A Liptauer-ish Cheese Spread

Lip-ity Do Dah

Liptauer is a type of fresh cheese from the picturesque Liptov region in Slovakia, which is, admittedly, far from Flyoverlandia. As in an ocean and much of a continent away. So why am I writing about it here? Because Liptov also gave its name to a delicious cheese spread featuring its famous cheese. Liptauer is the adjectival form of the Germanic name for Liptov: Liptau. The cheese, typically made from sheep’s milk, is mild and fresh and difficult to get in the United States. Liptauer cheese, however, has also come to refer to a spread with said cheese as its base, flavored with capers and caraway and such, and served with dark bread.

So, Are You Going to Get Around to the Flyover Part?

Cool your jets, hold your horses, relax-don’t do it. In a word, yes. Right now. Firstly, it turns out that you can make Liptauer cheese (the spread, not the fromage, unless you have a ewe in the backyard between the shed and the Weber grill). And secondly, it also turns out that you can use cottage cheese, specifically the more accessible Kalona Supernatural cottage cheese to make a reasonable (and quite delicious) facsimile of Liptauer cheese spread. And thirdly, it turns out that the recipe follows below.

Makes 1.5 cups

Liptauer1

What You’ll Need

  • a hand blender, food processor, or fine strainer and bowl
  • chopping board and knife
  • two mixing bowls (preferably medium)
  • wooden spoon or hand mixer
  • small bowl of approximately 1.5 cup volume
  • mortar and pestle (optional)
  • a small plate
  • plastic wrap

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of full-fat cottage cheese, preferably Kalona Supernatural brand
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp) softened butter—I used Organic Valley’s Pasture Butter, which is lightly salted
  • 1 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1/4 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
  • 2-3 Tbsp finely chopped cornichons, gherkins, or capers
  • 1 garlic clove, papery skin removed
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste (omit for vegetarian version)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp finely chopped parsley or chives
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp fine salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

How To Make Liptauer Cheese Spread

  1. Using your blender and mixing bowl or food processor, blend the cottage cheese until it is a smooth paste; alternately, go low tech and press the cottage cheese through a strainer into the mixing bowl. If the cottage cheese is watery, drain in a fine strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter for 15 minutes
  2. Cream the butter in another mixing bowl. Add the cottage cheese and mix together well.
  3. Put the caraway seeds and garlic clove in a mortar and pestle. Grind into a paste. Alternately, mince the garlic finely and leave the caraway seeds whole.
  4. Add the paprikas, caraway seed-garlic mixture, mustard, cornichons or capers, onion, and anchovy paste (if using). Mix together well.
  5. Add the sour cream, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper, mixing thoroughly. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.
  6. Line the smaller bowl with plastic wrap. Put the entire mixture into the plastic-lined bowl and then place another sheet of plastic wrap on top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours; this gives the flavors a chance to meld.1
  7. Remove from refrigerator and unmold onto a plate. To do this, remove the top sheet of plastic wrap, then place a plate on top of the bowl. Invert the bowl onto the plate, remove bowl, and then remove the remaining plastic wrap.
  8. Sprinkle with the parsley or chives. Serve with dark bread (I’ve used cocktail rye).

Liptauer2_Closeup

All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.Click on the image to enlarge it.

I’ve adapted this from Sara Dickerman’s recipe found in the New York Times (which is itself an adaptation from Joseph Wechsberg’s recipe found in The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire)

1I’ve found that this doesn’t taste very good initially, but fabulous after the Refrigerator Tour of Duty. The flavors really come alive and work well together after sitting in the refrigerator for a few hours.

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Kalona Organics and Kalona Supernatural—Flyover Dairy Product Stars

Iowa, Again!

Previously, I’ve written about Iowa’s local and organic food culture. I’ve written about the incredible farmers market density of the state. I’ve (briefly) discussed Seed Savers Exchange (which will be the subject of a longer post one of the these days). I lived in Iowa City (home to the University of Iowa) for a year, where I quickly learned that a sizeable proportion of the community had an interest in eating well and eating fairly. Remember, I joined the local natural food cooperative before I spent an entire night in the town. Therefore, it was no real surprise to me to find out that an organic foods business (Kalona Supernatural), was founded nearby. What DID surprise me was that it was based in Kalona!

Kalona?

The booming metropolis of Kalona (population 2363 as of the 2010 census) is located in Washington County, Iowa, about 20 miles southwest of Iowa City. It is proximate to many Amish and Mennonite farms; indeed, their settlement of the area preceded the Civil War. I’ve been to Kalona—needed to get my buggy fix (I grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country)—and found it a quaint, pleasant town, a good place for antique shopping (which, incidentally, I Do. Not. Do.) But the town has local businesses and very friendly people. And Amish and Mennonites.

Kalona Organics

Kalona Supernatural’s founder and visionary is Bill Evans, whose knowledge of finance and connection to the farming community and land led him to form Kalona Organics back in 2005. His vision allowed for local organic farms (largely Amish and Mennonite) to thrive without giving up their ideals. Kalona Organics offered Farmer’s All-Natural Creamery Milk and Cultural Revolution Yogurt, among other products.

