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TRIVIA: National Egg Month

May is National Egg Month, a time for some consciousness-raising.

We look for Certified Humane eggs and don’t mind paying the premium for them. You’ve no doubt heard the horror stories of mass egg production.

We buy from Pete and Gerry’s whenever we can: eggs produced on small family farms with a commitment to the humane treatment of the chickens.

Pete & Gerry’s eggs are also USDA Organic, OU kosher and B-Corporation Certified: committed to sustainability.

They shared these fowl facts with us:

  • There’s no nutritional difference between brown and white eggs. The color of the egg is actually determined by the color of the hen!
  • Young hens produce smaller eggs. The medium-size eggs come from pullets, hens that are less than a year old.
  • The smaller the egg, the thicker the shell. This makes them easier to crack (no fragments to fish out) and, for hard-boiled eggs, easier to peel.
  • What creates a double yolk? In a young hen that is just learning how to lay eggs, two eggs merged before the shell was formed.
  • All eggs aren’t equally flavorful. Aside from freshness (e.g., farmers market eggs), the tastiest eggs come from free-range hens they have real access to grass, where they can peck for worms and other insects that contribute to the flavor.
  • Fresh water, the space to roost and access to earth so they can dust-bathe are also essential. Cage-free and conventional hens spend their lives crammed together indoors. Cage-free hens aren’t confined to sit in a tiny cage, but are crammed onto the floor of a building with no room to move.
  • What’s the deal with cholesterol? In the 1980s, news warned against the consumption of eggs for people with high cholesterol. But the new news is, research has returned to the side of egg consumption. Don’t steer clear of eggs because of cholesterol. (If you have an issue, consult with your healthcare provider).
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    That’s good news, because…

  • The egg is a nutritional powerhouse, with 7 grams of high-quality protein, iron, vitamins, minerals and carotenoids, including the disease-fighting antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin and the macro-ingredient choline. Yes, there are 5 grams of fat, but only 1.6 grams are saturated fat (types of fat). And all for just 75-78 calories per large egg.
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    Now for the fun trivia:

     

    Natural Hens' Eggs Colors

    Tufted Araucana Chicken

    These eggs are all natural in color. The colors come from different breeds of hens. Those breeds don’t produce eggs as economically as breeds that produce white and brown eggs, so they are not sold commercially, except by some farmstands (photo courtesy The Egg Farm). [2] This tufted arcauna chicken, originally from South America, lays pale blue eggs (photo courtesy Awesome Araucana.

  • Why are eggs sold by the dozen? In England and other European countries from as early as the 700s and continuing until around 1960, the Imperial Unit System was used. There were twelve pennies to a shilling, which meant that an egg could be sold for a penny, or a dozen eggs could be sold for a shilling, with no change-making required.
  • By the Elizabethan period (1550-1600), selling eggs by the dozen was the standard practice. The English who emigrated to North America brought the system with them. Other countries have their own standards.
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    TIPS

  • To crack an egg: The best technique is to tap it on the counter, not on the rim of the bowl. You’ll avoid fragments, splinters, or whatever you call those exasperating little pieces that drop into the bowl.
  • To check if an egg is fresh or stale, raw or hard boiled: Just spin the egg on the counter. If it wobbles, it’s raw. If it spins easily, it’s hard boiled. A fresh egg will sink in water, a stale one will float.
  • Egg sandwiches: A fried egg sandwich with bacon was popular in our youth. These days, one of our go-to quick meals for breakfast, lunch or light dinner is a sliced hard-boiled egg sandwich on rye toast. We buy the eggs pre-boiled and peeled (a great time saver!) and use an ever-changing variety of seasonal fixings (a favorite: roasted red pepper (pimento) with baby arugula) and mayo flavors. For weekend brunch: a slice of smoked salmon.
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    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF EGGS

    If you think of eggs as either white or brown, check out the different types of eggs in our Egg Glossary. There are 10 choices in chicken eggs alone!
     
