When Americans think Summer, they think Watermelon

Summertime is special, not only in America, but worldwide. School is over for a few months, beaches fill up with sun-worshiping bathers, and family barbecues are in full swing. Throughout North America, the one summer food that produces the most smiles, grins and memories from both young and old is a product unrivaled in it's popularity: Spinach! What? You were thinking of something else?

Of course you all know I jest here, as is my way. We all know it's the juicy and refreshing watermelon, in all its forms, presentations and varieties. I'm sure the title of the feature and the big picture above gave it away. Did you know that by weight, watermelon is the most-consumed melon in the U.S.?

This is a food that has been consumed for over 5 milinenia and, in fact, watermelon is thought to have originated in the Kalahari Desert of Africa. The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt and were depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics on walls of their ancient buildings. They were often placed in the burial tombs of kings, to nourish them in the afterlife. There is even evidence of its cultivation in the Nile Valley from at least as early as the second millennium BC. The characteristically large seeds have been found in Twelfth dynasty sites and numerous watermelon seeds were recovered from the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen. It is not known when the plant was first cultivated, but Zohary and Hopf note by the 10th century AD, watermelons were being cultivated in China, which is today the world's single largest watermelon producer.

In Vietnam, legend holds that watermelon was discovered in Vietnam long before it reached China, in the era of the Hùng Kings. According to legend, watermelon was discovered by Prince Mai An Tiêm, an adopted son of the 11th Hùng King. When he was exiled unjustly to an island, he was told that if he could survive for six months, he would be allowed to return. When he prayed for guidance, a bird flew past and dropped a seed. He cultivated the seed and called its fruit "dưa tây" or western melon, because the birds who ate it flew from the west. When the Chinese took over Vietnam in about 110 BC, they called the melons "dưa hảo" (good melon) or "dưa hấu", "dưa Tây", "dưa hảo", "dưa hấu"—all words for "watermelon". Tiêm's island is now a peninsula in the suburban district of Nga Sơn.

By the 13th century, Moorish invaders had introduced the fruit to Europe; and, according to John Mariani's The Dictionary of American Food and Drink, "watermelon" made its first appearance in an English dictionary in 1615. From there, watermelons spread throughout countries along the Mediterranean Sea by way of merchant ships..

Museums Online South Africa lists watermelons as having been introduced to North American Indians in the 1500s. Early French explorers found Native Americans cultivating the fruit in the Mississippi Valley and many sources list the watermelon as being introduced in Massachusetts as early as 1629. Southern food historian John Egerton has said he believes African slaves helped introduce the watermelon to the United States. Texas Agricultural Extension horticulturalist Jerry Parsons also points to African slaves and European colonists as having distributed watermelons to many areas of the world. Parsons also mentions the crop being farmed by Native Americans in Florida by 1664 and the Colorado River area by 1799. Other early watermelon sightings include the Midwestern states in 1673, Connecticut in 1747, and the Indiana region in 1822.

Charles Fredric Andrus, a horticulturist at the USDA Vegetable Breeding Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, set out to produce a disease-resistant and wilt-resistant watermelon. The result was "that gray melon from Charleston." Its oblong shape and hard rind made it easy to stack and ship. Its adaptability meant it could be grown over a wide geographical area. It produced high yields and was resistant to the most serious watermelon diseases: anthracnose and fusarium wilt.

Today, farmers in approximately 44 states in the U.S. grow watermelon commercially, and almost all these varieties have some Charleston Gray in their lineage. The United States currently ranks fourth in worldwide production of watermelon. Forty-four states grow watermelons with Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona consistently leading the country in production.

In Japan, farmers of the Zentsuji region found a way to grow cubic watermelons, by growing the fruits in glass boxes and letting them naturally assume the shape of the receptacle. The square shape is designed to make the melons easier to stack and store, but the square watermelons are often more than double the price of normal ones. Pyramid shaped watermelons have also been developed. Seems the Japanese have a way of taking a common ingredient and elevating it to a 'caviar like' status, examples are: Kobe Beef, Korabuta Pork, Shark Fin soup, etc. Watermelon has now entered this elite category and while I'll cover the most popular varieties later in this feature, I'll mention the world's most expensive watermelon here:

The Densuke Watermelon:
This variety has round fruit up to 11 kg (25 lb.) The rind is black with no stripes or spots. It is only grown on the island of Hokkaido, Japan, where only 10,000 watermelons are produced every year. In June 2008, the first harvested watermelons were sold at an auction for 650,000 yen ($6,300.00 USD), making them the most expensive watermelons ever sold. The average selling price is generally around 25,000 yen ($250.00 USD).

