With warm weather and re-opened trails beckoning to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, packing up nutritious snacks and meals to take along is important. Cheese is the perfect high-protein food to throw in your backpack. With the array of hike-friendly cheeses available, even the most discerning hiker will have options to choose from.
What kind of cheese should I bring on my hike?
The next time you pack your backpack for a hike, avoid taking soft cheeses (brie, goat cheese or cream cheeses) and go for hard and dry cheeses like Cheddar, Parmesan and Gouda. Avoid shredding your cheese or cutting it into chunks before hiking as it speeds up the aging process and provides more chance of getting contaminated by bacteria.
How should I store my cheese?
Store your cheese in parchment paper while traveling, the porous surface allows cheese to breathe and helps in retaining it’s flavor. Replace your wrap frequently to reduce “sweating” (the process of butterfat separating from the cheese). And don’t forget to store cheese away from hot locations in your backpack and direct sun exposure.
Here’s a list of some popular dry and hard cheeses you can take with you in your backpack:
How do I keep cheese fresh?
A good habit to get into at home and on the trail, is to write down the date you initially stored your cheese on it’s storage container. This helps you to measure when your cheese may be past it’s prime. And if you’re backpacking for several days – keep your cheese in one block. Cutting it into pieces increases the surface area that can get contaminated by mold and bacteria.
How can you tell if your cheese is past it’s prime?
Always adhere to the 2 Hour Rule for leaving perishables out: After being in room temperature for 2 hours, always re-refrigerate hard cheeses and throw out soft cheeses.
With power outages happening throughout Northwest Oregon, people may be tempted to store their dairy products outside to keep them cold and fresh. Please don’t! When perishable dairy items (like milk, yogurt and ice cream) are left outside, they can become unsafe to eat.
Please follow these tips to store and enjoy your dairy products safely:
• If in doubt, throw it out. If a dairy product has been unrefrigerated for longer than 2 hours, it can become contaminated by harmful bacteria. Be safe and throw it out.
• Do not store your food outside, even if it’s freezing. The USDA says that outside temperatures are inconsistent, causing chilled food to enter the “danger zone” of warmer than 40°F, allowing harmful bacteria to grow.
• Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
• Eat shelf-stable pantry goods.Shelf-stable milk comes in special containers and does not need to be refrigerated before consumption. You can also use powdered milk as an alternative. Please use safe, potable water when mixing and drinking.
• Once power returns, check the temperature inside your refrigerator and freezer. With the exception of some hard cheeses, when a dairy product has been left in the unit above 40°F for two hours or more, toss it. Also, keep in mind that it will take several hours for your refrigerator or freezer to create a safe temperature for storing food. To keep the cooling process active, fill it with cool, not warm or hot, food.
Here are more resources on keeping your dairy foods safe:
This month marks the one-year anniversary of an Oregon success story that made national and international news.
On October 18, 2019, Rogue Creamery from Central Point, Oregon, earned the title of “best cheese in the world” for their Rogue River Blue Cheese at the World Cheese Awards in Bergamo, Italy. It was the first time in the history of the competition that an American cheese was selected as grand champion.
Similar to the “Judgement of Paris” in 1976, when American wines triumphed over the best French vintners in a blind taste test, this was a statement win and a landmark moment for American artisanal and farmstead cheeses.
The U.S. Dairy Export Council President, Tom Vilsack said, “This is more than a win for Rogue Creamery of Central Point, Oregon, The ‘Best Cheese’ title creates a halo effect that will cause global customers to look at all U.S. cheeses in a brighter light.”
This was no small feat. An international panel of 260 judges selected Rogue River Blue out of more than 3,800 cheeses from 42 countries.
The judges experienced the signature Rogue Valley terroir captured within each taste of the organic, cave-aged blue cheese wrapped in Syrah grape leaves soaked in pear spirits, with flavors of sweet pine, wild ripened berries, hazelnuts, morels and pears. It earned their high praise and respect.
