Sugar Mama | March 2021 curdbox

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It’s March, which is National Women’s Month, so you just knew we had to do it, our Sugar Mama box, featuring cheeses and (sweet) pairings from women-producers. Read on to learn about this month's box, and the leading ladies behind these delectable foods! 

Honey Chèvre by Vermont Creamery

Since its founding, The Vermont Creamery (formerly the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company) has been on the forefront of the American craft cheese movement, and they did it all with a woman cheesemaker at the helm. Allison Hooper, who had learned how to make cheese during a summer internship in Brittany during her college years, was working on a Vermont dairy farm when she was contacted by Bob Reese at the Department of Agriculture. Bob was hosting a dinner for chefs to promote Vermont-made products and he needed a cheese, so he asked Allison. The chefs at the dinner were so impressed that they said they would stop buying fancy imported French cheese and would buy hers instead, if she could make it reliably. Thus, Bob and Allison co-founded the Vermont Creamery, with Allison as head cheesemaker. Now, 37 years later, it’s a pillar of the American craft cheese movement. Allison has since retired, but is still an influential presence in the cheese world, winning the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” award in 2018.

The Vermont Creamery collects goat milk from 20 small family farms around their facility in Vermont and Canada and is tested for quality. The milk is pasteurized before undergoing a long culture, then drained, and mixed with imported curd, and aged 7-10 days. The result is a mild, fresh, creamy, and smooth goat cheese. This month, we have a spin on their classic goat cheese log, it's blended with clover honey, because it is our Sugar Mama box, after all! A little slice of this on the sablés? It's basically bite-sized cheesecake.

Raw Milk Gouda by Marieke Gouda

Marieke Gouda is named for Marieke Penterman, the head cheesemaker (and force of nature). Marieke and her husband Rolf emigrated from the Netherlands to Wisconsin in the early 2000s to start a dairy farm. Missing the cheese from her homeland, Marieke decided to learn how to make it herself. She got her Wisconsin Cheesemaking license, worked with a local cheesemaker, and also traveled back to the Netherlands and trained with two different cheesemakers there to learn how to make authentic Dutch gouda.

Her Wisconsin gouda was a hit from the start, winning gold at the US Champion Cheese Contest just four months after she made her first batch. While Marieke has won numbers awards over the years, her most significant victory was in 2013, when she was Grand Champion at the United States Championship Cheese Contest. This award allowed Marieke to get the “Extraordinary Ability Visa” in the U.S. (you know, the one that actors and Nobel prize winners get), which then led her to getting her Greencard. Marieke Gouda the company is just as impressive, with women leadership in almost every department. Out of 1,200 licensed cheesemakers in Wisconsin, only 60 are women, and 3 of those women (including Marieke) are the licensed cheesemakers at Marieke Gouda.

The raw milk gouda in this month’s box is aged 6-9 months. Even though it’s made in Wisconsin with Wisconsin milk, Marieke tries to keep to to authentic Dutch gouda when she can, so she uses Dutch equipment, cultures the milk with Dutch cultures, and ages the gouda on Dutch pine planks. She’s obviously doing it right, because this cheese is just like the real McCoy—complex, nutty, a little bit caramel-y. At 6-9 months, this isn't a super aged gouda, so it's still soft and juicy. Try it with the Chocolate Therapy Truffle Bar—like a salty, caramel sweet treat. 

Hook's 3-Year Cheddar by Hook's Cheese Company

Our final cheesemaker this month is another rockstar: Julie Hook of Hook’s Cheese. Julie and her husband Tony started making cheese in 1976 and have since become a perennial cream of the crop for Wisconsin cheese. In 1982, their Colby was Best of Class at the World Cheese Championships, and then went on to win Finest Cheese in the World. Julie was, and still is, the only woman to have won the World Championship, and, it was only a mere two years after she got her cheesemaking license, to boot. What did she do with the title? Went right back to making world-class cheese, of course. Despite its international recognition, Hook’s Cheese is at its heart still a family operation, you can catch them at the weekly Dane County Farmer’s Market. This month’s 3-year sharp cheddar has a gentle acidic bite, but is well-rounded with a full and balanced cheddar flavor. It could pair beautifully with basically anything.