I've decided to explore what it is about this summer treat that makes it one of the most recognized and popular foods consumed today. I'll examine what the watermelon is, its history, its cultivation, how to choose it, store it and handle it.

What is it?
Watermelons vary in taste and color depending on the variety, the soil and the climate they're grown in. They come in various shapes from round to oval to oblong. Sizes range from about 5 pounds for small round melons that fit right in the fridge and are the perfect size for a small family to as much as 40 lbs or more for large, oblong, picnic size melons. The outside of a watermelon can vary from light green to a very dark green...from a solid color to mottled green to striped. The inside flesh can be dark red to bright red to reddish pink, with many variations, including melons with yellow flesh. Most watermelons have seeds but there are also seedless varieties. Some folks think that seeds are part of the fun of eating a watermelon. Others prefer seedless varieties which are easier to eat and safer for small children. They also require less prep time when using them in a fruit salad or other recipe.

The name Watermelon refers to both fruit and plant of a vine-like herb originally from southern Africa and is one of the most common types of melon. This flowering plant produces a special type of fruit known by botanists as a pepo, which has a thick rind and fleshy center. Pepos are derived from an inferior ovary and are characteristic of the Cucurbitaceae. This now-common watermelon is often large enough that groceries often sell halved or quartered melons. They also come in smaller, spherical varieties of watermelon, both red- and yellow-fleshed, sometimes called "icebox melons."

Categories & Varieties of Watermelon

There are more than twelve hundred varieties of watermelon, ranging in size from less than a pound, to more than two hundred pounds. About 200-300 varieties are grown in the U.S., although there are about 50 varieties that are very popular. The modern watermelon lover sees his or her watermelon options as these 5 categories:

Seeded Watermelon
Oblong in shape. Weight can range from 15-45 lbs. on average. Small to large brown or black seeds throughout

Seedless Watermelon*  The most popular in the U.S. Round shape Weight can range from 10-20 lbs. on average. No seeds, although the occasional seed may occur.

*Although so-called "seedless" watermelons have far fewer seeds than the seeded varieties, they generally contain at least a few soft, pale seeds. They are the product of crossing a female tetraploid plant (itself the product of genetic manipulation, using colchicine) with diploid pollen. The resulting triploid plant is sterile, but will produce the seedless fruit if pollenized by a diploid plant. For this reason, commercially available seedless watermelon seeds actually contain two varieties of seeds; that of the triploid seedless plant itself (recognizable because the seed is larger), and the diploid plant which is needed to pollenize the triploid. Unless both plant types are grown in the same vicinity, no seedless fruit will result.

Mini or Personal-Sized Watermelon
. Small and round in shape .1-7 lbs. in weight .Red or yellow flesh
Seeded or seedless


Yellow Flesh and Orange Flesh Watermelons. Round in shape. Weight averages 10-30 lbs. Usually has seeds. Commonly used in food service environments.

Popular varieties of the categories above

Carolina Cross: This variety of watermelon produced the current world record watermelon weighing 262 pounds. It has green skin, red flesh and commonly produces fruit between 65 and 150 pounds. It takes about 90 days from planting to harvest.

Yellow Crimson Watermelon: This variety of watermelon that has a yellow colored flesh. This particular type of watermelon has been described as "sweeter" and more "honey" flavored than the more popular red fleshed watermelon.

Orangeglo: A very sweet orange pulp, and is a large oblong fruit weighing 9–14 kg (20-30 pounds). It has a light green rind with jagged dark green stripes. It takes about 90-100 days from planting to harvest.

The Moon and Stars variety of watermelon has been around since 1926. The rind is purple/black and has many small yellow circles (stars) and one or two large yellow circles (moon). The melon weighs 9–23 kg (20-50 pounds). The flesh is pink or red and has brown seeds. The foliage is also spotted. The time from planting to harvest is about 90 days.

Cream of Saskatchewan: This variety consists of small round fruits, around 25 cm (10 inches) in diameter. It has a quite thin, light green and dark green striped rind, with sweet white flesh and black seeds. It can grow well in cool climates. It was originally brought to Saskatchewan, Canada by Russian immigrants. These melons take 80–85 days from planting to harvest.

Melitopolski: This variety has small round fruits roughly 28-30 cm (11-12 inches) in diameter. It is an early ripening variety that originated from the Volga River region of Russia, an area known for cultivation of watermelons. The Melitopolski watermelons are seen piled high by vendors in Moscow in summer. This variety takes around 95 days from planting to harvest.

