Friday, February 22, 2013

A Cool Breeze

So there I was, standing at the cheese counter in my local grocery store, contemplating what type of cheese should be the subject of my first review.   Should it be a nice bloomy triple crème, or maybe a nice buttery washed rind. I could easily turn to a tangy blue, or maybe a sharp hard cheese like cheddar or aged provolone.  I had no expectations of finding a well-crafted artisanal cheese in a chain supermarket, but then I saw it.

Nestled among the Cabots and store brand cheddar cheeses, a bright yellow label stood out from the rest of the over the top attempts at advertising. It simply read “Milk produced on small family farms”. I thought to myself, this might be worth checking into, and I picked up the closest block to find the producer. The cheese was called “Prairie Breeze”, and the label pronounced that is was produced by the Milton Creamery. There was a website in the border of the label so I decided it was worth checking out.

I picked up a few things I thought might be interesting to try with it as it was clearly in the cheddar family by its density and color, so I picked up some Recipe No. 5 Pinot Grigio Salami by Giovani Volpe & Company. I went with some sunburst tomatoes for a touch of sweet in case the cheese was sharp. I chose some sweet onion crackers from Partners as the delivery system that would bring it all to my mouth.

Upon opening the cheese I noticed there wasn’t a lot of oil on the surface. It was going to be a crumbly one. The smell was pretty mild, especially for cheddar, so I wasn’t expecting it to be very sharp. (It was a sneaky cheese. I will elaborate later.) The first cut on my handcrafted wire cheese board (I love to support local craftspeople.) did not fall apart, so it wasn’t as hard as parmesan or a 2 year aged provolone.

My first taste was the cheese by itself. I wanted to make sure I got the full experience unhindered by any of my chosen pairings. As soon as it hit my tongue, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it was sweet. It was at that point that I noticed it did indeed crumble and there were tiny pockets of salt that can gather during the cheddaring process, another pleasant surprise. The flavor was even and not initially sharp, and then it creeps up on you.  (here’s the sneaky, ninja cheese part.) The after taste of the cheese slowly comes up from somewhere in the back, and you’re reminded of a nice aged provolone or a Dubliner. I found myself enjoying the multiple layers of flavor that move in like partners in crime as you eat this little rustic treasure.

Now it was time for the meat test. Meat and cheese have gone together since man discovered that food tastes far better preserved than rancid. The salami I chose has a nice woody flavor with a hint of spice and wine. A cheese like Prairie Breeze should work well with just about any artisan meats, and this was no exception. The heady flavors of the salami rolled wonderfully into the sweet and tangy arms of the cheese like a sincere hug from that favorite someone.  This is definitely a cheese just as comfortable at a tailgate with a good beer as it is next to a Chaource and candied fruit.

With each taste I added another layer. The sunburst tomatoes were next, and then I finally laid it all on one of the sweet onion crackers. The flavors laced together to make a wonderful combination that I would enjoy during any serving and would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a good cheddar or similar hard or crumbly cheese. Prairie Breeze  is pretty versatile and could be served by itself or with any number of combinations. Don’t be afraid to experiment with it and it is easily a cheese that would be a crowd pleaser if shared.

Now that I’ve reviewed the cheese, let me comment on the family behind it. I explored the website ( for the Milton Creamery and found a community that not only cared about the product they produced, but were really proud of the result.  To quote from their story “We make cheese and we want you to try it.” A simple Mennonite family from Pennsylvania, the Mussers settled in the farm country of Milton Iowa in 1992. As dairy farmers, and completely surrounded by Amish farmland, making cheese seemed a match made in, well; Heaven.  In cooperation with their Amish neighbors, the Milton Creamery was born.

The creamery itself is nestled on some of the prettiest countryside that I’ve ever seen, and I would love  paying them a visit just for the chance to enjoy the view. Having access to all of their stock wouldn’t be too bad either. The Musser family sincerely puts the “farmhouse” in their farmhouse style of cheeses and I look forward to trying more of their products. Suffice to say, I am happy that I was able to discover this little gem, and their Prairie Breeze was certainly a breath of fresh air. 

If you've tried this cheese already, or you happen to read this blog and go rushing to the store to find some for yourself, let me know about it in the comments below. Tell me what you thought of the cheese and what you paired it with. Got a recipe you might think would benefit from some Prairie Breeze? Share it!


  1. I live in Iowa and have been a fan of Prairie Breeze for awhile. My favorite combo is Prairie Breeze, poached pears, procuitto or speck (preferrably LaQuercia, also from Iowa) all on a salad. There's a local restaurant that got me started on this combo (thiers included vanilla vinegrette and almonds) good.