notes of fruit and grass. There are several schools of thought on the best way to eat it and I suggest you try them all. Pull it out of the fridge and let it temper (warm up) for a few hours and eat it with dark chocolate or a cocoa spread. Or cut some slits in the top rind and pour some Riesling into the paste, wrap the cheese in aluminum foil and bake it at 250 degrees for 10-15 minutes, allowing the cheese to soften and absorb the wine. Bake it at 300 degrees for 10-15 minutes and spoon it over roasted potatoes or root vegetables. Any way you eat it, I guarantee it will be the best part of your day.