The Northern Michigan JournalNM LIVINGNEXT

The Leelanau Cheese Company
by Andrew L. McFarlane

The Valais region of Switzerland is renown for producing some of the finest cheeses in the world. Each spring for centuries, high in the Swiss Alps, the traditional "alping" of cows has taken place: Farmers from each of the mountainside villages lead their herds to alpine cooperatives where the cows graze the rich and vast mountain pastures and each milking produces rounds of fresh cheese.

It was there that John and Anne Hoyt met and, at co-ops including Eison, Thyon and Veysonnaz, learned the process of making cheese. John studied cheesemaking at the Chateauneuf School of Agriculture in the Valais region and after he and Anne returned to the States and northern Michigan, they resolved to put their experience to use.

Now the Hoyts and cheese-lovers in northern Michigan have the chance to put that learning to the test by tasting real, homemade cheeses, made by the same, centuries old process at the Leelanau Cheese Company. At Leelanau Cheese, which is now located at Black Star Farms near Suttons Bay, John and Anne produce fine cheeses daily using whole milk from local cows and fresh herbs and spices.

Their raclette, a semi-soft ripened cheese with a nutty flavor, has received much interest since they began making it last spring. It is an aged cheese, gradually ripened over a three month period to in their cellar upon hardwood boards. Daily, the Hoyt turn and brush the many wheels which finally emerge with a rich orange hue and a distinctive and unforgettable flavor. Many of the region's finest chefs have created special dishes for this fine cheese.

Leelanau Cheese's herbed fromage blanc, soft, unripened cheeses are a hand-blended spreadable The Aspen House Bed & Breakfast cheese with flavors that include plain, herbed, pepper and garlic. "Most of the spreadable, creamy cheeses available are made with preservatives--we use none of that. Just milk and fresh herbs," Anne explained.

John echoed her sentiments, "It's just the the way we are--we want something fresh on the shelves. Tthe soft cheese looks nice with the black of the pepper and the herbs, and the raclette needs no colors. On the raclette, a natural rind builds up as it ages. When it's young, it's white. It cures to a golden color and eventually a deep orange rind."

Cheese lovers will find that they provide the perfect compliment to fresh bread or crackers, sandwiches, baked potatos and make a fine base for pasta sauce. For maximum flavor from the blend of herbs and spices, it is recommended that the spreadable cheeses be served at room temperature. Also made fresh on a daily basis at their Omena shop are a ricotta cheese and a novel dessert cheese, the cherry fromage blanc. The cherry cheese has a sweet flavor that makes it a perfect companion to fruit or the morning bagel.

John and Anne hope you'll visit them to taste and see them at work. You can also find their cheeses at a number of area shops and restaurants.
Leelanau Spring Pasta
8 oz fresh or dried pasta
1 TB olive oil
2 cloves garlic
Fresh or dry basil and salt (to taste)
8 asparagus spears (coarsely chopped)
8 morels or regular mushrooms (sliced)
4 oz Leelanau Herbed Cheese
Cook pasta and set aside. In large saucepan, saute onions, basil and garlic until onions translucent. Add asparagus and morels, cook until asparagus is tender. Stir in cheese, cover, and remove from heat. Serve over noodles.
Leelanau Cheese Company | Suttons Bay, Michigan | 231-271-4970
Click for the Leelanau Cheese Web Site

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