Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Beyond Velveeta: Discovering award-winning Minnesota cheeses March 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:21 AM

The Faribault Dairy Company ages its award-winning Amablu Gorgonzola in St. Peter sandstone caves.

FOR A KID who grew up eating only Velveeta and American cheese, I’ve become quite the cheese connoisseur. And apparently I have good taste, because my favorite cheese company recently earned top honors in international cheese competition.

Amablu Gorgonzola, produced by Faribault Dairy Company, Inc., won “Best of Class” at the 2010 World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Wisconsin.

That’s quite an honor, considering this is the largest international cheese and butter competition in the world.

Jeff Jirik beat out 16 other cheesemakers with a score of 99.3 to win the top award in his class.

Hook’s Cheese Company, Inc. of Mineral Point, Wisconsin, placed second, with a score of 98.75 for its Dolce Gorgonzola.

An employee at the Minnesota company’s retail store, The Cheese Cave, was bragging up the prize-winning cheese this past weekend as she handed out samples to customers, including me. She had every right to be proud. This Gorgonzola, which in 2008 placed fourth in the world contest, is superb.

Here’s how Faribault Dairy describes the award-winning cheese on its Web site, http://faribaultdairy.com:

The blue veined Gorgonzola cheese is “sweeter” (less acid) and drier than our blue cheese. Cave aged a minimum of 90 days, the cheese is somewhat sharper in flavor but still “cleans up” well. The sweeter flavor profile pairs up well with dried fruit and nuts or cut as a table dessert cheese.

I often add Amablu Gorgonzola to a salad that also includes fresh pears and dried cranberries and sometimes chicken and cashews. I top it with a light raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

I agree with that assessment. This is one smooth cheese, which I enjoy on crackers, in a salad or simply sliced and popped into my mouth.

If you haven’t checked out The Cheese Cave in historic downtown Faribault, do. There’s no need to cross the border for the best Gorgonzola cheese in the world when you can find it, along with other great cheeses, right here in Minnesota.

Faribault Dairy, which has won numerous cheese awards, produces these additional savory cheeses: St. Pete’s Select Blue Cheese and Amablu blue cheese. The company also markets Fini (a Wisconsin cheddar) and St. Mary’s Grass Fed Gouda (a Wisconsin Gouda), both aged in Faribault’s sandstone caves. Another cheese, Grafton Duet Blue and Cheddar, pairs a Vermont cheddar with St. Pete’s Select Blue Cheese.

It’s clear, isn’t it, that I’m way beyond Velveeta?

The Cheese Cave is a gourmet destination along Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling