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Edible Antics

Touring Wisconsin Food

Category: Food Philosophy (page 2 of 7)

Sharp Cheddar Versus Mild Cheddar: Is Older Better When It Comes to Cheddar?

sharp-cheddarA Wisconsin cheesemaker just discovered a forgotten 40 year old block of
cheddar cheese. That’s one old cheese! To give you an idea, a mild cheddar is
generally aged two to three months, and your average grocery store sharp cheddar is aged
about one year, and extra sharp cheddars are aged three to five years.
Specialty cheese shops might have 13-15 year old cheddars, but 40 year old
cheese might be a new record. The cheese is included in a collection of some of
the oldest cheese ever sold according to the Wisconsin
State Journal.

What’s so special about old cheese, really?  

As cheddar cheese matures a few things happen. First, it gets sharper, a
sharp cheese is the kind of cheese that when you bite in to it, it bites back.
The flavor is prominent and assertive, unlike mild cheeses that have a more
subtle flavor.

In addition to the flavor change, the texture also changes. Some aged
cheeses develop tiny calcium deposits that form crunchy crystals in the cheese.
I like this added texture, but some people don’t. This particular 40 year old
cheddar reportedly had an inch worth of calcium deposits on the outside, but
the inside was still fairly creamy. Aged cheddar develops a crumbly texture as
it gets older, while mild cheddar is on the creamier side.

Taste Test

Sharper isn’t necessarily better, it all depends on what you like. The best
way to find out what you like is to taste a variety of cheddars of different
ages side by side. Stick with cheese from one dairy so you have a fair base for
comparison. I recommend Hook’s cheddar because they have cheddars that are aged
five years or more, and if you’re not
near a place that carries Hook’s cheddar, you can order it online here.

I used to think the sharper the better, but after preforming this taste test
I discovered I prefer cheddars in the three to five year range. I don’t enjoy
the older cheddars as much, some of them are so sharp I need to get out the
tongue band-aids!

A Note About Cooking with Cheese

If you’re cooking with cheese, like baking it in a casserole or making a
pizza, don’t use the expensive artisan cheddar. Artisan cheeses are meant to be
savored on their own or maybe with a cracker, some jam or a little fruit. The
cooking process changes the texture and you can’t taste the subtleties in the
flavor when the cheese is combined with other ingredients. Plus if you walk into
a fancy cheese shop and ask for a cheese to put on a pizza they will look at
you funny, I know from experience.

 

What kind of cheddar do you prefer? Mild? Sharp? Extra Sharp?

Madison Farmers Market – Tips from a Local

madison-farmers-market-1The best Madison farmers market is the Dane County Farmers’ Market and it draws hungry shoppers, talented artisans and the occasional quirky musician from near and far. I’ve been to farmers markets all over the country and nothing compares to the one right here in my hometown. The Madison Farmers Market is an experience not to be missed, so follow these tips from a local to ensure your visit is as fresh and fun as the food.

No dogs allowed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge pet lover, in fact, sometimes I cross the line in to crazy dog lady territory, but the Madison Farmers Market is no place for a pooch. With the river of shoppers flowing steadily around the square, a canine companion could easily get trampled, so keep Fido at home.

 Don’t miss the artwork. The farmers market is not just limited to food, you can also shop for Wisconsin art. One of my favorite artists at the market is Marcia Sparks, she creates colorful pop art featuring Wisconsin icons like Bucky Badger and the Wienermobile. See my interview with Marcia here.


madison-farmers-market-2
Sample some cheese, especially the hot and melty kind. It wouldn’t be a Wisconsin farmer’s market without cheese. Sample cheese masterpieces like 15 year cheddars, insanely fresh cheese curds (I’m talking hours old!), and my family’s favorite, hot melty bread cheese. If you don’t live in Wisconsin, you can still find Wisconsin cheese delicacies and cheese gifts here.


