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Don’t overlook Midwest cheeses when making grilled cheese sandwiches

03/07/2014 1:25 PM

03/07/2014 3:31 PM

The first pull of a grilled cheese reveals liquid gold. As each side of toast says goodbye to one another, the melty cheese parts gently, pulling smooth ribbons of satisfying goo into a yoke shape.

If you’re lucky, the cheese is melted perfectly and the bottom of the “U” holds on long enough to make a cheese print on your plate.

On a cool day there is something cozy about a simple grilled cheese and a bowl of soup. During barbecue season, macaroni and cheese appears in at least four different versions. At every gathering there is always a cheese board to explore. New creameries are showing up every year with delightful competitive cheeses. Some of the best in the United States are coming out of cattle country — the Midwest.

The Chef’s Favorite


Prairie Breeze Cheddar from

Milton Creamery

of Milton, Iowa. Farm visits are welcomed.

Milk: Cows raised by Mennonite farmers with no growth hormones. The cows graze on native grasses.

Owner: Musser Family

Cheese Maker: Galen

Fun Facts: 4-time award winning cheese


Hen House, Whole Foods, Better Cheddar

It’s creamy, while still crumbly with the crunch of milk crystals like Italian Parmesan. It is a young cheese only aged for 9 months, but is swiftly becoming a favorite among chefs. Prairie Breeze Cheddar is rich with buttery notes and peeks of sweet pineapple. With that complexity, it’s featured on cheese boards all across the country. It makes burgers better and grilled cheese unforgettable.

The Up and Comer


Linnchego from

Skyview Creamery

of Pleasanton, Kan. Farm visits are welcomed.

Milk: Goat, Cow and co-mingled. All animals are raised pretty darn close to the organic standard. No hormones.

Owner: Bill and Sheri Noffke

Cheese Maker: Sheri Noffke

Fun Facts: Cheeses are aged in an underground cave.


Howard’s Organic Market, The Better Cheddar, Dean and Deluca

This goat’s milk cheese mimics the ever-popular Manchego cheese from Spain. Just like Champagne, which can only be from the Champagne region of France, same goes for this stellar cheese. Linnchego has a caramel base with soft hay notes finishing with a citrusy acidity. When shaved, the light tendrils of cheese disappear into sauces, adding an earthy note. This cheese also finishes dishes well bringing out any slight bit of citrus that needs to be highlighted. It is a semi-dry cheese and pairs very well with a medium-bodied red wine.

The Go-To For Fun

Winstead Reserve from

Shatto Farms

of Osborn, Mo. Farm visits are welcomed.

Milk: Cow, all milk comes from the family farm, no growth hormones

Owner: Barb and Leroy Shatto

Fun Facts: The farm has a dairy bar to taste all the flavors of milk.


Whole Foods Market

Winstead Reserve Havarti Style Cheese is smooth, creamy and a superhero to the grilled cheese. This crowd pleaser has a soft butter yellow color with medium sharpness. There are many flavors of havarti but Shatto keeps it unadulterated and does it very well. The semi-soft texture makes it perfect for panini sandwiches or accents to a pear and fennel salad.

With the wide variety of cheeses at the counter, intimidation may set in. Take a day trip and visit some of these creameries and talk to the maker. Most of them love to share their passion with others.

Pick up a goats milk, semi soft, and Parmesan style cheese to start. Now it’s your choice — a simple cheese board, or panini, or a super sassy mac and cheese dish. If you are going to cook with it,


are some hard and fast rules.

Grilled Cheese for Four 8 slices Pullman white bread 4 tablespoons goat butter 6 ounces Havarti style cheese, thinly sliced 7 ounces aged Cheddar, thinly sliced 4 ounces Manchego style cheese, shredded 2 teaspoons freshly chopped thyme 4 tablespoons good jam, your choice

Spread the goat butter on all sides of the bread. Build your grilled cheese by distributing the cheeses evenly among four slices of bread, ending with the Manchego style cheese. Finish with the fresh thyme. Spread the jam on one side of the remaining 4 pieces of bread. Top the sandwiches with the remaining slices of bread jam side down.

Heat a panini press or griddle to medium heat. Sear the sandwiches for 2-3 minutes on each side. Turn the heat to low and cover for 1 minute. Remove from heat and serve.

Renee Kelly is the owner of Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Johnson County. Her passion lies in changing the food system, one plate at a time. Her inspiration is Mother nature and the many growers in the Kansas City area.

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