    SOME EGG-CELLENT LINKS

  • Egg Salad Recipes & The History Of Egg Salad
  • How To Make The Perfect Hard-Boiled Egg
  • Egg Nutrition
  • Quail Egg Recipes
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    FOOD FUN: Fried Eggs (And More) In Pepper Slices

    We saw this photo on Tajín’s Facebook page, but couldn’t find a recipe.

    Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to slice bell peppers and drop an egg inside each slice—along with some mildly spicy Tajín seasoning (it’s a cayenne, lime and salt blend).

    We thought: What else can we make with a bell pepper rim?

    Cooked Foods

  • Burger patties
  • Melting cheeses (see list below)
  • Grains (mounded inside)
  • Savory pancakes
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    Uncooked Foods

    If the food isn’t cohesive enough to be mounded, make the slices taller; or trim a bit of the bottom of a half or whole pepper so it will stand.

  • Ceviche
  • Sashimi
  • Tuna and other protein salads
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    ABOUT TAJÍN SEASONING

    In Mexico, this spice blend of cayenne, lime and salt is used on just about anything, savory and sweet:

  • Fruits: raw, cooked, sorbets and ice pops: citrus, cucumber, melon, and tropical fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, etc.)
  • Beverage glass glass rimmers
  • Eggs, grains, potatoes (including fries), vegetables
  • Snacks: popcorn, mozzarella sticks
  • Proteins: fish, meat, poultry, tofu
  • Just about anything else, from angel food cakes to salad dressings
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    GOOD MELTING CHEESES

    Good melting cheeses include, among others:

  • American muenster
  • Asiago
  • Cheddar
  • Colby
  • Edam
  • Gruyère and other Alpine cheeses (e.g. emmental, comté)
  • Fontina
  • Havarti
  • Hispanic melting cheeses (asadero, queso blanco, queso chihuahua, queso di papi, queso oaxaca, queso quesadilla)
  • Monterey jack
  • Mozzarella
  • Provolone
  • Reblochon
  • Taleggio
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    Fried Eggs In Bell Pepper Slices

    Fried Egg Veggie Bowl

    Tajin Seasoning

    [1] Slice the pepper, drop in the egg. [2] Enjoy as is, or in the center of a yummy bowl of greens (photo courtesy Hope Foods). [3] Tajín seasoning: cayenne, lime and salt (photos courtesy Tajín.

      

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    RECIPE: Fried Egg Quesadilla & Quesadilla History

    We don’t know what Chef Ingrid Hoffmann is making for Cinco de Mayo, but we’re breakfasting on our adaptation of her Fried Egg Quesadillas.

    A simple Mexican snack food. A basic Quesadilla are a Mexican snack food: a turnover (photo #1) made with an uncooked tortilla and a variety of fillings—beans, cheese, meats, potatoes, then folded and toasted on a hot griddle (comal) or fried.

    Regional variations abound.

  • In the northern states, it can be filled simply, with strips of Chihuahua cheese (queso Chihuahua—photo #3), a soft white cheese made in braids, balls or rounds and similar to mild white cheddar or Monterey Jack—all good melters.
  • The cheese originated in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. (Interestingly, in Chihuahua, where it originated, it is called queso menonita after the Mennonite community that first produced it.)
  • In central Mexico, the preference is for braided Oaxaca cheese (photo #4), some leaves of fresh epazote, and strips of peeled chile poblano.
  • A favorite filling is potato and chorizo; the “deluxe” versions contain sautéed squash blossoms or huitlachoche, the highly-esteemed corn blossom fungus.
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    RECIPE: FRIED EGG & AVOCADO QUESADILLAS

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large whole-grain tortillas
  • 1 ripe Hass avocado, peeled, seeded and mashed
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts or pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Optional: ½ jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup grated cheese
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional garnishes: crema (sour cream), salsa
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    Preparation

    There are more complex tortilla recipes, including a “sandwich” style with a top and bottom tortilla, cut into wedges (photo #2).

