Each month, your Neighboring Food Co-ops feature our region’s artisan cheesemakers by offering a specially selected cheese at great price. Look for the “Cave to Co-op” sign in the cheese section at your local food co-op. To find one near you, visit www.nfca.coop/members.
This month’s special cheese is Cheddar Bites, Maplebrook Farm, Bennington, VT
Maplebrook Cheddar Bites are cheddar cheese curds pulled from the vat before they would be pressed into blocks for aging. They melt wonderfully for poutine and deep fry even better; they’re also a wonderful and easy snacking cheese.
In 2003, while visiting an Italian specialty store in Manchester, Vermont, Johann Englert had a flash-back to her college years. A cluster of fresh mozzarella balls sitting on the counter reminded her of a groceria she had visited while traveling in Italy. Johann bought 20 balls of mozzarella on the spot. After sampling those 20 balls to gourmet shops in Boston, Johann and Mike Scheps, third generation mozzarella maker, joined together to found Maplebrook Farm in Bennington, Vermont. Business boomed; the operation moved from a kitchen to a small store to a 10,000 sq. ft. building.
Maplebrook Farm developed an apprenticeship program to teach new employees the art of making perfect mozzarella. The program started with three aspiring cheesemakers and has grown to include 50 employees who are making small batches of cheese and wrapping them by hand every day of the week. Maplebrook went from those first 20 mozzarella balls to more than 40,000 pounds produced weekly.
Try cheddar bites, they are a squeaky, buttery cheese treats or if feeling adventuresome, try them in this Poutine recipe.
- 2 Tbsp water
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 20 oz beef broth
- 10 oz chicken broth
- Pepper, to taste
For Deep Fried Fries:
- 2 lbs Russet potatoes, (3-4 medium potatoes) Peanut or other frying oil
- 1 1/2 cups Cheddar Bites
- Prepare the gravy: In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes, until the mixture turns golden brown.
- Add the beef and chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Stir in about HALF the cornstarch mixture and simmer for a minute or so. If you’d like your gravy thicker, add a more of the cornstarch mixture, in small increments, as needed, to thicken. Season with pepper. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary, to taste. Make ahead and re-warm or keep warm until your fries are ready.
- For Deep-Fried Fries: Prepare your potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch thick sticks. Place into a large bowl and cover completely with cold water. Allow to stand at least one hour or several hours. When ready to cook, heat your oil in your deep fryer or large, wide, heavy cooking pot to 300° F.
- Remove the potatoes from the water and place onto a sheet of paper towel. Blot to remove as much excess moisture as possible.
- Add your fries to the 300°F oil and cook for 5-8 minutes, just until potatoes are starting to cook but are not yet browned. Remove potatoes from oil and scatter on a wire rack. Increase oil temperature to 375°F Once oil is heated to that temperature, return the potatoes to the fryer and cook until potatoes are golden brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined bowl.
- To Prepare Poutine: Add your fried or baked fries to a large, clean bowl. Season lightly with salt while still warm. Add a ladle of hot poutine gravy to the bowl and using tongs, toss the fries in the gravy. Add more gravy, as needed to mostly coat the fries.
- Add the Cheddar Bites and toss with the hot fries and gravy. Serve with freshly ground pepper.
- Serve immediately. serves 3
Cave to Co-op is a partnership between Provision International and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) to support local, artisanal cheese producers in our region and make their products more easily available to co-op shoppers. The NFCA is a network of more than 40 food co-ops in our region — including yours — that are working together to advance their vision of a thriving regional economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system and a vibrant community of co-operative enterprise. For more information, please visit www.nfca.coop.