Kalona Supernatural

In 2010, the Kalona Organics brands were all placed under the Kalona Supernatural™ brand. Today, Kalona Supernatural distributes an array of (mostly) dairy products, including milk, buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt (regular and Greek), butter, and eggs. The milk is not homogenized, which means you’ll find a layer of cream on top (most mass-market milks ARE homogenized, which

And T-shirts, apparently.

KalonaCottageCheese

Oh, That Divine Cottage Cheese

That #@%& is good. Seriously good. And addictive. Boy, am I glad dietary fats are “in” again, as Kalona Supernaturals whole-milk (read: full-fat) is not something I want to give up anytime soon. Indeed, I like to place a scoop (okay, a BIG scoop) on an avocado half and call it breakfast. And get this—IT’S CREAM TOP!!! That means you can see actual cream on top of the cottage cheese. The cottage cheese is made from organic milk that comes from grass-fed cows (you know, the milk I just described above). While most cottages cheeses tend to be bland, unexciting, additions to a sad diet, Kalona Supernatural Organic Whole Milk Cottage Cheese is amazingly delicious (and, I might add, the reduced-fat cottage cheese is also quite tasty!) There is no way that this would be reduced to an appearance on a pathetic “diet plate”.

Where to Find

Nationally, you can find Kalona Supernatural products in Whole Foods and Earth Fare stores (at least the ones near me). I am lucky enough to also be able to find them in Muncie at The Downtown Farm Stand.

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Just My (Fro)magination, Runnin’ Away With Me

To know me is to know of my love for cheese. Whether cow, goat, sheep, or water buffalo, I think of cheese as the epitome of culinary pleasure. Not all cheeses, of course—those industrial blocks found in the dairy sections of supermarkets next to the sour cream and flavored Greek yogurts, while technically cheese, don’t exactly send me. They don’t inspire me, intrigue me, float my dairy boat. Cracker Barrel may have its place, but it’s not at my table. No, dear readers, it’s the truly crafted cheeses, often farmstead or artisanal with recipes honed by the years, that sway me—the French Comté, the Midwestern Maytag Blue, the Spanish Drunken Goat, the British Stilton. Depending where you live, it may be difficult to source these cheeses. For the more obscure and lesser known cheeses–your Bucherons, your Valdeons, your Pleasant Ridge Reserves–it may be damn near impossible. That said, I do have pretty good luck at Whole Foods and, to a lesser extent, Earth Fare. Still, the best place to buy cheese is a place where the staff is not only knowledgeable, but enthusiastic about the product. I am talking about a dedicated cheese shop.

FromaginationHeader

On a recent road trip, I made an excursion to Madison, Wisconsin, with one of my stops being an expedition (really, a pilgrimage) to Fromagination, one of the premier cheese shops in the United States. Located along Capitol Square1, a step into Fromagination practically made me weep. The cheese scents, the wheels and wedges, the accoutrements—how glad I was to be there and how sad to live so far away. Granted, that may be a good thing, since a residence in proximity to Fromagination would probably add ten pounds a year to my frame.

FromaginationStore

Fromagination isn’t just an ordinary cheese shop—it’s a vital part of the vibrancy that is downtown Madison. Since its opening in 2007, the store has become a mecca for the cheese-minded, heralded both locally and nationally (I learned about it in a national magazine). And, conscious of its location, Fromagination does an esteemed job of promoting Wisconsin products! Truly a noble outlet and clearly a good neighbor (even being named a Local Hero by Edible Madison magazine).

I was so impressed by the way the staff treated me, even when I told them I couldn’t buy cheese (just started my road trip). It didn’t matter. They were soooo helpful and delightful, answering my questions about the store. I did get some wonderful nonperishable (and Wisconsin-produced!) souvenirs: a Fromagination picnic/tote bag, made by a semi-local fabric artist (Sue Hedin2 of Stillwater, MN); some Gail Ambrosius chocolates; and locally made shallot confit with red wine from Quince and Apple.

FromaginationToteBag

Now I need bags with a goat, cow, and water buffalo to complete the set! It has pockets inside for flatware and, even more importantly, pockets on the outside that accommodate bottles of wine! BTW, I use this to go to the farmers market.

Any cheese lover living in the Midwest may wish to consider a trip to Fromagination. Indeed, I look forward to a return trip during cooler weather, armed with a cooler to take my delicious wares home. Because the Cheese Stands Alone.

1In case you forgot this from your elementary school days, Madison is the capital of Wisconsin.

2I was told she wasn’t making the bags anymore and that once the stock was sold, there would be no more. Good thing I got one!

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And, if that “Lose Weight” New Year’s Resolution doesn’t pan out…

Then it’s time for some Candinas Chocolate, from Madison, Wisconsin, where it’s been located since 1994!

Candinas

They operate a retail store in downtown Madison, just off Capitol Square (as well as factory in Verona, WI).

That said, I’m really not happy with “lose weight” being such a popular resolution. Be happy and comfortable in your skin. And is a life without chocolate (or cheese) really worth living? 🙂

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL! MAY 2015 BRING YOU GASTRONOMIC GOODNESS FROM AMERICA’S HEARTLAND!

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