Cheese notebook From The Olympic Peninsula

Cheese notebook From The Olympic Peninsula

by: Beth Hoven Rotto

Recently, I was lucky enough to visit family and friends who helped me experience the local specialties being produced around Port Townsend, Washington. Two folks I visited were former Co-op employees, Leigh Wheaton and Aimee Ringle. Both are working in innovative market gardens, living and cooking in large tents, and learning lots! Leigh was cooking when we arrived, so we happened to get in on a taste of her Roasted Herbed Potatoes. (See the recipe below.)

As if meeting two old friends from Decorah wasn’t enough, I was so surprised when I literally ran into former grocery stocker Emily Hackman, who had just moved to Port Townsend as well. I’m including a photo of all of us together, and I bring greetings to you from all three.

As Cheese Buyer for the Co-op, of course, I had to try as many of the local cheese specialties as I could. I found what I needed at The Food Co-op in Port Townsend and the Nordland General Store. There I purchased cheese made on Marrowstone Island, in the mountains and in Seattle. We also made daily trips to the neighborhood  produce stand to pick out large dahlias for 25 cents a stem and see what was needed to fill out our evening menu.

We stayed with my sister and her family who worked and played like crazy all day, then produced incredible meals each night. They made pasta from scratch, homemade tortillas, and served luscious blackberries picked in the nearby woods. You are in luck. I’ve included Maren’s recipe for lasagne and the Dale family recipe for tortillas.

If I was a little jealous of the lives of the people I visited out there, I was delighted to return to the utterly impressive Dig-In event right here in Winneshiek County. We are so lucky to have many dedicated growers and producers and people leading the way to greater food resource and energy efficiency, conservation and sustainability. Among other things, it was great to visit the places where some of the food I buy at the Co-op is produced! I’d like to thank everyone who was involved in this uplifting event.

If you found time to make it to the Co-op during Dig-In weekend, you saw Rufus Musser from Milton Creamery (located in southern Iowa) here sampling his award winning cheeses. These are wildly popular with many Oneota Co-op staff and customers, and I’m sure they will put Iowa on the world cheese map.

The milk for Milton Creamery’s Prairie Rose and Prairie Breeze is produced on neighboring Amish family farms where the herds are small and the cows are milked by hand. The cows are allowed to graze on pasture in season and are cared for on an individual basis. Prairie Breeze is a sweet continental cheddar style cheese and is aged a minimum of four months. It has a crumbly texture and pleasant sharpness. Prairie Rose is considered Milton Creamery’s premier cheese and for good reason. It is a washed rind Alpine style cheese that has a velvety texture and a complex flavor. No rBST is used in any of the Milton cheeses.

Even closer to home, we have a new regional cheese from a creamery that just began production this year. Yellow River Farmstead Dairy located in Monona, Iowa is making a farmstead- style feta goat cheese formed into small logs. This family owned creamery has developed a unique feta which comes in plain, smoked, dill or pepper. Please stop by the cheese case and give it a try!