    It can be served with sides of crema (sour cream), guacamole or salsa for customization.

    This recipe (photo #1) is a much quicker version.

    1. BRUSH a small nonstick skillet with the oil and heat over medium heat.

    2. ADD the eggs one at a time and cook sunny side up about 2 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer to a plate. While the eggs are cooking…

    3. WARM the tortillas in a separate, hot skillet (no oil needed).

    4. ASSEMBLE: Spread the warm tortilla with half of the mashed avocado, tomatoes, pine nuts, cilantro and jalapeño.

    5. TOP with an egg, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fold over and serve.

    If you’re making multiples, quesadillas can be kept warm in 300°F oven on a baking sheet, until ready to serve.
     
    THE HISTORY OF MEXICAN COOKING & THE QUESADILLA

    The quesadilla was born in New Spain (what is now Mexico) during colonial times: the period from the arrival of the conquistadors in 1519 to the Mexican War of Independence in 1821, which ended Spanish rule.

       

    Breakfast Quesadilla

    Breakfast Quesadilla

    Queso Chihuaha

    Queso Oaxaca Ball

    [1] Quesadilla, loaded and ready to fold, grab and go (photo courtesy Chef Ingrid Hoffmann). [2] A more formal quesadilla presentation requires a knife and fork, is made between two tortillas and then cut into triangles (photo courtesy Cabot Cheese). [3] Queso chihuahua from Mozzarella Company (photo courtesy iGourmet). [4] Queso oaxaca, braided (photo courtesy Food & Travel Mexico).

     
    For thousands of years, the local cuisine had consisted of the area’s staples: avocados, beans, cacao (available to the rich and famous), chiles, corn (made into a variety of foods, including tortillas), papayas, pineapples, potatoes (which originated in Peru), tomatoes, squash (including pumpkin) and vanilla.

    Dishes included corn pancakes; tamales; tortillas with pounded pastes or wrapped around other foods; all flavored with numerous salsas (sauces), intensely flavored and thickened with seeds and nuts.

    The Spanish brought with them wheat flour and new types of livestock: cattle, chicken (and their eggs), goat, pigs, sheep. Before then, local animal proteins consisted of fish, quail, turkey and a small, barkless dog bred for food, the itzcuintli, a [plump] relative of the chihuahua.

    Cooking oil was scarce until the pigs arrived, yielding lard for frying. Indigenous cooking techniques were limited to baking on a hot griddle, and boiling or steaming in a pot. While olive trees would not grow in New Spain, olive oil arrived by ship from the mother country.

     

    Bean Quesadilla

    Steak Quesadillas

    Lobster Quesadillas

    [5] Basic quesadilla: cheese and beans (here’s the recipe from Taste Of Home). [6] Grilled flank steak tortillas (photo courtesy Kings Ford Charcoal).[7] Going gourmet: lobster quesadillas from Mackenzie Ltd.

     

    The Spanish brought dairying, which produced butter, cheese and milk.

    The sugar cane they planted provided sweetness. Barley, rice and wheat were important new grains. Spices for flavor enhancement included black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, coriander and cilantro (the leaves of the coriander plant), cumin, garlic, oregano, and parsley.

    Almonds and other sesame seeds augmented native varieties. Produce additions included apples, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, onions and oranges.

    While grapes, like olive trees, would not grow in the climate, imported raisins became in ingredient in the fusion cuisine—i.e., Mexican cooking.

    (Mind you, the peasant diet was still limited to beans, corn tortillas and locally gathered foods like avocados.)

    While the Spanish could not make wine locally, they did teach the Aztecs how to distill agave, into what was called mezcal.

    The pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica brewed a fermented alcoholic beverage called pulque (think corn based beer). With the barley they brought, the Spanish brewed their home-style beer.

    The development of the cuisine was greatly aided by the arrival of Spanish nuns [source].

