Cheese Whiz

Yesterday I mentioned the Carter family recipe for a molded cheese ring. The cheeses themselves, including Muenster, are perfectly fine, but when combined wrongly become an episode of When Good Cheeses Go Bad. Today, a happier story about cheese: This week’s “Creating” column in the Wall Street Journal profiles Sid Cook, an artisanal cheesemaker from Wisconsin.

After he got the idea for Cocoa Cardona [ripened goat cheese with black pepper and cocoa powder], he drove to a Madison spice store … and also saw a possible solution to a long-standing problem—how to perfect smoked cheddar. At the time, he said, “Most of the smoked cheddars out there would leave an acrid finish in your mouth—like chewing on a cigarette butt or something.” Paprika, he suspected, would temper but not overwhelm the pleasant “cheesiness.” The result was another award winner called Apple Smoked Cheddar.

Where Cook makes his money, however, is not from obscure varieties such as the chipotle and cranberry cheddar but rather cheddar cheese curds:

Cheese curds—large, irregularly shaped pieces that are often breaded and deep-fried before serving—do especially well when the Green Bay Packers see postseason play, like this year. “It’s a Wisconsin thing,” Mr. Cook said.

My wife’s cousin spent the first several years after college looking for a job that offered good money. But what he really wanted to do is go into cheesemaking (he’s also an excellent cook). Last year he finally took the plunge, going back to school to learn about the dairy process and all things farming-related. He doesn’t make as much as he used to, but he’s the happiest he’s ever been.

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