For a few days every year employees from all facets of the cheese business come together and discuss curds and whey. Heinen’s Cheese Buyer and American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional Shannon Welsh was among the attendees of the 2016 American Cheese Society Conference: Cheese in the Heartland.
Converging in Des Moines, Iowa, they discussed all things cheese. There are emerging trends, newcomers, timeless favorites, and so much flavor to be analyzed. Pairings, training, and tastings also take place.
“It’s my favorite thing that I do all year for my job. It’s like when you get together with your family that you only see once a year,” said Shannon. “I’m already looking forward to next year.”
Rennet – it’s what begins the process of cheesemaking – is becoming increasingly important to people. Rennet traditionally comes from the lining of a calf’s stomach and imparts flavor into cheese that can carry regionally-specific identifiers with it. Grasses in Iowa differ from those in Italy, and that is imparted into the cheese.
For those who do not consume animal by-product, the availability of vegetarian and microbial rennets has been important. Most recently, thistle rennet has risen in popularity. The challenge of non-traditional rennet for cheesemakers is to create the flavors that naturally occurs in traditional rennet. It can be done, though! Heinen’s recently added a cheese made with thistle rennet: Lou Bergier Pichin. Made in Italy, it’s mild but surprisingly full-flavored and complex.
Best in Show
Out of more than 2,400 cheeses that enter the annual ACS competition, three are named Best in Show (five this year, as 2nd & 3rd place were ties).
Jeff’s Select Gouda – tied for 3rd – can be found at your local Heinen’s. We suggest enjoying it with cured meats and an IPA beer. It’s a complex cheese: creamy and aged with a rub on the outside that adds flavor.
“How can one cheese be smoky and sweet? But it is. It’s a marvelously complex cheese,” said Shannon.
On the Horizon
At Heinen’s, we are always looking to add world-class cheeses for our customers and the conference is a great place to find more. There are artisan creameries galore, as well as new items from our favorite producers. Your Heinen’s Cheese Specialist is always happy to point you in the direction of our newest additions.