This special cheese is the product of many years of hard work and refinement by President David Gremmels with support from his dedicated team at Rogue Creamery and their organic herd of Brown Swiss and Holstein cows. Rogue Creamery is a certified B-Corporation that serves as a model for sustainability in dairy, committed to leaving a positive impact on people, animals, and the planet.
“I am humbled and filled with gratitude. This is the greatest distinction a cheese can receive,” said Rogue Creamery President, David Gremmels. “What extraordinary validation of our commitment to quality, of the place that inspires our cheese – Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley – and of the excellence of the growing American artisan cheese industry.”
Since the 2020 World Cheese Awards were postponed to 2021, Rogue River Blue will have the rare distinction of continuing its reign as “best in the world” for two years running.
This is just one example of Oregon’s dairy producers and processors who bring our state’s great agricultural bounty to our tables.
What’s old is new again as companies like Milk Run and Alpenrose bring back milk deliveries of the past with a new twist. Vans splashed with colorful logos and full of local milk and produce are bringing the farm directly to your doorstep so that you can experience the fresh taste of locally harvested food.
Alpenrose, a dairy that began in 1916 in Portland, recently returned to it’s milk delivery roots this August by delivering daily milk and produce within the Portland metro area. You won’t get milk in glass bottles, but it’s easy to order through their website or mobile app.
“It’s been nearly 40 years since our trucks delivered fresh milk to the area,” said Josh Reynolds, general manager for Alpenrose. “We are ready to bring back a new, modern twist on home delivery.”
Milk Run, the brainchild of farmer Julia Niiro, started with a question: How could farmers bring fresh food from their farms directly to their neighbors? Niiro, a partner with Revel Meat Co. in Canby, OR, reached out to a handful of neighboring farms to join her in answering it. A few short years later, Milk Run operates in Portland and Seattle and works with over 200 farmers across Oregon to supply it’s rapidly growing customer base.
With more people stuck at home due to quarantining, Milk Run saw an opportunity to shrink the gap between farmers and consumers and educate prospective locavores. “I think that the tactile experience of getting the food in our Milk Run box is the teaching tool for understanding what can be experienced locally.” said Lilly Harris, Operations Manager for Milk Run.
“We can think about local food abstractly,” said Harris, “But having it delivered to your doorstep and opening a box of local produce is a totally different experience. You’re able to see what’s in season and learn why it’s important to cherish the produce when it’s fresh and ripe.”
Farmers seem to be responding in kind to the local demand for their products. Lulubelle’s, one of Milk Run’s dairy purveyors, will soon be producing new products like Half & Half and Heavy Cream for it’s online customers.
In working directly with farmers, Harris commented, “I think farmers are the most grounded, intelligent people that we could possibly work with. They’re knowledgable about their craft and excited to share what they produce with consumers. I love being able to provide that conduit for their excitement and knowledge.”
It’s a dream come true for fans of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, and it’s bigger and better than ever in 2020.
There’s a popular month-long event called “The Melt Down,” where sales of signature grilled cheese sandwiches throughout February support YCAP regional food bank efforts to fight hunger. This year’s “Deluxe Edition” includes 68 participating restaurants and businesses in Yamhill County and 13 sponsors. The restaurants are in a friendly competition for the title of the “Biggest Cheese.”
Each restaurant has their own unique take on the classic grilled cheese sandwich, many with clever names to match. Some examples include: Diet Starts Tomorrow, The Triple Texan, Play with your Food, Ooey Gooey Tomato Grilled Cheesy and Check Yo Self Before You Raclette Yo Self. While there are options for the strict grilled cheese purists, some other ingredients include peanut butter, jalapeños, pineapple, pesto, potatoes, marinara, brisket, avocado and quince chutney.
But how to decide with so many options to choose from? Easy. There’s a passport with details on the sandwiches available at each stop, including their address and business hours. Those who show their passports get stamps or signatures to make them eligible to win prizes donated by 40 area businesses.