How a watermelon is grown
Producers generally grow watermelon in rows, 8-12 feet apart, in raised beds 4-12 inches high composed of fertilized sand or sandy loam. Tiny watermelon plants are transplanted from the nursery are implanted in the beds. Honeybees must pollinate the yellow watermelon blossom. Even the sterile, seedless watermelon requires pollination in order to fruit. In a month, a vine may spread to as much as 6-8 feet. Within 60 days, the vine produces its first watermelons and the crop is ready to harvest within 90 days. The rind of a watermelon is deceptively hardy looking, but is actually quite fragile, requiring handpicking. Watermelon producers look for a pale or buttery yellow spot on the bottom, indicating ripeness.

So, how are seedless watermelons grown?
Chromosomes are the building blocks that give characteristics, or traits, to living things including plants and watermelons. Watermelon breeders discovered that crossing a diploid plant (bearing the standard two sets of chromosomes) with a tetraploid plant (having four sets of chromosomes) results in a fruit that produces a triploid seed. (Yes, it has three sets of chromosomes). This triploid seed is the seed that produces seedless watermelons! In other words, a seedless watermelon is a sterile hybrid which is created by crossing male pollen for a watermelon, containing 22 chromosomes per cell, with a female watermelon flower with 44 chromosomes per cell. When this seeded fruit matures, the small, white seed coats inside contain 33 chromosomes, rendering it sterile and incapable of producing seeds. This is similar to the mule, produced by crossing a horse with a donkey. This process does not involve genetic modification.

The seedless watermelons need seeded watermelons in order to be pollinated and set fruit. In a watermelon field where they're growing seedless, roughly 25% of the plants are seeded varieties and 75% are seedless varieties. Hives of bees are brought into the fields to cross-pollinate from the seeded plants to the seedless plants. Because of this labor intensive process, seedless is more difficult to grow than their seedier cousins, and are priced accordingly.

Nutritional & Health Benefits
Watermelon is the Lycopene leader in fresh produce, having higher concentrations of lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable. In fact, fresh watermelon contains higher levels of lycopene than fresh tomatoes: A 2-cup serving of watermelon contains and average of 18.16 mg while one medium-sized tomato contains 4 mg.

Watermelon has heart healthy properties as well because it is naturally low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol. A recent study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) about watermelon consumption and heart healthy benefits was completed and published March 2007. The NWPB has four new structure-function claims derived from this study:
Watermelon consumption increases free arginine and citrulline, which can help maintain cardiovascular function. Eating watermelon can help maintain cardiovascular health. Watermelon has amino acids such as citrulline and arginine that help maintain the arteries. Watermelon amino acids citrulline and arginine can helpmaintain blood flow and heart health.

A 2-cup serving of watermelon is also an excellent source of Vitamins A, B6 and C. Vitamin A found in watermelon is important for optimal eye health. Vitamin B6 found in watermelon is used by the body to manufacture brain chemicals (neurotransmitters), such as serotonin, melatonin and dopamine, which preliminary research shows may help the body cope with anxiety and panic.
Vitamin C in watermelons can help to bolster your immune system's defenses against infections and viruses and is known to stimulate the immune system and protect against free radical damage. A two-cup serving of watermelon is also a source of potassium*, a mineral necessary for water balance and found inside of every cell. People with low potassium levels can experience muscle cramps. *A two-cup serving has less than 10 percent of the daily reference value for potassium.

Choosing a watermelon
Picking your watermelon at the peak of perfection requires some skill and experience. First, look for one that's firm and free of bruises. A ripe watermelon will feel heavy for its size. When a watermelon is ripe, the spot where it laid on the ground while growing will be a creamy butter yellow color rather than white or pale green. Thumping a ripe watermelon with your finger will produce a rather dull, hollow tone. Thumping an unripe melon will create a clear tinging sound.

If buying pre-cut:
The flesh of the watermelon should appear dense and firm. Refrigerate to preserve maximum freshness. Cover the cut surface of a melon with plastic wrap to prevent the flesh from becoming mushy. Do Not Freeze. Store chunks of watermelon in covered plastic containers.

At home
Though watermelon must be chilled before eating, for that mouth-watering refreshing taste, if you're short on refrigerator space, whole melons will keep at room temperature for about 7 to 10 days. After watermelon is cut, wrap it in a plastic or foil and store it in the refrigerator. Freezing causes a watermelon to become mushy and lose it's flavor, but you can preserve that great watermelon flavor and freeze it by making a puree then freezing the watermelon juice. As with all fresh produce, always thoroughly rinse the outside of any melon before cutting.

