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 CannonBelles Takes the Cheese!

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And the winner is…….CannonBelles Cheese from Cannon Falls, Minnesota! CannonBelles Cheese recently took home 1st Place in the Hispanic and Portuguese Style Cheeses Category at the 2017 American Cheese Society (ACS) Judging & Competition for their Queso Fresco Cheese.  The results were announced at the awards ceremony on July 28th at the 34th Annual ACS Conference in Denver, Colorado

This year’s competition broke all records for the professionally-judged national contest with 2,024 entries of cheeses and cultured dairy products from 281 companies, a 10 percent growth over the prior year. Competing companies represented 36 U.S. states, four Canadian provinces, Mexico, and Colombia.

“We were hoping that maybe after 5 years or so, we might be able to get a 2nd or 3rd place, as we continue to sharpen our skills, so we were thrilled with this unexpected 1st place award at such a prestigious event,” said Lufkin.  “My partners and I all agree that this could not have happened without the help of several local stores and restaurants that believed in us, and were willing to take a chance and sell our cheeses.  We can’t thank them enough!”

CannonBelles Cheese, incorporated in December of 2015 by friends Deeann Lufkin, Jackie Ohmann, and Kathy Hupf, is an artisan cheese company that specializes in unique cheese flavors not found elsewhere in Minnesota. In addition to Queso Fresco, the company offers Gouda and Cheddar aged cheeses, and fresh Cheese Curds, both plain and flavored.  They started producing cheese commercially just over a year ago and already the cheese is available at over 16 Minnesota stores and restaurants, and also through the company’s website.

The American Cheese Society was founded in 1983 by Dr. Frank Kosikowski of Cornell University as a national organization for home and farm cheesemaking.  The ACS Judging & Competition is the largest event of its kind for American-made cheeses.

“Winners receive recognition for their hard work and craftsmanship, and consumers get a preview of what to look for at their local grocers or specialty cheese shops in the coming year,” said Nora Weiser, ACS executive director.

CannonBelles currently makes their cheese at the University of Minnesota Pilot Plant while finalizing plans to build a facility in Cannon Falls.  Dave Maroney, head of the Cannon Falls Economic Development Authority, has been working for several years to make Cannon Falls a “local food hub,” featuring high quality, locally sourced, farmstead to table foods.

“Cannon Falls is the perfect place for us to build our plant,” said Jackie Ohmann.  “It’s such a wonderful community and everyone has been so supportive of us, it’s been really amazing!  Our goal as cheesemakers is to craft artisan cheese that is of the highest quality, using locally sourced ingredients, yet still remain affordable and family friendly, so Cannon Falls is a perfect fit for CannonBelles Cheese!”

“We’re excited to bring wonderfully flavored cheese products to our local communities and beyond,” said Kathy Hupf. “Consumers are really getting back to the basics with their food choices and wanting to know where their food is coming from, knowing the producers who are growing and making it, creating a new local food movement, and we couldn’t be happier being a part of that movement.”

“Queso fresco” means “fresh cheese” in Spanish. Queso Fresco is native to Spain, Mexico, Central America, northern parts of South America, and the southern United States.  Although some Queso Fresco is made from a combination of goat and cow milk, producing a crumbly and salty cheese, CannonBelles’ Queso Fresco is made from cow’s milk to be creamy, mild, and easily melted.

For more information about CannonBelles Cheese, including contact information, store locations, and recipes using Queso Fresco, visit http://cannonbelles.com/.

For more information about the American Cheese Society and the 2107 contest, visit http://www.cheesesociety.org

How to Use Our Queso Fresco

We were trying to find great recipes that would use our Queso Fresco.  This cheese is new to most people, so we are often asked how to use it.  We wanted to put some recipes on this webpage, as well as have some available to hand out at various events we are at.  To solve this issue, we enlisted the help of our Senior Intern (and Deeann’s husband), Greg!  Here is what he sent back to us…

Hello Everyone,

I have spent a fair amount of time and energy (and ingredients) over the last few days trying to come up with recipes for your Queso Fresco.  It's a great cheese! It melts well, it tastes great, it has a creamy consistency, and is adaptable for many delicious applications!  

Unfortunately, cheese dip has been very difficult...

