Pleasant Ridge Reserve , the only cheese to win “Best of Show” three times at the American Cheese Society Competition, is a mountain-style, grass-fed, raw milk cheese made in Dodgeville, Wisconsin at Uplands Cheese Company. In 1994, Mike and Carol Gingrich and Dan and Jeanne Patenaude, after years of farming separately as neighbors, bought Uplands together to join their herds and manage them in a seasonal, pasture-based system. Dan and Jeanne had been, in the early 1980s, among the earliest people in the United States to feed cows by rotational grazing.
They began studying and researching cheesemaking and by 2000 they had developed a recipe to make the first cheese, In 2007, Andy Hatch came on board and began assisting them with their cheese program.
I had the opportunity recently to ask a few questions of Uplands Cheese Maker, Andy Hatch.
Spaulding: Andy, Thanks again for agreeing to an interview. Your Rush Creekwas the biggest hit of the holidays here last year – The Man fell in love with RC and we had to fight to pry it out of his hands… his mother failed to teach him the fine art of sharing.
Spaulding Gray: Tell us about your time in Europe studying cheesemaking.
Andy Hatch: The first few years I spent making cheese in Europe I was young and relatively untrained and was mostly interested in having a look around
at different styles and cultures. I spent a season making aged goat
cheeses in Norway, a season making Pecorino in Tuscany, one in the
Austrian alps, a couple seasons making goat cheese in Ireland, and a
lot of time in between doing shorter stints on farms and playing music
in cities. It was as much about wanderlust as it was about
Later, after I came home to go to Univ of Wisconsin for Dairy Science
and after I’d apprenticed here, received my license and started work
as a cheesemaker at Uplands, I returned to Europe for several winters.
At this point I’d narrowed my interests and I was more selective with
where I worked (Neals Yard Dairy, Herve Mons, etc.). I still go back
to England, Italy and France every year or two and make a few visits,
but it seems like now, with more background and more focused questions
I can get as much out of one day with a cheesemaker or affineur than I
did out of 4 months of work as a twenty year old.
Spaulding: What is your first cheese memory?
Andy: My mother had lived in France and Switzerland and so there was always alpine cheese in our house. I remember as a little kid going on
Fridays to Larry’s Market with my father to buy Gruyere, Appenzeller
and Emmentaler for fondue, and being intimidated by Larry. It’s still
one of my favorite shops and Larry and his son Steve and daughter
Patty are some of our best customers.
SG: What is the most obscure cheese you have ever eaten? Where did you find it?
AH: At the cheese festival in Bra, Italy, there is always a booth with
hundreds of small, oyster-sized cheeses that are completely covered
and crawling with mites. It usually takes me a couple days to work up
the nerve but I always try a couple.
Spaulding: Who were your mentors before coming to Uplands?
Andy: I apprenticed under Bruce Workman of Edelweiss Creamery and Gary
Grossen at Babcock Hall. Both of these guys are classic, Green County
cheesemakers and real masters of the craft. Cheesemakers influence
their cheese through their collection of small habits that don’t
always appear influential but always are. When I was a student at UW
I would sit on a stool in the corner of Gary’s make room and watch him
day after day. Years later I’ve found that I adopted a lot of his
habits for handling milk, cheese and equipment.
SG: You make Pleasant Ridge with milk from your cows during the grass-feeding season. What happens to the milk the rest of the year. Cows can’t go on “vacation”…
AH: Actually, our cows do go on vacation, from about Christmas, when we
dry them up, until about Easter, when they calve. We’ve always sold
the milk from mid-October on to another cheesemaker, but in the past
few years we’ve started using some of that autumn, hay-fed milk to
make Rush Creek Reserve. There’s milk in there for a third cheese, I
Spaulding: Which of your cheeses would you pair with Oryctolagus cuniculus? Would you add beer or wine to your pairing?
Andy: I like rabbit stew in the winter, and we put Pleasant Ridge or
Reggiano rinds in the stew. I’d probably drink a spicy red Rhone with
the stew and fall asleep in front of the fire at about eight o’clock.
SG: Any new cheeses being developed that you can share with us?
AH: We’re in the brainstorming stage of looking at making a cheese with
the autumn milk left over from Rush Creek production. It’s not a lot
of milk but it’s really rich and once we figure out what it’s best
suited for, it should make some really special cheese.
Spaulding: Andy, thanks again for taking the time. The Lady and I love your cheeses!!!