For slices; 1/2 or quarter your watermelon lengthwise, then cut each section crossways into 1 inch slices.

To cube: Cut the flesh from the rind, and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place in covered container and refrigerate immediately. Keep cut watermelon refrigerated until consumed, up to 3-4 days.

Fun Facts
  • In some Mediterranean countries, the taste of watermelon is paired with the salty taste of Feta or Armenian String cheese.
  • Watermelon is 92% water.
  • Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.
  • The first cookbook published in the U.S. in 1796 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.
  • In 1990, Bill Carson of Arrington, TN grew the largest watermelon at 262 pounds that is still in the record books (1998 ed. Guinness Book of World Records).
Watermelon is not just a fruit for eating by the slice anymore. This wonderful ingredient is now being utilized in a variety of techniques and dishes, for desserts, as an ingredient for sauces, in cocktails, as a garnish or tossed into salads. I hope you have enjoyed this look at this most refreshing fruit and are inspired to think outside the box when including it on your menu.

Bon Appetit!

Lou,,,,,,,,,,, vegetables.wsu.edo,,


Orange Miso Glazed Seabass~Goat Cheese Dumplings~Florida Orange Broth

This recipe comes from my former Exec Chef at GGM, Brian Roland. It captures all that is healthy, fresh and quintessential Floridian Cuisine.

Orange – Miso Glaze
1 cup O.J.
1/4 cup Lime Juice
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
1 Bunch Scallions, chopped
2 Tbl Garlic, chopped
1/2 Cup Mirin
4 Tbl Miso
1 Tbl Brown Sugar

Sweat Garlic and Scallions. Deglaze with all 3 citrus juices and reduce for 30 seconds. Add mirin, brown sugar, and miso. Bring to a boil again and lower to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes on low to incorporate flavors. Reduce lightly to achieve a glaze consistency. Strain when finished.

Goat Cheese Dumplings
8 oz Goat Cheese, Fresh
8 oz Cream Cheese
12 Gyoza Skins (or wonton skins)
1 egg
1 cup cornstarch

Whip the goat cheese and cream cheese together until fully incorporated and smooth. Place in a pastry bag. Crack the egg on a small bowl and mix with a little water to create an egg wash. Lay out the Gyoza skins flat and brush with the egg wash. Pipe the goat cheese/cream cheese mixture into the center, and fold over one side to create a half moon shape. Crimp the edges and dredge the dumplings in corn starch until ready to use, to prevent them from sticking and drying out.

Florida Orange Broth
12 Fresh Florida Oranges

Squeeze the oranges into a bowl. Strain the liquid very well through a strainer with cheese cloth if you have, and serve at room temperature.

Final Plating
Goat Cheese Dumplings
Apple Smoked Bacon
Baby Broccolini
Florida Orange Broth
4 Filets of Chilean Seabass
4 oz Orange Miso Glaze
12 pcs Baby Broccolini, trimmed and blanched
12 Goat Cheese Dumplings
12 oz Florida Orange Broth
4 T Apple Smoked Bacon, Crisped

Sear the seabass filets on high heat in a saute pan with 1T of oil, until the tops have browned. Turn over and brush the tops with the orange miso glaze. Finish in the oven for about 8 -10 minutes. Place the dumplings in boiling water to poach, remove with a slotted spoon when ready. In a saute pan add apple smoked bacon and broccolini, and heat until both are hot. Add the goat cheese dumplings, and continue to heat. Place this mixture in the bottom of a shallow bowl and place the glazed seabass on top. Pour the Florida Orange broth around the bowl and serve.

Bon Appetit!


The At Home Cook Series Installment #10: How To Properly Season Your Food’

One of the most important yet overlooked skills the at home chef needs to master is seasoning! Now, let me first start out by saying that not all foods need to have additional seasonings added, but the intricacies of cooking rely on a well seasoned palate and an ability to know how much or how little to use.