Like Jackie, I tried starting with a roux which then became a Bechamel Sauce when I added milk. The advantage to doing this is to prevent the cheeses propensity to  separate. The starch in bechamel releases large threads of amylose... 

SCIENCE SIDE BAR:  Think of starch, whether in flour, potato's, etc., as small tightly packed little rocks full of energy and calories. When mixed with fat (butter or oil) and cooked over moderate heat, these tightly packed starch (gluten) molecules are unlocked, and when they are mixed with liquid over heat, they expand dramatically! Think about the surprise "snakes" that pop out of the "peanut brittle" can when opened by the unsuspecting dupe. These suddenly very long starch molecules wrap around the cheese proteins, known as Casein's (which are actually a conglomeration of several proteins), preventing the casein's from squeezing out fat that would then recombine into curds. Without these exploded and enveloping starch molecules, melted cheese usually becomes an oily and grainy mess.

I then added shredded Queso over gentle heat and the cheese immediately clumped up and became quite stringy...much like what you would like on top of a Chicago Deep Dish Pizza.  Good for pizza but not so good for a dip.  I added milk incrementally, whisking the whole time, but even though the tongue texture was smooth and creamy, the visible texture was lumpy, clumpy, and stringy.  Not the way to go.

My next option was to try a dip that included American Cheese... DON'T HATE ME!!!  The interesting thing about American Cheese is that it has a lot of emulsifying salts that act nearly identically to exploded starch molecules, and similarly, they act as a stabilizing agent for aged cheeses such as extra sharp cheddar.  I chose not to explore this option for your Queso Dip because I don't want to have you explain why your cheese dip is equal parts "Artisan Cheese" and Velveeta at the market.  Enough said.

I next tried a dip I found in Cooks Country and thought I could adapt. It had chorizo sausage cooked with onion, pablano chili, and garlic cooked together. The cheese was a 50/50 mix of Queso Fresco and Sharp Cheddar tossed with some corn starch and water, then microwaved and stirred occasionally. (Corn Starch has more gluten in it then flour, which is why it is often used as a thickening agent in sauces, stews, and gravy's)  It tasted great! But once again it was very stringy and not an appropriate texture for a dip....

Crap.

The problem, once you think about it, is obvious.  Your Queso Fresco is a fresh young cheese, much like Mozzarella!  Because it is young, the protein strands that hold it together and give it structure (much like gluten in bread) are long and strong, and very resistant to separating. As cheeses age, these protein bonds are slowly broken down by the enzymes that give aged cheeses their depth of flavor. That's why older and aged cheeses tend to be more crumbly: their protein foundation has been depleted...but they taste great!

Sooooo.... Now what?  I decided to adapt a recipe I had that is good with "stringy" cheese.  It is a spinach/artichoke/Queso/Parmesan mixture combined with garlic and red peppers, and it turned out great! This can be made ahead of time and can easily be warmed or re-warmed in a microwave.  It is best served with a sturdy bread...it's a bit too dense for tortilla chips 


I have attached the recipes that I have come up with for your lovely cheese. 

PLEASE TRY THEM OUT!!!

I say this because (I feel) that you need to have a first hand knowledge of the things on your web site, or of the recipes or samples you hand out at stores or farmers markets.

I hope that I have helped you guys, and I hope you like what I have come up with!

Respectfully,

Greg, the Intern

Look for these recipes on our new “recipe” tab at the top of our menu bar.  If you have ideas for how to use our cheeses and/or would like to share recipes with us, please email them to info@cannonbelles.com.


~Deeann

Our GOUDA is Good

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We were finally able to cut into our very first “official” Gouda!  We made it way back in October.  

Gouda is not necessarily new to us.  We used to make it in Jackies kitchen.  Our gouda is one of the reasons we decided to start a cheese business.  Good gouda is so wonderful, but can be expenseive.  Ours was on par with what we could buy in the stores, and it gave us the idea that we could make this into a living (we hope).

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Rey Miller, the University of Minnesota Pilot Plant Supervisor, and all around cheese expert, has been helping us learn how to make cheese on a large scale.  The picture above shows us draining the whey off the gouda curds, with Rey’s guidance (he’s on the right).  We were so excited to make it in October and knew it would be at least 3 months before we could crack it open.  So we would visit it every so often, when we would go to make cheese (see our gouda wheels below).