Local restaurants in the community are also winners since the event generates increased business thanks to The Melt Down. “It is hard to believe that a small idea just a few years ago has grown into such a successful fundraiser and has provided a much needed economic boost to so many businesses here in Yamhill County,” said YCAP Development Specialist Diane Longaker.
In 2019, more than 6,280 sandwiches were sold, raising approximately $20,000. That equals more than 65,000 meals for the people served by YCAP and its food bank. Oregon dairy farmers and processors including Tillamook and Organic Valley are supporting The Melt Down: Deluxe Edition with hopes for record-setting results. You can help by ordering a grilled cheese from participating restaurants through February 29.
What do Girl Scouts, a former NFL player, ice cream, scholarships and pizza have in common? They all made this year’s top 10 list of our most popular stories on odncouncil.org. Join as we count down the top stories of 2019, and see if you can guess which one took the number one spot. You might be surprised.
The order of this list was determined by people like you who visited our website and viewed our blog posts throughout the year. Thank you!
Without further ado, get the drum roll ready, and here we go:
Dairy tours can be enlightening for students who have never set foot on a farm or seen a cow in person. Since there’s no way to get all students to a dairy, this program uses technology to bring the dairy to the classroom.
It’s official: Oregon is home to the “best cheese in the world.” Rogue Creamery’s big win at the 2019 World Cheese Awards was a statement win, considering it was the first time an American cheese took top honors.
Girl Scouts from Oregon and SW Washington gathered at TMK Creamery in Canby in September to earn their Oregon Dairy Patch. And for many of the Girl Scouts, it was the first time they had seen a cow up close.
This just in: college is expensive. Ok, so that’s not exactly breaking news. Maybe that’s why this list of scholarships was so popular among parents of students who are pursuing degrees in dairy and agriculture.
You know those cheap little frozen pizzas you get from the store that would work better as a Frisbee than a pizza? Or a disappointing delivery that looks nothing like the picture in the ads? Upgrade it using these tips!
Milk is one of the most requested but least available items in food banks across the country. This story was about an influx of milk from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Food Assistance Program.
A popular Rose Festival tradition dating back to 1973, the Milk Carton Boat Race attracts fans of all ages. Kids, adults and teams race handmade boats whose buoyancy depends upon recycled milk jugs and cartons.
Sports broadcaster and former professional football player Anthony Newman helped get the word out about this important program. It helped kids get tasty, healthy lunches when school was out for the summer.
Who doesn’t like ice cream? The crowdsourced Oregon Ice Cream Trail churned up a lot of attention for people eager to get the scoop on what shops made the list. People are still nominating locations to add to the trail, so stay tuned!
This holiday season, we recommend you introduce your friends and family to a new power couple: cheese and chocolate. That’s right, two individual favorites combine to give you an unexpectedly compatible taste that is sure to impress at your next holiday party. If you’re in a hurry, skip to the bottom for suggestions on pairings.
But, why pair cheese and chocolate together?
You have heard the saying that opposites attract, but in this case it’s the similarities in cheese and chocolate that make them pair well together.
1. Both are indulgent.
Typically cheese or chocolate are among the top snacks Americans will reach for when they want some decadence. Pair them together and you get a luxury hors d’oeuvre perfect for special occasions.
2. Both flavor profiles can be sweet.
Typically, cheese is considered to be a savory treat, and chocolate a sweet snack. However, depending on your cheese type, it can have a sweeter aftertaste and the darker the chocolate the more savory the taste.
3. Both chocolate and cheese are fermented.
Most people understand the cheese making process of fermenting milk, but did you realize the cacao bean must first be fermented in order to make chocolate? The fermentation process makes cheese and chocolate a winning combination much like our traditional preference to pair cheese and wine.
4. Both cheese and chocolate can contribute to your health.
Cheese has the nutritious benefits of protein, calcium, and phosphorus, along with vitamins A and B12. And although chocolate isn’t always known for its nutritional benefits, the main ingredient in chocolate, cacao, is abundant in the antioxidant flavonoids and theobromine. Now, we aren’t suggesting that cheese and chocolate can replace your greens at dinner, but we are saying the combination can be part of an overall healthy diet.
