The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program, the only program of its kind outside of Europe, is celebrating 20 years of training and certification with a ceremony at the International Cheese Technology Exposition in Milwaukee on April 24. The 2014 graduates of the program will be honored and presented with Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker medallions during the ceremony. Since the program’s founding in 1994, only Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers are able to label their cheese with the distinctive Master’s Mark.
To apply for the program, a cheesemaker must have been a licensed Wisconsin cheesemaker for at least 10 years, making the applicants highly skilled veterans of the industry before they even begin certification. Administered by the Center for Dairy Research and funded by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program has created a new tradition of excellence and innovation in the United States.
“We congratulate the 2014 graduates and are proud to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this unique program. Those who have earned the title of Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker have such a dedication to their craft and pride in what they’ve achieved,” says James Robson, CEO of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB). “The impact of the program on them personally, as well as on their companies and the Wisconsin cheese industry, has been immeasurable.”
To learn more about the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program, visit EatWisconsinCheese.com.
We are nearly through National Grilled Cheese Month, which means the entry period for the 2014 Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown is also nearing its end. Be sure to submit your grilled cheese recipe, description and photo at www.GrilledCheeseAcademy.com before it’s too late!
For added motivation, we have expert cooking tips from reigning grilled cheese champion Veronica Callaghan who wooed judges last year with The Kennebunkport.
Speaking from experience, here are her top five pieces of advice for crafting the winning sandwich:
Tip #1: Start with something you love and add cheese.
I absolutely love lobster rolls, so for me that seemed like a great starting place for the Grilled Cheese Academy contest. I have always felt that cheese makes everything taste better, so using that logic, I felt a lobster roll with cheese would be my dream sandwich.
Tip #2: Try to spice things up.
The chile-infused butter was the secret ingredient in The Kennebunkport – and honestly, I never considered any other condiments. Butter is a must for grilled cheese and I love the hint of heat that the chile adds to the sandwich.
Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to step outside the box with creative combinations.
Provolone has always been my go-to cheese. As my favorite cheese, I had to incorporate slices of Wisconsin provolone. But what made The Kennebunkport a winning sandwich was the added creaminess of mascarpone. I think that the combination of cheeses complemented the lobster without overpowering it.
Tip #4: Choose a name that is simple and matches the sandwich’s theme.
I do think that the name is almost as important as the sandwich itself for the contest submission. When I was choosing a name for my creation, I wanted to evoke the coast of Maine where lobster is plentiful. I tried to use a town that I thought most would be familiar with and that many would associate with Maine, and Kennebunkport seemed to fit the bill.
Tip #5: Always enlist your friends as your taste-testers.
Your friends will agree with me on this one: always share your creations with your friends – they will love you for it and can also be your best critics. Good luck!
While the Grilled Cheese Academy is home to a host of unique and fantastic grilled cheeses, we know that we aren’t the only ones who love grilled cheese. Here are a few of our fellow grilled cheese enthusiasts who have a flair for firing up the griddle in new and delicious ways. Take a peek and then enter your own grilled cheese masterpiece in the 2014 Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown, where the grand prize winner will be taking home the proverbial cheddar – $10,000 of it!
As one of our guest judges for the 2014 Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown, we know that she has an appetite for only the best of the best when it comes to grilled cheese recipes. Since 2010, MacKenzie has been serving up some of the most creative sandwiches we’ve seen. From her Modern Mayflower – with Wisconsin muenster and waffles made of leftover stuffing – to her Blueberry Baby – featuring blueberries, basil and Wisconsin brie – MacKenzie can’t go wrong with her ingenious combinations.
Although it can be argued that a panini is not technically a grilled cheese and vice versa, we say to-may-to, to-mah-to. Where there is wonderful Wisconsin Cheese we’ll skip the technicalities and go straight for the freshly grilled sandwich, panini or otherwise. Kathy, the blogger of Panini Happy, has been constructing gorgeous grilled sandwiches since 2008 and has compiled recipes across many categories, including recipes for breakfast, dessert and to reinvent your leftovers.
Brother and sister duo Bob and Carlene have a knack for creating and capturing beautiful images of their cheesy masterpieces. They covered a lot of ground last year when they posted a grilled cheese recipe every day in April in honor of National Grilled Cheese month. From the classic grilled cheese to the not-so-classic, they bring a fresh perspective to putting together a cheesy sandwich.
by Kylie of KylieTurley.com
If you’re like me, you prefer to entertain guests with appetizers that are effortless in nature but impressively complex in flavor, which is why I adore these Rustic Basil & Burrata Bites.