    Experimenting with what was available locally, nuns invented much of the more sophisticated Mexican cuisine, including, but hardly limited to:

  • Buñuelos.
  • Cajeta, a type of dulce de leche made with goat’s milk. It is a type of dulce de leche.
  • Chiles rellenos, stuffed with beef, cheese or pork.
  • Escabeche, a variety of marinades for fish.
  • Guacamole (New Spain had the avocados, tomatoes and chiles, but Spain brought the cilantro (the leaves of the coriander plant) and the onions.
  • Mole sauce.
  • Rompope, an eggnog-like drink.
  • Lomo en adobo: pork loin in a spicy sauce. [source]
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    So whence the quintessentially Mexican quesadilla?

    It’s half indigenous, half Spanish.

  • From the New World: the corn tortilla, hot sauce and other salsas.
  • From Spain, the cheese, beef-chicken-pork and the shredded lettuce…as well as the wheat for flour tortillas and the eggs for breakfast quesadillas.
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    And it’s very, very popular, from Mexican street food to restaurant far in Mexico and the U.S.

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Schuman Cheese Wizardry

    Fontina Aging Room Yellow Door Creamery

    Hand Rubbed Fontina Yellow Door Creamery

    [1] Cheeses aging in the Alpine Room. [2] Fontina in a variety of flavorful rubs, $6.99/wedge (photos courtesy Schuman Cheese).

     

    As food swami Anthony Bourdain has said, “you have to be a romantic to invest yourself, your money, and your time in cheese.”

    Where do you go looking for real romantics these days? In Wisconsin. Turtle Lake Wisconsin.

    Turtle Lake is home to the Schuman family’s largest cheese making facility, which has quietly been importing and manufacturing award-winning cheeses for the past ten years.

    Never heard of them? It’s because they’ve primarily focused on supplying wholesale distributors with their superb products for a roster of demanding chefs, food service contractors, private-label markets, hotels, and restaurants around the world.

    Now though, they have a new name and some new cheeses that will richly cater to your own discerning taste. Newly named Schuman Cheese (formerly Arthur Schuman, Inc.) has begun to send two of their most intensely researched, developed and tested cheeses to markets where they’re awaiting your shopping cart.

    WHAT’S UP AT SCHUMAN CHEESE

    Focusing on cheeses people love to cook with and snack on every day, Schuman has created two brand families: Yellow Door Creamery, and Cello for Italian varieties. These unique cheeses are made by hand to European specifications.

    Separately, Schuman has formed an exclusive five-year relationship with France’s École nationale d’industrie laitière (ENIL), a series of five regional colleges that operate under the French Ministry of Agriculture and which defines the standards for cheesemaking artisans.

    The partnership is devoted to immersing Schuman’s cheesemakers in the same European techniques that make us crave French and Italian cheeses.

    Heading up this highly creative, passionate, and scientific effort is Christophe Megevand, who began his career in the French Alps. Having won numerous gold medals in cheese competitions for years, he oversees all of Schuman’s cheese production.

     

    His passion for cheesemaking is with him 24/7, and every six months his hand-picked colleague Julien Rouillaud, who has taught at the ENIL for ten years, have led the Schuman company to an evolving educational partnership with a single mission: enhancing the everyday quality of cheese.

    YELLOW DOOR CREAMERY

    Yellow Door Creamery’s award-winning Fontina, semi-firm and velvety, has been taken in hand and given a new flavor profile.

    Each perfect wheel gets a surface massage of distinctive, aromatic herbs directly from the hands of Schuman’s specially trained staff. They’re then cryovac-ed and aged for up to 50 days so that flavors ripen and fully develop.

    These are the three you should look for to make your cheeseboards (and your guests) smile:

  • Harissa: just-right heat and the excitement of Moroccan cuisine.
  • Habanero-Lime: an unusual combination that works like a dream, with the tiny pepper’s hot zap…and
  • Tuscan: bursts of the Italian herbals we love, like thyme, oregano, and basil.
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    Soon on the way to join its family is a melodious Bergamot & Hibiscus-rubbed Fontina. It is maturing in the aging room, waiting to reach the same degree of perfection as its relatives.