BOYOB- Bring your own bag. I strive to keep my blog a
positive happy place, but I’m going to use a negative word I’ve never
used before on Edible Antics. I HATE plastic bags. There I said it. The
farmers will usually give you one if you forgot your reusable bag, but
bring a canvas one and save the Earth, and your kitchen, because storing
plastic bags is annoying.


Take some photos.
I am not skilled in the photography department but I can usually manage to get at least one nice shot at the market. I took this photo at the Madison farmers market a few weeks ago and jazzed it up with Instagram.

See the market’s schedule here.

What are some of your favorite things to do at the Madison farmers market?

Blue Cheese- The Science Behind Moldy Cheese

Blue cheese is a love it or hate it food for understandable reasons. Some people just can’t stomach the idea of eating mold. In case you didn’t know, that’s what the blue is, good old fashioned mold. Which raises the question, how come it’s ok to eat moldy blue cheese and not those fuzzy refried beans leftover from taco night last week? An even more interesting question, what about that moldy brick of cheddar? Is that alright to eat? Put on your learning cap faithful readers because here are the answers to these burning questions.

 

 

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Made in America Products for Grilling

 

Keep your cookout local with these made in America products for grilling. With record breaking warm temperatures here in Madison we’re all heading outside to cook and enjoy the weather.

 

 

Cedar Planks– Cooking with cedar planks is a technique that infuses a woodsy cedar flavor into your cooking. Just soak the plank in some water then place it on the grill, then place your food of choice on top of the planks. The planks will flavor any type of meat or vegetable, but my favorite use of the cedar plank is cooking grilled fish.

 

 

 

 

Grilling Set- Show your team spirit while you flip burgers and you’ll be the talk of the tailgate with this Packers grilling set. It is also available with other Wisconsin team logos including Wisconsin Badgers and Milwaukee Brewers.

 

 

 

 

 

Bratwurst– Grocery store brats are fine but why settle for ordinary when you can have extraordinary. The best place in the USA to get bratwurst is Bavaria Sausage Kitchen in Madison, Wisconsin. They use old world recipes to create distinctive bratwurst that put those grocery store brands to shame. In fact, the founders of Bavaria Sausage Kitchen claim they introduced the bratwurst to Wisconsin.

 

 

 

 

BBQ Sauce- I have the cranberry orange flavor of Howling Wolf barbecue sauce in my fridge right now, and sometimes I’m tempted to pour it in a glass and drink it because I like it so much! If you would rather eat your barbecue sauce on food instead of drink it, visit the Howling Wolf blog for recipe ideas.

 

 

 

 

Grilling Cookies- After a savory meal of cedar plank salmon or bratwurst or barbecued chicken, you will be craving something sweet, so celebrate the grill with these gorgeous hand decorated sugar cookies. These also make a memorable gift for the grill master in your life.

Have a Healthy Holiday with Wisconsin Food Gifts

For the most part, I’m all for pigging out around the holidays, but sometimes it’s better to give a healthy holiday treat.  Maybe you have a family member that is trying to stay healthy and you don’t want to derail them with a box of cookies, or maybe giving a cheese and sausage gift basket to your running buddy seems counter productive.  Whatever the reason, there are plenty of healthy yet delicious holiday food gifts around.  Believe it or not, some of them even come from Wisconsin.  The state that is famous for cheese and bratwurst is also known for cranberries, cherries and other healthy holiday treats.

Dried Cherries

 

No Sugar Added Tart Dried Cherries – Tart dried cherries are hard to find outside of Wisconsin so they are a popular gift on Wisconsinmade.com.  A nutritious topping for salad or cereal, tart dried cherries also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, according to the Wisconsin Cherry Growers Association. Other cherry goodies that make sweet gifts: cherry salsa and cherry jam.

