By: Beth Hoven Rotto, Cheese and Chill Buyer
Do you like cheese and surprises and experimenting with new recipes and food ideas? If so, then you might like to be part of the Co-op Cheese Club. Since 2012 we have put together bags of unique, hand-picked cheeses for club members with a different theme each month. Participants receive a bag containing at least two cheeses (but often three and sometimes four types) as well as something to pair with the cheese. We also send along a flyer containing information on the cheeses and suggestions on their use. For example, last July our theme was Scandinavian cheese, and the bag contained Swedish Vasterbotten’s Ost, Mycella Danish Blue, and Swedish Prastost as well as Cloudberry preserves. This month (February) we offered special “melting” cheeses, including a Mexican style Queso Quesadilla from Colorado, an imported Swiss Bergkase and a Wisconsin Sheep Jack cheese along with a package of sprouted grain tortillas.
The Co-op Cheese Club started as a way to introduce new cheeses to our community and to ensure
that we could move a full wheel of cheese that is fairly unknown in this area. In this way many new cheeses have been brought into our retail case because they were “tested” (and approved) by the Co-op Cheese Club members. In an effort to share information with Oneota Community Co-op customers about cheeses that prove popular with the members of the cheese club, I plan to bring more of these cheeses into our retail cheese case and include signage to let you all know if a certain cheese was a favorite with the Co-op Cheese Club.
Although the number of participants in the Co-op Cheese Club is limited, there is almost always an opening as people weave in and out of membership. If you are interested, just be sure to sign up by the last day of the month to get a bag in the middle of the following month. A pick-up date for each month is set so you know when to expect your cheese. You will be contacted by e-mail when the bags are ready to be picked up as well.
Co-op Cheese Club gift certificates make nice presents for holidays, birthdays and as a thank you gift. One month is $30, or a subscription for 6 months can be purchased for $150, saving you $5 per month. Co-op Cheese Club bags are always a good value. Often the cheeses included are artisan, expensive or hard-to-get, but the cost per month remains the same. We can be flexible, in case you will be gone during the time of your subscription, or if you would like to skip a month for some reason. All we ask is that you let us know by the end of the previous month.
I have the joyful task of choosing cheese for the Co-op Cheese Club and for our store. Luckily, I’ve been able to visit many cheese producers in the Midwest and have been able to taste most of the cheeses I choose from this part of the world. For cheeses from further afield, I rely on a couple of folks who buy cheese for distributors that I work with, and they try really hard to direct me to the kinds of cheeses I’m looking for.
If you are curious about the Co-op Cheese Club, but aren’t ready to jump in, look for signage in our cheese case. If I have extra cheese after the bags are made up, I’ll put it in the case with a sign noting that it is featured in the Cheese Club. Since I’m hoping to gather feedback from participants, I’ll start labeling cheese that gets positive reviews from our Cheese Club members as well.
Here are the themes for upcoming months.
March: Hard Cheese
April: Soft Cheese
May: Italian and Greek Cheese
June: Wisconsin Innovations
July: Aged Raw Milk Cheese
August: West Coast Cheese
September: Artisan Mixed Milk Cheese
November: British and Irish Isles
Here’s what some people have said about the Cheese Club:
“Some really interesting cheese this month.”
“Beth’s choice of cheeses is excellent, and our monthly bag of cheese is just like receiving a present chosen exactly for us. No wonder membership in the Cheese Club is our favorite Christmas and birthday gift to each other.”
“Another winner. We plan to renew.”