Fig-Tamarind Jam by The Jam Stand

To go with these cheeses, we have three pairings produced by more fantastic women. First up is the Fig Tamarind Jam from Brooklyn’s The Jam Stand. Best friends Sabrina Valle and Jessica Quon started making as a passion project—they wanted to bring unusual and exciting flavor combinations to this pantry staple, and something that would be exciting in its own right, instead of just being tacked on because you gotta have a jam—a philosophy that really resonates with us here at curdbox. They would browse farmers markets together for inspiration for their fruit-forward jams, sell them at the Farmers Market themselves, and get feedback in an iterative design process. Now, they have 5 year-round flavors, with 2-3 that rotate seasonally, among them this month’s Fig Tamarind jam, which makes you wonder where this has been all your life. The sweet and jammy figs are perfectly balanced by the tang of the tamarind, making each bite mouthwateringly delicious. We encourage you to also check out their website, where you can get recipes for how to use your jams beyond the cheese board—for this month’s Fig Tamarind, they have recipes for a Fig Tamarind Mojito, Fig Tamarind Pizza, and Fig Tamarind Glazed Chicken

Pistachio Cherry Sablés by Lark Fine Foods

Next up we have our sweet cracker (ok, it’s a cookie), Lark Fine Foods' Cherry Pistachio Sablés. Lark comes to us from a mother-daughter team Mary Ann McCormick and Nicole Nordensved. Mary Ann was getting out of the corporate marketing world and had an eye towards entrepreneurship, and Nicole was baking up some serious delicious cookies. Their first cookies were the Mexican Cha Chas (in last year's Salted Chocolate curdbox), but they've since expanded to create a suite of pitch perfect products. Their success has all been with a 100% women-owned and operated business (they have a whole staff of sugar mamas). These sablés are part of their "Cookies for Grown-Ups" line and are an immaculate French shortbread, studded with nutty pistachios and tart cherries, and then rolled with in sugar for a crunchy rim. They are just sweet enough to be a cookie, but not at all cloying—this, plus their pleasing crunch are the perfect complement for cheese.

Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar by Chocolate Therapy

Lastly, we have maybe the most beautiful chocolate confection we've ever seen from Pam Griffin's Chocolate Therapy. Pam is co-owner (with her husband) of Chocolate Therapy and also head chocolatier, and also super friend of curdbox founder Jenn Mason. Her contribution to the box were lovingly handcrafted just for you!

Now, you may be tempted to call this just a chocolate bar, but that's really doing it a disservice; it is a dark chocolate truffle bar. That means it's like a chocolate truffle, but elongated—smooth and rich dark chocolate ganache on the inside, encased in a crisp dark chocolate shell on the outside, and then sprinkled with flower petals on top. It's almost too gorgeous to eat, but eat you must, because it is what every chocolate wishes it could be. If you think that chocolate might be a strange thing to include in a cheese box, well, we beg to differ! Our Salted Chocolate box was all about it, and we also had a whole blog post featuring Pam's chocolates and how they pair with cheese. In short: the sweet, complex flavors of chocolate are a perfect foil for the salty umami of the cheddar and gouda, and the tang of the goat cheese.

Well, that's a wrap! If you haven't yet done so, go forth and devour this box, and thank your lucky stars for these sugar mamas for what they've brought into the world. Next month, we have a collaboration with another sugar mama/boss lady, MacKenzie Smith of Grilled Cheese Social! Read all about it here, and make sure to subscribe in the month of March in order to get the April box!


Did you take some photos for the 'gram while enjoying this box? Please tag us @curdbox, along with our cheese and pairing partners @vermontcreamery, @mariekegouda, @thejamstand, @larkfinefoods, and @therapychocolate. We love to see our cheese lovers enjoying their boxes!

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