    All are perfect cheeses to accompany cocktails or wine, and are welcome in the refrigerator for snacks. The cheeses are delicious in popular recipes, from stuffed mushrooms and onion soup gratin to frittata and fondue.

    New Alpine-Style Cheeses

    Starting in May, Yellow Door Creamery’s three new Alpine-style cheeses, long in the making and perfecting, will be introduced to consumers. Christophe, who grew up in the French Alps, is particularly fond of these, even though they are the most difficult ones to make.

    The cheeses are “naked cured” (not brined or aged in plastic), so that they are completely moisture-free, and are cultured and aged completely differently from softer cheeses. They are consistently tested and fine-tuned to produce different flavor notes.

    The three coming to market indicate the specific mountainous regions from which they originate:

  • Valis (valley) typifies the lower Alps, with gentler grassy flavor and a more pliable texture similar to Raclette.
  • Monteau (mountain) is more like a Vermont cheese–a bit stronger and firmer, similar to Appenzeller, with more complex flavor…and
  • Alta (high mountain), with its intensely sweet, nutty flavor, similar to Gruyère.
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    The Alpine selections are great cooking cheeses (think raclette and fondue), and are heaven for grilled cheese lovers. They can also easily be grated over cooked dishes just before serving. Dried fruits and nuts are able-bodied partners.

    Yellow Door Creamery’s Hand-Rubbed Fontina is available at Costco, Sprouts stores, Sam’s Club, and Kroger supermarkets. The Alpine cheeses will launch in stores this summer.

    –Rowann Gilman

     

    RECIPE #1: FIG JAM & HARISSA FONTINA CROSITNI

    Prep time is 5 minutes, cook time is 10 minutes.

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 baguette, sliced diagonally into ½-inch slices
  • ½ cup fig jam
  • 6 ounces Yellow Door Creamery Harissa Rubbed Fontina, cubed
  • ¼ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
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    Preparation
    1. PREHEAT the broiler to high. Brush the baguette slices with olive oil on both sides and arrange on a large baking sheet. Broil for 2-3 minutes, just until the baguette is golden-brown and toasty.

    2. REMOVE from the oven and immediately top with the cubed cheese. Set aside for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt slightly.

    3. PLACE a dollop the jam over the cheese and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

    RECIPE #2: FONTINA-STUFFED MUSHROOMS WITH PICO DE GALLO

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 pound crimini mushrooms, thoroughly cleaned
  • 6-8 ounces Yellow Door Creamery Habanero and Lime Rubbed Fontina, shredded
  • 1 poblano, thinly sliced
  • Garnish: micro cilantro
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    For The Pico de Gallo

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green onion, thinly diced
  • 1 tablespoon micro cilantro
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    Preparation

    1. MAKE the pico de gallo: Toss the ingredients together and set aside.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Remove the stems from the mushrooms; reserve the stems for another use. Lay the mushroom caps top side down on a baking sheet.

     

    Fig Jam Harissa Fontina Crostini

    Fontina Stuffed Mushrooms

    [3] Crostini with Harissa Rubbed Fontina and fig jam. [4] Mushrooms stuffed with poblano chile and Habanero And Lime Rubbed Fontina (photos and recipes courtesy Schuman Cheese).

     
    3. COMBINE the poblano and fontina and generously fill each mushroom with the mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the mushrooms are nicely browned and juicy and the fontina is all melted. Let cool slightly.

    4. TOP with micro cilantro and serve with pico de gallo.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Mini Cheese Balls For The Cheese Course

    Mini Cheese Balls

    Mini Cheese Balls

    Mini Cheese Balls

    Mini Cheese Balls

    Port Wine Cheddar

    [1] Mini cheese balls in phyllo cups. Here’s the recipe from A Spicy Perspective. [2] Stick a pretzel in it—or a carrot stick. Here’s the recipe from Five Heart Home. [3] Some like it hot. Here’s the recipe from Young Austinian. [4] Serve cheese balls with a green salad, combining the cheese course and the salad course. Here, the cheese balls are fried goat cheese. Get the recipe is from Anna Costa Food. [5] The granddaddy of cheese balls is cold pack cheese, which itself was inspired by Scadinavian potkäse.

