Uplands Cheese Company, located in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, has been making one single cheese for just over ten years: the highly-celebrated Pleasant Ridge Reserve. It's unequivocally delicious, and is the only cheese to have won "Best in Show" three times at the American Cheese Society's annual competition. Both on paper and in your mouth, it's near-perfect.
But now, Uplands has something new. If you've never geeked out on cheese, now's a great time to start.
Have you ever tasted Vacherin Mont D'Or? It may be one of the more highly coveted cheeses out there. It's highly seasonal, pretty expensive, and downright unique. It's made with the winter milk from the same cows in the Jura region of France who produce milk for Comte cheese.
It's this cheese, along with its adherence to being strictly made in the winter, that inspired Uplands cheesemaker Andy Hatch. Winter milk is richer and slightly more rustic in flavor, since it reflects the change in the cows' diet from grass to hay. Winter milk isn't great for making hard cheeses, like Pleasant Ridge Reserve or Comte. And so, a softer cheese it was, when Andy decided to develop something new and to make a contribution to the legacy of Uplands Cheese Company.
Last year was the first year he released the cheese, but it was scarce. I hadn't even heard about it until this past December. The coolest thing about this cheese makes impact on its aesthetic, but also on its flavor. Bound within a tight enclosure of spruce bark (imported from the Jura region of France, no less), it's what makes Rush Creek what it is, and it's what distinguishes it from other washed rind cheeses, too.
Because of the bark wrapping, the cheese is definitively woodsy. It's eggy, with a richness reminiscent more of heavy whipping cream or custard than actual cheese. It's salty and meaty, too. Consider it in the same family not only as Vacherin Mont D'Or, but also the great Swiss cheese Forsterkase and Winnemere, from Vermont cheesemaking powerhouse Jasper Hill Farm.
Because the inner paste is so gooey, the spruce wrapping acts as insurance that it'll hold its shape as it ages. It sits in the aging rooms for the required 60 days for raw milk cheese. The texture is near-perfect, like ready-made fondue. It truly is one of the best cheeses I've tasted in awhile. I think it calls for bourbon, but beer or an off-dry white would work in a pinch.
You should be able to find Rush Creek at specialty cheese shops for the next month or so, hopefully. Get your geek on while you can.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Images: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board; Nora Singley)