Crème de la Coulée Artisan Cheese's inaugural cheese, St. Brigid, was released just yesterday. Cheesemaker Bill Anderson describes the raw milk, washed rind, cave-aged cheese as similar to a French munster (very different from what Americans buy as munster; closer to Camembert). The milk all comes from St. Brigid's Meadows, an organic farm near La Crosse that raises Jersey cows.
Anderson sees the cheese as "a distillation of the pastures, capturing the terroir, the essence of the land." You might discern hints of mushroom in the St. Brigid, Anderson suggests, and the rind is reminiscent of cured meats. The monks who originally made this style of cheese abstained from meat, yet in this way could get that "rich, meaty umami flavor," Anderson says.
He named his business after Wisconsin's Coulee region because it has "more organic dairy farms than any other place in the U.S." Currently Anderson's home base is Madison. He makes his cheeses at the Cedar Grove Cheese facility in Plain and is looking to establish his own cheese cave.
Anderson is working on a number of other cheeses, including a chaource, also a young, cave-aged, raw cow's milk cheese that ages to a more pungent flavor; a blue cheese; and a cheese to be made with sheep's milk. All U.S. raw milk cheeses must be aged 60 days, unlike in France, and Anderson says that "having to grapple with that has made me a better cheesemaker."
For the new year, Crème de la Coulée will be offering a Cheese of the Month Club, inspired by CSAs. There will be local pickup sites and two different cheeses a month (amounting to a pound), at a cost of $200 for 12 months. Anderson specializes in soft-ripened French cheeses, so to add diversity to the club he'll include other styles from cheesemakers such as Bleu Mont Dairy and Uplands. Anderson will cap the club at about 100 subscribers.
Advantages to the cheese-a-month method over buying some nice cheese in the store? "It's freshly cut, within the week, and you'll be getting soft cheeses at their peak of ripeness," Anderson notes.
For more info on the program, email Email firstname.lastname@example.org. St. Brigid is sold at Underground Butcher, 811 Williamson St.
Wisconsin Cheese Originals is offering a year of cheese classes and pairings. You can reserve each class in advance (each is limited to 22 people) or sign up for the whole series of 12, for a discount. Each comes with beverage and an appetizer and will be held at Firefly Coffeehouse, 114 N. Main St., Oregon. January starts out with a "101" approach to different types of cheese, and the series delves deeper into aspects of terroir, pasture-based cheeses and aging. For more info, see wisconsincheeseoriginals.com or call Jeanne Carpenter at 608-358-7837.