 

 

 

 

 

Dried CranberriesCranberries– Cranberries are a ruby in the Wisconsin agricultural crown. Studies suggest that cranberry rich diets have the potential to prevent heart disease, ulcers and certain types of cancer. If you enjoy dried cranberries, try Curbanies. This sweet snack is similar to a dried cranberry, but goes through a special drying process so they retain some moisture. For an even sweeter cranberry treat try some dark chocolate covered cranberries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie Popcorn
Popcorn– An extra large bag of movie popcorn can contain thousands of calories, but it’s the butter that’s to blame, not the popcorn.  The gourmet popcorn varieties grown in Wisconsin have plenty of flavor without all the extra toppings.  You can even taste the difference between the types of kernels.  Dieters love popcorn for the satisfying crunch without the calories and fat of other salty snacks. Not sure how to pop kernels without the bag? Check out this blog post with stove-top popping instructions.

Bacon Burger

Applewood Smoked Bacon When you serve a bacon burger at your Packer game day party or Badger tailgate, notice as your friends peek under the bun and say “where’s the bacon?”.  It tastes like applewood smoked bacon, but there are no bacon strips to be found.  The secret is the bacon hidden in the meat.

If you are a fan of the Nueske bacon burger like I am, you will be saddened to know Nueske will no longer be making the bacon burger.  Pork lovers of the world need not despair however, because I, your local Wisconsin food enthusiast, can tell you how to make your own bacon burgers at home. Click “continue reading” to see the shockingly simple recipe.

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Food Advice to the Graduate

Graduation Gifts It’s that time of year where graduates begin the next chapter in their lives.  Don’t worry parents, your baby won’t starve, and with a few tidbits of food advice to the graduate, your kids might even have a healthy and enjoyable food experience.

For the graduate with kitchen access: 

Call your parents for recipes and cooking tips. If you live away from home, your Mom and Dad are probably missing you anyway so don’t be hesitant to call them for a tuna casserole recipe or instructions on how to bake a potato.

No need to buy cookbooks, take advantage of free recipes.   From the cooking impaired to the food obsessed, you are sure to find a recipe that fits your taste and skill level. Most of the recipes in the Edible Antics recipe section are easy enough to cook on a weeknight after class.

Cook for your roommates.  Most cooks, myself included, are more likely to cook for a crowd than just one person, so make dinner for your roommates.  They probably miss home cooked meals.

For the graduate with no kitchen access, a high school grad living in college dorms, for example:

Dining hall grub is actually pretty tasty these days. When my parents went to college, there was only one dining hall on the whole campus.  My alma mater, a medium-sized university, had enough dining halls for me to eat at a different one each day of the week.  The food was outstanding, one buffet style dining hall had fresh baked pita bread and hummus, another had Thanksgiving food all the time,  and we even had a sit down restaurant with waiters and menus.  With so much delicious food- please take the next tip in to account.

Eat smart in the dining hall. At most universities the swipe of a meal card grants access to unlimited french fries, soda, soft serve ice cream and much more right at your finger tips, every meal of the day (even breakfast!).  Make the salad bar your first stop and practice portion control on the other goodies.

Explore the town.  Some campuses are like little cities and students don’t feel the need to venture out, but there are fun restaurants to explore.  Many of these restaurants will give ID carrying students a decent discount, so take advantage of your student status while you can. Soon enough you’ll no longer be a freshman in college, you’ll be a freshman in life!

Good Coffee: Tips from a Coffee Snob

Wooden Coffee ScoopsFor me, good coffee is hard to come by, I confess I am a big coffee snob. During the week I grab a quick cup on the way out the door but on the weekends the snobbery is in full force.  I grind my own beans, use a French press instead of a drip coffee maker and slowly slurp while I contemplate the acidity and earthiness of my coffee. See, I told you I was a snob! Coffee is a hobby for me. There are so many ways to make it, so many varieties to try and making a cup of good coffee is an adventure! If you want to discover the wonderful world of coffee, here are a few tips to get you started.  The tips get progressively harder and more time consuming so start with number 1and work your way up to 5!