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The patience we had in not cutting them open paid off!  It tastes amazing!  It is mild (due to it’s age), creamy, and all around wonderful!  We can’t wait to share it with all of you.  

Send us a note to find out which stores are carrying our gouda.  Or, if you feel bold, as your favorite cheese store to carry it for you.

We can’t wait to see how these beautiful gouda wheels age and improve!


~Deeann




FEAST

Feast!

We had such an amazing time at FEAST this year.  Accourding to their website, http://www.local-feast.org, "The FEAST Local Food Network is a partnership of many organizations, businesses, and individuals committed to growing a sustainable, local and regional food system which encourages innovation. As a result of our work, we hope to see current businesses flourish and new businesses get established.”

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We set up our table, right across from the rest of the Cannon Falls, MN vendors.  They city of Cannon Falls has a great display showing all of the local foods that are available in our town.  We are truly a local foods hub!  We are also very proud to be a part of such a wonderful and supportive community!

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Jackie did a great job of setting up our table to best show off our wares.  We had 8 different cheeses for people to taste: queso fresco and cheese curds in various flavors, plain, garlic, ranch, smoked turkey/cranberry, bacon, horseradish, and dill.  On Friday, various stores and distributors came by to visit our table.  Kathy was great as our marketing person, making sure everyone knew about us and giving them our contact information.  We made many new contacts and are in at least one new store, People’s Food in Rochester!  We look forward to what these contacts may bring us in the future.

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On Saturday, we were open for the public to come and visit and get to know us.  It went so much better than we ever expected!  As you can see from the sign above, we were selling out of cheeses just a few hours into the day.  We ended up selling out of queso fresco as well as garlic and bacon curds.  We were low on the rest of our cheese too.  It was a huge success!  We got some great feedback, made new friends, and got the word out about our new company.


FEAST was such a great experience for us.  We can’t wait to see what comes next.


~ Deeann


We made the movies!

We got an email early this week, asking if we’d be interested in setting up our booth for a Farmer’s Market scene for a movie being filmed in Northfield.  Luckily, we were all available to take part in some form or another.  We showed up at 4pm and set up our booth right on the Cannon River, next to Bridge Square.  Then, we waited for over 4 hours until they were ready to begin filming. 

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When the crew arrived, they strung up lights around our booth to make it a festive scene.  Then, the rest of the lights and cameras were put in place to begin filming.  The extra’s in the scene ate up all of the samples we brought with us.  We even sold 3 bags of curds while we were there (to include a bag of jalapeno curds to the director).

Kathy and I had so much fun laughing with eveyone there.  Our sides hurt when filming was complete.  It’s too bad Jackie had to leave and miss all the fun.

The movie is “The Nanny”.  It is a Sci Fi take on Mary Poppins, and will air on the SyFy network next year.  We heard rumor that it was a dark take on the classic.  Maybe our smiling faces can add some love to the scene (a “walk and talk” along the river market).

It was a great chance to get some free advertising in!  We were also able to visit with our Northfield Riverwalk Market friends.  Even the 4 hour wait was fun.  

So, now we are famous.  Look for our IMDB page soon (*wink*).

~Deeann

Sep 26, 2016 Cheese Make!

We had our second cheese make at the University of Minnesota Pilot Plant.  Our plain curds went so well, that we were excited to do it again.  

During the Farmers’ Markets and selling to stores, we had requests for flavored curds, so we decided to give it a try this time.  We made Ranch, Garlic, and Bacon flavored curds.  Ferndale Market is a free-range turkey farm in Cannon Falls, and they have a store on site.  They asked if we could make some turkey and cranberry curds, so we thought we’d give that a try too.  Since we were making curds for one business in town, we thought we would also try making wine soaked cheese curds.  Every flavor turned out so well!

On top of the 200 pounds of cheddar curds we made, we also made 100 pounds of Queso Fresco.  We had made this in our 4 gallon roasting pans, in our kitchens, and felt it was worth trying on a larger scale.  We gave the recipe to Rey Miller, the Plant Manager, and he came up with a version for the vat.  We experimented with it, can came up with 6 large blocks of Queso Fresco.  Four of the blocks were pressed for about 3 hours, and the other two were left in the press overnight.  We’ll see which one we like better.  We are pretty excited about our Queso Fresco, as we will be the only Minnesota Artisan cheese makers making this type of cheese.

