Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Happy accident cheese

The Fiscalini family of Modesto, California, has been in the dairy business--and now in the artisanal cheese business--for four generations. They make cheese (primarily cheddars) by hand from the milk of their Holstein cows who are, according to the Fiscalinis, the happiest cows in California. In fact, Fiscalini Farms was the first dairy farm in the country to be certified by Validus, an independent agency that monitors animal welfare compliance.

So it's happy cows who make happy milk, which by happy accident ended up in a cheese called San Joaquin Gold. Fiscalini's cheesemaker, Mariano Gonzalez, was trying to create a cheddar cheese when by accident he ended up with a rich, buttery, nutty cheese that (to my palate anyway) tastes like a young Parmesan crossed with an Emmenthaler. Because this was an original style of cheese, the Fiscalinis named it after the valley where their cows live.

You can buy San Joaquin Gold directly from the Fiscalini Farms website, or you can check retail availability here.

Here's a recipe from Fiscalini Farms that uses San Joaquin Gold cheese:

San Joaquin "Golden" Baked Onion Dip

1 cup finely chopped Vidalia onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-1/4 cups crumbled San Joaquin Gold cheese
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Paprika, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix all together. Spread in small baking dish or pie plate. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 30 minutes.

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