     

    National Cheese Ball Day is April 17th. But if you’re not having a party—home of the cheese ball—you can turn that hefty cheese ball mini cheese balls.

    Serve them:

  • As appetizers.
  • With the salad course.
  • As dessert (sweet cheese balls).
  • As a fancy snack.
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    A few different recipes will enhance the experience.

    If you don’t have your own favorite recipes, check the recipes in the photo captions.

    THE HISTORY OF THE CHEESE BALL

    The cheese ball is rooted cold-pack cheese, also known as club cheese or crock cheese, which began as a snack in Wisconsin taverns and supper clubs around the turn of the last century.

    Cold pack cheese originated in Wisconsin (we’ll get to that in a few paragraphs).

    In our youth, a crock of port wine cheddar was considered sophisticated party fare, served with party pumpernickel slices or fancy crackers (in those days, Stoned Wheat Thins and Carr’s Water Biscuits) or (never everyday crackers such as saltines, Ritz crackers, Town House or Uneeda Biscuits).

    According to the New York Times, the tradition derived from Scandinavia, where cooks would grind odd bits of cheese with seasonings and often a bit of alcohol, and pack the resulting spread into jars or crocks, with a top layer of butter to preserve it.

    It spread (no pun intended) to Britain, and then turned up in the U.S.

    At taverns and private clubs, sharp cheese and cream cheese were blended into a spread that went well with beer and drinks. The crock engendered cheese balls and cheese logs, coated with herbs and/or nuts.

    Cream cheese is an American invention from 1872 in New York State. It began to get wider distribution in 1880 (history).

    At Wisconsin taverns in the early 1900s (including Milwaukee’s Pabst Brewery), mixed bits of different cheeses were turned into a snack for customers that became known as pub cheese—a term that still survives, but is know better known in stores as cold pack cheese.

    The Center for Dairy Research (CDR) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison proposes that cold pack began as a type of dip or spread made from older cheeses that were beginning to dry out.

    Potkäse, a similar potted cheese recipe from Sweden and Denmark, would have been well-known to the many families of Swedish immigrants in the Midwest.

    According to the CDR, as reported in Edible Milwaukee, a beer depot operator named Hubert Fassbender began giving homemade cold pack cheese to his best customers in 1933.

    Customers started asking for the cheese without the beer. Fassbender created the Fassbender’s Kaukauna* Klub brand, making him the first manufacturer of cold pack cheese.

    The following year, in 1934, Armin Herke formed the Calumet Cheese Company, and used surplus cuts of cheese to produce cold pack. The brand later became known as WisPride and remains popular today (it is now owned by Bel Brands).

    A trend was born.

    It was just a jump from cold pack to cheese logs and cheese balls.

    A classic cheese ball combines shredded sharp cheese like cheddar or blue, blended with cream cheese (sometimes also with butter) for spreadability. Popular seasonings include chile, chives/onion, garlic and herbs.

    Chopped vegetables can be mixed in. The ball is then rolled in nuts and/or herbs.

    Sweet cheese balls evolved with time: fruit, sugar and cream cheese, cocoa, sugar and cream cheese, etc., mixed with anything from mini chocolate chips to cookie bits, and rolled in Oreo (or other cookie) crumbs, pomegranate arils, toffee bits or other sweet ingredient.

    They can be served as snacks or as dessert.

    From Wisconsin, the mighty cheese ball spread across the nation.

    Is there a part of the U.S. that doesn’t know about cheese balls?

    If so, let us know: We’ll clue them in.

    ________________

    *Kaukauna is a Wisconsin city situated on the Fox River, approximately 100 miles north of Milwaukee. The name is a Native American word for “place where pickerel [pike] are caught.”

     

     
      

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