With a few simple steps, you can woo your friends with fragrant herbs, colorful tomatoes and creamy Wisconsin burrata that work together to bring an element of fancy to the classic caprese.
Wisconsin burrata is a sweet, creamy cheese that melts in your mouth. Hand-formed into eight-ounce balls, burrata is a cross between fresh mozzarella and rich ricotta. Loosely translating to “buttered” in Italian, it doesn’t take a large amount of cheese to savor its rich taste. Combined with prosciutto, fresh basil and a burst of heirloom tomatoes on top of a crisp baguette, these bites could be mistaken for an appetizer straight from a café in Tuscany.
Add the final touch of a drizzle of thyme-infused balsamic vinegar and you’re ready to mingle with your guests!
By Kylie of KylieTurley.com
Servings: 12 appetizer bites
1 French baguette
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 small bundle of fresh thyme (approximately 3 sprigs)
12 slices of prosciutto
1/2 package of fresh basil leaves (approximately 12 leaves)
3 (8 ounces each) Wisconsin burrata cheese balls, quartered
1 cup small heirloom tomatoes
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
Slice baguette into 12 rounds. Set aside.
Heat balsamic vinegar in saucepan over medium heat 2-3 minutes. Stir in fresh thyme. Bring to medium boil for 5-7 minutes until thyme is wilted and brown in color, taking care to not let rolling boil occur. Reduce heat and remove thyme from liquid. Ensure dressing has syrup-like consistency before removing from heat.
Fold one slice of prosciutto on single piece of bread. Layer with one large fresh basil leaf. Top basil with quartered piece of Wisconsin burrata. Slice tomatoes into halves, placing 2-3 pieces on each bread slice.
Want to participate in National Grilled Cheese Month, but you need more cheese? Don’t despair – here’s your chance to score five pounds of Wisconsin cheddar! The question is: which Grilled Cheese Academy sandwich would you make first? Tell us your answer in a comment at the Grilled Cheese Academy Facebook page and you could be selected as our winner.
Once you’ve entered to win the cheddar, check out the 2014 Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown contest page to see how you could enter your own original recipe for a chance to win $10,000!
- An official Grilled Cheese Academy apron
- A 5 pound wheel of 5-year aged Wisconsin cheddar
- One artisan spatula
- A full-color printed version of the Book of Champions
How to Enter:
Visit the Grilled Cheese Academy Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/GrilledCheeseAcademy, and leave a comment answering the following question on the giveaway post:
Which Grilled Cheese Academy sandwich would you make first?
- One entry will be chosen at random.
- Giveaway ends Friday, April 18, at 5 p.m. EST.
- Winner will be notified through Facebook.
- Entries are limited to one per household (and to U.S. residents).
The 2014 Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown is bigger than ever! For the contest’s third year, we made some changes, including:
- The Grilled Cheese Academy website has been refreshed with a new design to make searching for your favorite grilled cheese recipes easier. Take a look: www.GrilledCheeseAcademy.com.
- In the sandwich gallery you will find thirty-two brand new grilled cheese recipes that have been added for even more grilled cheese inspiration.
- This year’s prizes are bigger and better – a total of six cash prizes will be awarded, with the best of show grilled cheese recipe awarded $10,000.
- During the entry period, April 1 – May 12, there will be additional giveaways held at the Grilled Cheese Academy Facebook page and in the Wisconsin Cheese Talk Instagram giving you more chances to win!
To celebrate the third showdown, let’s take a look back at what happened in the 2012 and 2013 contests.
In 2012, The Bewitching by Ally Phillips from South Carolina was crowned the champion. The colorful sandwich included fresh blackberries, peppery greens, fried bacon and luscious Wisconsin gouda and provolone cheeses.
The two silver winners were The Low Country by Stephanie Bright – featuring shrimp, kielbasa, corn and Wisconsin gruyère – and The State Fair by Liz Delia – featuring Granny Smith apple slices, pulled pork, caramel sauce and Wisconsin cheddar.
And in 2013, the Golden Skillet Award went to The Kennebunkport by Veronica Callaghan. This creamy creation uses fresh chunks of lobster and chile-infused butter with Wisconsin mascarpone and provolone to create a flavor combo like no other.