Make the most of your tasting experience.
Turns out there is an art and science to pairing foods, however, there are no rules when it comes to pairing cheese with chocolate; it’s a matter of personal preference, so feel free to experiment! And, if you are wanting to pair like the professionals, here are a few tips:
1. Smell both the chocolate and cheese before tasting.
Did you ever wonder why sommeliers smell the wine before tasting? It’s because aroma and taste combine to create a flavor profile through the nose and mouth that is interpreted to the brain for a more thorough tasting experience. When you smell your chocolate and cheese combination, it will give you a more complete flavor.
2. Resist the urge to chew the chocolate.
We recommend tasting the chocolate first, and make sure to release the flavors slowly by pressing a small piece to the roof of your mouth and running your tongue along the bottom of it, allowing it to melt. This will help you appreciate the texture of the chocolate, along with the specifics of flavor. With many chocolates, the flavor will change as it melts in your mouth. Once you have enjoyed the taste of chocolate on its own, add a small bite of cheese and notice the flavor change again.
Setting up your tasting
You can try any number of combinations to determine your favorite flavors and textures, but here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Choose high quality cheeses and chocolates.
Although it may be tempting to reach for your leftover Halloween candy and your regular cheddar for a pairing, we recommend thinking outside of the box. Consider buying your cheese from a cheese counter, or a local creamery. For the chocolate, look for chocolates made with high quality cacao and fewer ingredients. You may be surprised to find quality, local chocolates with a simple search.
2. Bring the chocolate and cheese to room temperature.
Once you have selected your cheeses and chocolates, cut them into bite sized pieces and let them sit at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes. This will help you appreciate their aromas and taste.
3. Offer a palate cleanser.
Be sure to offer crackers or fruit in between pairings to give your guests’ taste buds a rest.
4. Organize your pairings.
Order the pairings from mild in flavor to bold in intensity. This will help you guide the tasting and prevent taste buds from being overwhelmed.
Now you’re the expert.
That’s it! You are well on your way to becoming a cheese and chocolate connoisseur at your next holiday party. However, if you are need of some inspired combinations, here are some our favorites to get you started.
Monterey Jack with Milk Chocolate
Both the milk chocolate and the Monterey Jack will bring out the other’s soft and creamy texture to create a classic and delicious pairing.
Vintage Extra Sharp with Dark Chocolate Raspberry
This specialty aged cheeses are known for robust flavor, creamy and buttery with a bite, so it pairs with the tartness of the Dark Chocolate Raspberry. The brightness of the raspberry balances the slight bitterness of a vintage white.
Smoked Black Pepper with Sea Salt
This paring is a tribute to the classic salt and pepper pairing. Did you know salt is the only rock that we eat? And, the enduring popularity of black pepper may owe itself to one picky eater, French King Louis XIV who preferred only salt and pepper, to the extent that he banned all other seasonings.
English cheddar with Salted Almond Dark Chocolate or Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond
English cheddars tend to be a slightly sweet and creamy cheddar. See what chocolate pairing your friends prefer! Whether they go with more sweet or savory, the almonds will add texture and bring out a nutty flavor to the cheese.
Hot Habanero Jack with Milk Chocolate
And end your tasting with a paring where opposites attract. Milk chocolate is chosen to pair with a habanero in this Monterey Jack cheese to cool the spice on your tongue, while still bringing out the creamy texture in both the chocolate and the cheese creating a classily delicious pairing.
When it comes to pairing chocolate and cheese, it is all about personal preferences. Doing some “research” with family and friends can bring some fun and tasty pairings to your next holiday get together.
Type the words “American cheese” into an online search engine, and the images that pop up typically appear more utilitarian than artisanal or gourmet. Perhaps that’s one reason why it came as a shock to some around the globe that an American cheese defied convention and brought home the title of “best in the world” at the 2019 World Cheese Awards for the first time in history. It was a statement win.