1. Make sure you use the right amount of grounds.  Not enough grounds will make your coffee taste bitter. Make sure you use 2 heaping tablespoons for 6 ounces of water.  A coffee scoop that holds 2 tablespoons (like the one pictured above) will make it easy to get the right amount each time.

2. Find the variety that you like. I didn’t like coffee for the longest time and then I started to realize I enjoyed certain types of coffee. I prefer coffee with less acidity and an earthy flavor.  Many people prefer more acidic coffees and some people think that “earthy” coffee tastes like feet.  Everyone has a different preference so find the coffee that’s right for you. Try a coffee sampler gift basket with many small bags of different varieties, or join a coffee of the month club to have different types of good coffee delivered to your door each month. You’ll discover a favorite in no time.

3. Buy whole beans and grind your own. Once the coffee beans are ground they start to lose flavor so it is best to grind your coffee right before you start to brew. Coffee grinders come in many different sizes and price ranges, and you can usually find a small one that will do the job for $20 or less. Just make sure to use your grinder for coffee only! Grinding spices in your coffee grinder will change the flavor of the coffee. If you don’t have a grinder, grind it at the grocery store or have a coffee shop do it for you.

4. Try using a French press.  A French  press is a carafe that you can make coffee in.  You just add the grounds, pour in boiling water, let the coffee sit for 4 minutes and then press down a plunger that holds the grounds at the bottom so they don’t end up in your cup.  This takes more time than a drip coffee maker so it isn’t very practical for the grab-and-go coffee drinker, but makes a great weekend treat.  The French press method allows for more of the oils in the grounds to get into the coffee, making it taste much better than the drip version.

5. Roasting your own beans.  This is the next step in coffee snobbery for me. Wisconsinmade.com offers a  coffee roaster and bags of un-roasted beans for roasting your own coffee in your oven at home.  I haven’t tried this yet, but so far the lesson I learned is the more time you put into your coffee the better it tastes! I will definitely be trying this soon so check back for more blog posts about coffee.

Cooking and Baking Disasters: The Tale of the Bleeding Cake

I talk a good game with all of my cooking and baking tips, but the truth is I’ve had some major kitchen disasters. There have been awesome triumphs too, but the failures are more fun to talk about.  The story of how I made perfect muffins is WAY less interesting than the time I made a bleeding cake.  Yep, that’s right, a bleeding cake.

I grew up in the south and one day I discovered the joy of red velvet cake. This is what a red velvet cake is suppose to look like:

Red Velvet Cake

I bought some red velvet cake mix so I could try it at home.  I baked up two layers and anxiously awaited my delicious cake. I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to put the icing on and dig in.  I thought the cake was “cool enough” and started icing.  This is when I discovered that red velvet cake mix is just chocolate cake mix with some red food dye.   The still hot cake caused the red dye to turn the white icing red, and this created creepy blood like red drops running down the side of the cake as the icing melted- not very appetizing. I was so embarrassed at the time I didn’t take a picture so please enjoy the Microsoft Paint rendering of the event:

Ok, maybe my amateur sketch is a little exaggerated…. the cake didn’t have red eyes and angry eye brows, but you get the idea. So the moral of the story?

1) Wait until your cake is COMPLETELY cool before icing it, or leave the cake baking to the professionals.

2) Kitchen disasters can turn into fun cooking stories.

3) Kitchen disasters can sometimes lead to cool Halloween party ideas, like a bleeding cake!

Have you had some funny cooking and baking mishaps? Comment below and tell me your story.

Holiday Humor

You Might Be Spending The Holidays In Wisconsin If…

 1. Someone wishes you a Merry Cheesemas.

2. You think the “Christmas colors” are green (GO PACK GO!) and red (ON WISCONSIN!).

3.  You know you’re going to have a white Christmas, so instead you’re singing “I’m dreaming of a NOT white Easter”. 

4. You think the real meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of the baby cheeses.

5. Instead of leaving cookies, you leave a kringle for Kris Kringle.

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