Leading Ladies | March 2022 curdbox

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In honor of National Women’s History Month, we bring you our Leading Ladies box. This is the second year we jumped at the opportunity to curate a box that showcases all women producers, and boy are there some powerhouses in this box. Their stories are inspiring, and their products are delicious—what could be better? So let’s dive right in and follow this month’s Leading Ladies.

March 2022 Leading Ladies curdbox

Aged Raw Milk Gouda by Marieke Gouda

Our first leading lady is Marieke Penterman of the eponymous Marieke Gouda. Marieke grew up in the Netherlands on her parents’ 60-cow dairy farm. When her husband Rolf Penterman emigrated to Wisconsin and Marieke followed suit, she soon realized she longed for the cheeses of homeland, and so began to research how to make her own. To make a long (and impressive) story short: she succeeded in making authentic Dutch Gouda in the US, and only four months after making her first batch in 2006, she won gold at the US Champion Cheese Contest. A slew of prestigious awards followed, all of which paved the path to her getting the 0-1 Visa to stay in the US, which is also known as the Extraordinary Ability Visa (you know, the one that professors and professional athletes get). She’s the first cheese maker to have ever gotten this award! She’s also one of the 60 women out of 1200 licensed cheese makers in Wisconsin. She's also just an incredible woman and we encourage you to read more about her inspiring story. 

And the cheese? Oh, it’s also pretty amazing. To make her genuine American Dutch Gouda, Marieke uses raw milk, which means the cheeses have both the depth and breadth of flavor that you . And, she uses traditional Dutch equipment and even imported the bacterial cultures from the Netherlands, so they have that same taste as the Dutch Gouda we all know and love. Marieke Gouda makes their line in a range of ages, this month’s is is aged 6-9 months. This means that the cheese is starting to develop that famed butterscotch nuttiness that you can expect with Gouda, but retains its youthful softness and suppleness. Basically, it can be your everything cheese.

Chandoka by LaClare Creamery

Next up, we have a goat-cow cheddar from LaClare’s head cheesemaker Katie Hedrich Fuhrman. Katie made waves in the cheese world when at only 25 years old she took home the US Championship Cheese Contest award for her goat gouda Evalon, beating out 1601 other cheeses. Not only was she the youngest person to ever win this award, she was also the second ever woman. (The next contest in 2013 saw Marieke take the title.) Now, Katie wasn’t a total dark horse going into this contest—she is, after all, the daughter of Larry and Clara Hedrich, who make up the LaClare of LaClare Creamery and were on the forefront of goat farming and goat cheese making in Wisconsin. Katie had a brief tour exploring the non-cheese side of life, but soon after graduating college realized she was being called back to the family business. She's currently en route to become a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker.

And her cheese Chandoka is also pretty amazing! It's modeled after New Zealand-style cheddars, which have a creamy texture and are made with cows that are fed grass all year long. This one’s actually a mixed milk cheddar, using 30% goat’s milk and 70% cow’s milk, and it’s clothbound, which means that the cheese becomes more concentrated as the cloth slowly lets some of the moisture of the cheese evaporate. Because it’s majority cow’s milk, it’s not far off from a typical cheddar, but the acidity of the goat’s milk adds a brightness to it that makes you want to just have one more bite. LaClare states goat’s milk starts to break down and get a “goatier” taste when it has to travel from farm to creamery, and because their goat cheese travels such a short distance, it has a fresh, clean goat cheese taste.

Sagittarius by Shooting Star Creamery

Our final cheese comes to us from cheesemaker Avery Jones, who, aside from being the youngest cheesemaker ever to medal at the American Cheese Contest (in 2019 for her cheese Aries), is actually just a fairly typical higher schooler. Yes, really—the young woman who made this cheese is in high school. Although, she did have an inside route to cheesemaking by dint of being the daughter of Reggie Jones of the renowned California cheesemaker Central Coast Creamery. Avery pretty much grew up in the creamery, and Reggie set her up with her own creamery and brand, so she could experiment with cheesemaking instead. The name, Shooting Star Creamery, is meant to encourage other young cheese makers to shoot for the stars. They currently produce Aries, Scorpio, Leo, and Sagittarius. After catching a meteorite to fame with her big win at ACS, Avery is using the money from Shooting Star to pay for her college education, while also donating a percent of the profits to organizations that support veterans and amputees—truly a role model for us all!

Sagittarius is another mixed milk cheese, this one with sheep and cow milk, and it anyone is sheep-shy, this would be a great one to start with, because it’s a really approachable, lovely cheese. It’s both delicate and full of flavor, with a deep savoriness. Like all of our cheeses this month, this is a versatile, every day eating kind of cheese.

Have Bacon Will Travel by Too Haute Cowgirls

Our first pairing is a not-just-any caramel corn by Too Haute Cowgirls, which is the inspiring story of taking your passion (eating delicious popcorn) and turning it into your job (selling delicious popcorn). Amy and Deanna were self-described “unrepentant popcorn addicts” and wanted to make a line of sweet popcorn flavors that were totally unique, and we think they succeeded! We love their cheeky names, too—in this month’s box there’s Have Bacon Will Travel, but their others are: Chili Con Chocolate, End of the Trail Mix, The Good, The Bad and The Peanut Butter, Fistful of Fleur de Sel, Blisters on my Buttercrunch, and Mutton Bustin’ Milk Chocolate. The caramel corn in this box is everything we love in a pairing: it’s sweet, salty, and savory all at once, with the bacon just as as whisper in the background. And, its glossy caramel coat makes adds a pleasing crunchy texture to every bite.

Burnt Sugar and Fennel Shortbread by Lark Fine Foods

Lark Fine Foods is a woman-owned and run business out of Essex, MA. Mary Ann McCormick was transitioning out of the corporate life, and her daughter, Nicole Nordensved, made a mean cookie. So, they teamed up and founded Lark Fine Foods, with the aim of making cookies that tasted better than homemade, with “deliciously different” flavor combinations. They’ve made a name for themselves with their line of Cookies For Grown-Ups—sophisticated cookies that are elegant enough to eat at any time of day (like cheese o’clock, for example!) We had their Mexican Cha Chas in our Salted Chocolate box, and their Pistachio Cherry Sablés in last year’s Sugar Mama box, but now it’s time for their marvelous shortbreads. This burnt sugar and fennel shortbread is super dense and buttery, with an almost toffee-like appeal from the burnt sugar, and an aromatic herbal note from the fennel. The sweet and herby combination is absolutely delicious with this month’s cheeses!

Agrumi Salami by Coro

Our final pairings comes from Coro, the country’s only woman-owned certified salami company. As is a common tale with those in the food business, Clara Veniard and Martinique Grigg were both at inflection points in their careers when they decided to go into business together. They bought Salumi, which was an already established and beloved Seattle institution, and spent a year learning the craft of artisanal salumi. Coro, which means Chorus in Italian, starts with high-quality pork and spices that they handmade in small batches before aging slowly. They are so attuned to detail that they even pre-peel the salami for you! Their agrumi salami is fragrant with orange and cardamom, and just a little spicy from red chili peppers.

And that’s our box! Supporting women producers never tasted so good. We hope you love it, and until next time—eat well and eat often!

Did you take some photos while enjoying this box that you were thinking of adding to Instagram? Please tag us @curdbox, along with our cheese and pairing partners @mariekegouda, @laclarefamilycreamery, @shooting_star_creamery, @toohautecowgirls, @larkfinefoods
@corofoods. We love to see our cheese lovers enjoying their boxes!

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