Based in Southern Oregon, Rogue Creamery proved what many Oregonians and cheese aficionados already knew – Oregon creameries make some truly extraordinary cheese. At the awards held in Bergamo, Italy, Rogue River Blue beat out more than 3,800 cheeses from 42 countries. After a photo finish with an Italian Parmigiano Reggiano, Oregon officially became home to the World Champion.
According to Rogue, the winning cheese embodies their signature terroir with flavors of sweet pine, wild ripened berries, hazelnuts, morels and pears:
“Rogue River Blue is an organic, cave-aged blue cheese that is wrapped in Syrah grape leaves that are soaked in pear spirits. It is made exclusively with milk from Rogue Creamery’s certified organic dairy farm in Grants Pass, where the cows graze on pastures bordering the Rogue River. A seasonal product, Rogue River Blue is only made for a few months each year beginning on the autumnal equinox, when cooler temperatures bring renewed growth to the pastures and our cow’s milk becomes richer and higher in butterfat.”
Since the big announcement on October 18, people have been taking note. From Martha Stewart to renowned authors, international journalists, chefs, foodies and even fellow cheesemakers – all have been singing Rogue’s praises, as stores are quickly selling out. Many Oregonians are expressing pride in the recognition, including U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, who had some fun with this Tweet:
In addition to Rogue’s top honors, TMK Creameryof Canby brought home a Silver Medal for their Garlic Dill Cheddar Curds, and Tillamook earned a Bronze Medal for their one-year aged White Cheddar. These award-winners and many more creameries are listed on the Oregon Cheese Guild’s Oregon Cheese and Food Trail. While nobody knows where the best cheese in the world will come from in 2020, there are plenty of worthy candidates that make a case for a repeat performance from Oregon.
Of course, great tasting cheese starts with high-quality milk, and Oregon is consistently ranked toward the top in the nation. Oregon’s 124,000 cows and 200 dairy farm families produce roughly 2.6 billion pounds of milk annually (more than 302 million gallons). Oregonians love their milk so much, it is literally the official beverage of the State of Oregon.
Oregon’s dairy industry is a vital economic engine for communities statewide, with an estimated impact of $2.7 billion. Dairy is Oregon’s fourth largest commodity by farm revenue after only cattle, greenhouse and nursery products, and hay. Further, dairy farms create a ripple effect in both the agricultural economy and the economic well-being of rural communities, supporting 12,222 jobs.
Quinoa, kale, Brussels sprouts, tamales, green smoothies. These are all foods you might find in a trendy restaurant … or on a lunch tray in your local school cafeteria.
School lunches are fast overcoming their stereotypical reputation as bland and uninspired through some creativity and innovation by school nutrition professionals. On this National School Lunch Week, let’s take a look toward the future.
If you’ve ever tried to concentrate on something when you’re really hungry, you’ll understand that students don’t perform at their best without a nutritious lunch, which they won’t eat unless it tastes good. Schools are committed to providing great food in their cafeterias, and it can be challenging to be innovative when there are so many considerations, including:
• Making it tasty for a wide range of food preferences
• Making it easy to eat in a short period of time
• Cost and budgetary concerns
• Regulations and nutrition standards
• Allergies and dietary restrictions
• Sourcing and availability
• Food safety, storage and logistics
• Limiting food waste
Schools and school districts may operate differently, yet they share the common goal of providing meals their students actually want and will eat. These meals fuel students with the needed nutrients to grow and think. Improving menus can take some creativity, and that’s why culinary training events have proven so popular over the past nine years in Oregon.
Jessica Visinsky, a Registered Dietitian and trained chef, travels the state to teach child nutrition professionals about new recipes, knife skills, menu requirements and strategies to promote healthy eating. The trainings are sponsored by the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council and the Oregon Department of Education Child Nutrition Programs, and are offered at no cost to the schools.