In a close second came The Ranchero by Malcom Bedell – a spicy Mexican-style sandwich with chorizo and Wisconsin pepper jack – and The Hotlanta by Shannon Kohn – a unique blend of spicy maple-glazed peaches, jalapeños and chicken tenders with Wisconsin pepper jack and smoked gouda between slices of sourdough “waffles.”
You can download all of the past winning recipes in the free 2012 and 2013 recipe books at GrilledCheeseAcademy.com.
The 2014 Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown kicked off April 1 in conjunction with National Grilled Cheese Month, and this year the contest is bigger than ever before! To match the growing excitement, we invited two new guest judges to join our returning guest judge Heidi Larsen and help sample and choose the winning recipes.
Our three guest judges, Heidi Larsen, Paula Jones and Mackenzie Smith are all popular food bloggers who have a deep appreciation for the deliciousness that is grilled cheese. Learn about each judge and read their tips on how to craft a great grilled cheese in their profiles below.
Heidi Larsen of foodiecrush
Heidi Larsen is the founder, editor, creative director and chief dishwasher of foodiecrush, the blog and online magazine featuring her original recipes and photography. With over 20 years of publishing experience creating and photographing content, Heidi now celebrates the virtual buffet food bloggers deliver across the World Wide Web by featuring their recipes, photography and stories. She is a food photographer and stylist, recipe developer, digital ebook content creator, designer and consultant. She is also the co-creator of the Cookie Cravings eCookbook series. Heidi lives in Salt Lake City with her husband, daughter and their three rescue mutts, all of whom make occasional appearances on foodiecrush.
Heidi’s Top Grilled Cheese Tips:
- No-longer-fresh bread.
Use stale bread OR toast your bread first. This helps the bread develop a nice golden edge and crispy exterior. It also helps to keep your bread from getting soggy. Who wants a soggy sandwich?
- Melted butter.
Brush melted butter onto the outside of the bread and then into the smoking hot pan it goes. We’re adding flavor and not trying to count calories here.
Paula Jones of bell’alimento
Paula Jones is the recipe developer, photographer and publisher of the food and travel blog bell’alimento and cofounder of Mixed food blogger conference. She has been featured in publications such as Southern Living, Bon Appétit and Parade. You can also find her work featured on the web on such prestigious sites as Saveur.com, CNN.com and The Huffington Post. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and 3 children.
Paula’s Top Grilled Cheese Tips:
- Preheat your pan.
Sometimes I get hasty and don’t give my pan enough time to warm up, resulting in the first side of my sandwich having a perfectly browned crust and the second side getting scorched because I’ve let my cooking time remain the same and not taken into account the pan’s gotten hotter. Preheat the pan for a minute or two on medium, then cook both sides low and slow for an evenly browned crust.
- Consider the textures.
Be adventurous when combining different varieties of cheese and try mixing not only flavors, but the textures, too. For example, when using a firm cheese, add a layer of creamy cheese to the mix for extra gooeyness.
MacKenzie Smith from Grilled Cheese Social
Grilled Cheese Social is the ultimate website for grilled cheese enthusiasts where proprietor MacKenzie Smith of Brooklyn has created a shrine to all things melty and cheesy. Anchored by lush, gooey close-ups of crisp, buttery bread and cheese topped with all manner of accouterments – everything from bacon-wrapped dates to a handheld poutine-wich made with gravy-dosed french fries.
MacKenzie’s Top Grilled Cheese Tips:
- Grate matters.
If you are working with a hard cheese, make sure to grate it – this method allows more heat to get in-between the cheese shreds, which helps it melt more evenly. If it’s soft cheese, try thick slices so that it takes longer for it to ooze out.
- Upgrade your butter.
Don’t forget about enhancing your butter. Try mixing some fragrant dried spices into salted butter for unexpected pops of flavor. Some of my go-to’s are garlic powder, red pepper flakes and rosemary.
We know you love Wisconsin Cheese, but which do you prefer: string cheese or cheese curds? String cheese is commonly made using mozzarella, which forms strings when pulled, while cheese curds are typically made with cheddar. Who will win the epic battle, the squeaky or the stringy? Share your preference in the comments below!
It’s a new month and we are celebrating the deliciousness of another Wisconsin Cheese variety. Our April Cheese of the Month is Wisconsin burrata, which loosely translates to “buttered” in Italian. It boasts a richly sweet, milky flavor and a unique soft and silky texture that lends itself to sweet and savory dishes alike.