Packaging up the cheese took so long our first go-around.  This time we had 2 friends/family members come to help us out.  Kathy’s niece, Tracy, and Kathy’s college classmate, Betsy.  They were so amazing, saved us a ton of time, and we are forever grateful for their assistance.  Plus, we had even more fun and laughter with them around.

Deeann and Tracy Betsy and Kathy

We have another day of making cheese at the U on the 11th.  We can’t wait!

Fundraiser!

Fundraising!!!

Would you like to help us raise funds to help us in the beginning faze of our business?  We are in need of operating, equipment, and construction funds.  One way you can help is to buy a T-Shirt from our Booster.com page: https://www.booster.com/cannonbelles-cheese-start-up-cost-fundraiser

It only costs $20 per shirt, and they come in 5 different colors.  You can get them shipped directly to you, or have them shipped to CannonBelles, and we will hand deliver them (if able).

Making Cheese

Curds, curds and more curds!

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On August 18th we went up to the University of Minnesota Pilot Plant to make our first official batch of cheese.  Not knowing what we were doing but wanted to make curds, we aimed to make 500 lbs of cheese curds.  What does 500lbs of curds look like?  We didn't know, but thought we'd give it a whirl!

Check out this link to see more pictures from our day of making cheese: Photo Album

We had a great day making cheese together (and still talked to each other at the end of the day) and learning TONS!  The basics were the same as making it in our kitchen, but there were some changes from using 4 roasting pans to a 5000lb milk tank (over 580lb of milk).  We had a great teacher and student helper, and we took advantage of asking lots of questions and learning as much as we could from them.  

After bagging up 500lbs of curds, we headed south without our first cheese!  They had to get tested for bacteria before we can take them home.  So Saturday we waited with baited breath for the phone call that the curds were safe and we could go get them.  We served our first offical curds that day at the Randolph Chicken BBQ and had a great response.  Since, then we have sold at farmers markets in Northfield and Cannon Falls, to a couple of stores, and to lots of family and friends.  

Our First Customer, Alex!  He was also a great advertiser, telling everyone to come and buy our curds.


On to the future!  We will be making cheese again on Sept 27th at the U.  We will be making plain and flavored curds but more importantly, queso fresco!  We are pretty excited about this next make and aim to bring home a number of yummy cheeses for you to buy!  Stay tuned to where you can buy this next batch of cheese!

Jackie O.

American Cheese Society Conference 2016

What do Des Moines and cheese have in common?  The annual American Cheese Society conference.  Deeann and Jackie learned, laughed, networked, and ate lots of amazing cheese for 4 days in Des Moines.  Deeann spent most of her time in food safety classes learning the science and regulations safety in a cheese plant.  Jackie spent her time in marketing, networking classes.  Above all it was a great networking event.  It was fun to see people we have gotten to know in the cheese world and meet new people.  A lot of connections were made with people that can help us with the building, equipment, cultures, and marketing of our CannonBelles cheese.  To end the conference, we got to go on the great cheese race!  If you see Deeann or Jackie, ask them about this crazy way to end a great conference.  We look forward to going to this conference in Denver next year.  

What's coming next you ask?  Well, we are working on plans to make our first 'official' batch of cheese curds on Aug 18th at the University of Minnesota cheese plant.  When all those details get solidified, look for information on how to get some of our tasty cheese curds!

In Gouda We Trust,

Jackie O.

International Cheese Competition in Madison, WI

Well, with one chick down (Deeann had back surgery), Kathy and Jackie traveled across Wisconsin to attend the International Cheese Competition in Madison, WI.  We had a great conversation with Jim Gage (insert pic of us with him?) before tasting some of the world's best cheeses.  Which cheese did we like best?  Hard to say after tasting 30-40 cheese from across the globe!  It was a great event that gave us some ideas of cheeses to try and flavors to explore.  

Coming soon... we are in the process of securing a place to make cheese to sell to the masses as we continue work on our own building.  

Next stop... you will find us at the Cheese Technology Expo in April in Milwaukee.  We will be checking out what equipment we'd like to purchase, meeting great cheese makers from across the world, and learning more about the trade.  

We look forward to providing yummy cheese to your tummy soon!

Jackie O.


© Trinity River Creamery, LLC  2016