I have a thing for cheese. Real cheese. Sharp, salty, creamy. I have a thing for cheddar in particular. Cheddar so sharp it smacks you in the mouth.
And it's that love that keeps me walking warily down the dairy case, even at my local health food store, where I eye deplorable hunks of milky, rubbery, dull cheese. Me? I want something that sings.
When I find it, whether at the farmers market or at cheese shops, I pay a pretty penny for it. I judiciously parse it out, a sliver at a time. I pair it with all sorts of lovely things: walnuts, honey, marmalade, mostarda.
A few months ago, I padded my way down the dairy case once more, scoffing again at rubbery rectangles of plastic-bound cheeses, and found something different. There, wrapped in papery sealed parchment marked Kingdom Cheese, sat a wedge of handcrafted, organic sharp cheddar.
Now, I'd been fooled before by the promise of "sharp" and authentic cheeses. But, I took the time to read the package: not only was it aged 10 months like a good cheddar should be, but the cows are raised on grass with supplemental non-GMO, organic feed. That's my kind of cheese. And it was reasonably priced! So I plopped it into my basket, and hoped it didn't disappoint.
And it didn't. I paired it with fresh apples, homemade true sour pickles (recipe in my cookbook), no-knead sourdough bread and some pasture-raised prosciutto I bought online. It made for a lovely picnic.
Why Grass-fed and Organic Matter
What is particularly exciting about Kingdom Cheese for me is not only that their cheese offers the sharpness I crave in real cheddar, but their farmers keep their animals on pasture. When cows are raised on pasture, they not only enjoy a healthier and more natural life in general, but that diet of grass makes their milk and cream, as well as the butter and cheese made from it, decidedly more nourishing than the milk, cream, cheese and butter from cows kept in confined dairies without access to fresh grass.
The milk and cream from grass-fed cows is extraordinarily rich in conjugated linoleic acid, a healthy fat with anticarcinogenic properties. It is also richer in fat-soluble vitamins like A, E and K2 than the milk of confined cows. Further, it offers a favorable ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids. It's nutrient-dense.
Similarly, bacon from pigs raised outdoors on fresh pasture and beneath the sun, is also richer in nourishment than the meat and fat of pigs raised in confinement. Pasture-raised pork is particularly rich in vitamin D, which supports the immune system as well as fertility, and monounsaturated fats - the same "heart-healthy" fat found in olive oil and avocado.
In essence, by choosing grass-fed and pasture-raised meat and dairy products, foods we already eat and enjoy will provide us with a richer source of nourishment, particularly good fats and vitamins.
Potted Cheddar with Bacon and Shallots
So, I've paired cheddar and cream and bacon together with caramelized shallots and sherry for one of my favorite dishes: Potted Cheddar with Bacon and Shallots. It's extraordinary, filling and rich - something you make to share. And, when made with good-quality ingredients from pasture-raised animals, it likewise offers not only rich flavor, but also a plethora of wholesome fats and fat-soluble vitamins.
Potted Cheddar with Bacon and Shallots
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 8 ounces bacon
- 2 medium shallots sliced paper thin
- 12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry
- Melt ghee in a pan and fry bacon over medium-high heat until cooked through and crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan, and set the strips on a pan to cool slightly. Drain the bacon fat, and reserve two tablespoons in the pan.
- Decrease the heat to medium-low. Toss the shallots into the hot fat, and saute them until deeply fragrant and browned, about 15 minutes.
- Combine bacon and cheddar in a food processor and pulse until well-blended. Add the cream, shallots, and sherry to the bacon and cheddar, and continue to process them together until they form a smooth, spreadable paste.
- Spoon the cheese spread into a jar or into ramekins, and either serve right away or store, carefully covered, in the fridge for up to a month. Remember to bring the potted cheddar to room temperature before serving, and spread over crackers or bread as an appetizer or starter.