As a result, school nutrition professionals are preparing more scratch recipes, often from the Oregon State University Food Hero program. Check out Food Hero for recipes that can be made at home and with kids. Students have responded positively. Many also explore farm to school opportunities to include seasonal fruits, vegetables and other local foods year-round.
The school lunch of the future will likely include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Some are taking a serious look at plant-based diets and some are looking at local, sustainably sourced center-of-the-plate proteins such as seafood and beef. These are all complemented well by the nutrition provided in dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt. Restrictions will continue for sodium, sugar and unhealthy fat, driven by science and recommendations from USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
You don’t have to gaze into a crystal ball to see the future of school lunches is looking bright. On this National School Lunch Week, we salute all of those who work so hard to put nutritious and delicious foods on our students’ trays. Thank you!
For the second year in a row, Girl Scouts from Oregon and SW Washington gathered for a day of fun and education as they earned their dairy patch. And for many of the Girl Scouts, this was the first time they had ever visited a farm or seen a cow up close.
The Oregon Dairy Patch curriculum was designed by the Girl Scouts of Oregon and SW Washington, Tillamook County Creamery Association, and the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council. With a focus on hands-on learning, it encourages Girl Scouts to visit a dairy farm, discover how milk is transformed into dairy products, explore dairy nutrition, and learn about careers in the dairy industry.
On September 29, TMK Dairy and Creamery invited the Girl Scouts to earn the dairy patch at a special “Dairy Day” event. Through four different station experiences on their farm, 100 eager Girl Scouts and their families had the opportunity to learn about dairy products from start to finish.
TMK Creamery is a small family farm that began 30 years ago when the owner Todd Koch purchased his first Holstein cow. “It all started with a 4-H project that went too far,” he says. In 1997, the milking herd had grown, so the Koch family built TMK Dairy, and in 2018 they opened a creamery where Koch’s sister Shauna and brother-in-law Bert Garza began making farmstead cheeses.
The Koch family is passionate about agriculture education and have designed their farm and creamery accordingly. Interested parties can schedule tours of the farm, or visit on Saturdays when the farm and creamery is open to the public.
For the Dairy Day event, the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council, in partnership with Oregon Aglink, Oregon State University Extension, Oregon Dairy Women and TMK designed the stations to follow the Girl Scouts Dairy Patch Curriculum.
At the first station, TMK’s herdsman Marc Koch taught the Girl Scouts about the milking process. They watched a cow be milked, and even had the opportunity to milk a cow by hand. At this station they also had the opportunity to see calves and learn that they are fed with bottles, their bedding is clean and dry, and their pens are spacious and warm.
Station two, led by OSU Extension representative Jenifer Cruickshank, was all about how farmers care for their cows though nutrition, bedding, barns and pasture. They discussed the difference in dairy breeds and even had the opportunity to pet TMK’s “cowlebrities.”
At station three, Shauna Garza from TMK explained how milk from their cows gets made into delicious cheese. The Girl Scouts were able to look into the creamery through the windows of TMK’s boutique tasting room, where they learned about the importance of keeping the state-of-the-art equipment and facilities clean. Then, Mallory Phelan from Aglink and Tillamook County’s Dairy Princess Ambassador, Araya Wilks, led the group in a fun game designed to demonstrate the many career opportunities in agriculture.
The Girl Scouts were able to finish their patch requirements at the last station, led by the Klamath County Dairy Princess Ambassador, Jaime Evers, as she talked about the importance of dairy in a well-balanced diet, and then the Girl Scouts were able to “taste test” delicious cheese that was made right there on the farm.
“The Oregon Dairy Patch program is a great opportunity for girls to discover the local food chain. It encourages them to be curious about where their food comes from, and what it takes to get it from the farm to the factory to their table,” said Lisa Gilham-Luginbill, Program Manager for Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington. “We hope they’ll learn something new along the way, and perhaps discover an interest or future career in the process.”