Seasonings can be broken down into a few different categories including herbs, spices and condiments. The most popular seasoning known to the world of cooking is salt. Many professional and home cooks misuse salt in everyday applications, not knowing how much to really use. There are so many varieties of salt, each one having many unique characteristics and flavor profiles. I can remember my former Exec Chef of GGM telling a story about when he was at CIA: 'Students lined up in front of a pot of butternut squash soup, everyone taking turns tasting a spoonful of the soup. After each of the  students tasted, the chef added a teaspoon of salt and they all  tasted again. he explained that it was amazing to see the subtle changes in flavor and viscosity (mouth feel) of the soup. The Chef Instructor lined them up and did it again and again, about 6 or 7 times, comparing the finished product to the original unseasoned soup. The addition of salt had changed the soup so immensely, that it almost tasted like a completely different batch.' Although most recipes call for a dash of salt and pepper, it is not always necessary. Learning about the ingredients you choose to cook with will make a big impact on how much seasoning you must add during the cooking process.

So how do we find the proper balance of seasoning? As we explored in Installment #6 of this series: Umami, The Fifth Flavor, we learned that the tongue has 5 known tastes; sweet, salty, sour, bitter and Umami. True balance is all about the marriage of those tastes on the plate and ultimately on the palate. When cooking with unfamiliar flavors or ingredients, taste them first! Try using classic flavor combinations that our culinary forefathers successfully paired. As I have stated over and over throughout this series, practice makes perfect and as we learn the basics of taste and flavor, our ability to season will be much more successful.

There are many basic guidelines you may follow with regard to using herbs and spices, but remember, there are NO RULES to cooking. Some seasonings are much stronger than others, so begin using small amounts, and then add more as you feel fit. Heartier dishes such as stews and braises can be seasoned well with woody herbs like rosemary or thyme. Lighter dishes like sliced heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella cheese may only need a little parsley or basil to bring the palate to absolute harmony.

Other popular seasonings include vinegars, finishing oils (more refined and delicate but full of flavor), soy sauce, wines, spices (such as pepper, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, saffron and turmeric), and even anchovies, chilies, and garlic. Using herbs can really make a huge difference, so try and find a reputable supermarket for your herb selection, or even better, grow your own. Some of my favorites include basil, tarragon, parsley, chives, dill, mint, oregano, lavender, thyme, and rosemary.

A great way to incorporate flavors into foods like chicken, steak and seafood, is to combine some spices and or herbs, then add them to an olive oil, creating a marinade. Submerge the protein in the flavorful marinade and let all those seasonings permeate through the food. Be sure to brush most of the marinade off before cooking, as it may burn. Other ways to use spices include making dry rubs, which can enhance flavor, color, and texture. This is an important step when preparing BBQ ribs, and without the rub, most ribs may seem lackluster.

Armed with some knowledge, support and practice, you’ll be making some pretty tasty food in no time! Try some of these ideas out at home, and don’t be disheartened if your first attempts, or two, are unsuccessful. "If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, don’t give up too easily; persistence pays off in the end."

Other Installments in the At Home Cooking Series:
Bon Appetit!



Artisanal Cheese-making in the U. S.: Vermont

In Part 2 of the continuing series Artisanal Cheeses in the U.S., I bring you The Cheeses of Vermont. In Part 1, we explored the great state of Wisconsin, long known for it's dairy farms and cheese-making history. Cheese lovers have long known of Cabot Creamery, probably the most widely recognized cheese producer from this lush green state, but many would be surprised at the sheer number of small artisan cheese-makers, some making as little as one or two specialty cheeses, that dot the hillsides of the Green Mountains. Vermont is a wondrous state with many attractions, such as the Von Trapp Lodge run by the famed Sound of Music family who settled here.

Lipizzan Stallions
Whether visiting its summer beaches to skiing in Stowe, or the beautiful Islands of the Champlain Lake Region, location of Lipizzan Park, summer home to the famed Herrmann's Royal Lipizzan Stallions, Vermont has long been the home to artisans, farmers and those seeking wholesome clean living.

Cheese-makers in Vermont have a commitment to a lifestyle by cheese makers that result in award-winning artisan and farmstead cheeses based upon tradition, dedication and a sense of place. Many are moving toward organic, if they have not already done so, and the wholesome living abounds throughout the state.
In the 1800s, Vermont farms all had many dairy cows that supplied their own families. In many cases, each brought to market their own butter and cheeses. Milk and cheese was brought to a central location, or co-op, much like in Cheddar, England and the farmers who produce the cheese there. These co-ops did all the processing for the farmers allowing them to be one unified, streamlined organization, not only allowing farmers to preserve milk from spoiling, but also allowing the small farms to extend their seasons. Of the co-ops started 2 centuries ago, only three of the most well known are still producing fine quality Vermont cheeses and keeping up the traditions started by their fore-fathers; Crowley Cheese (1824), Grafton Cheese Company (1892) and Cabot Creamery (1893). The artisanal small farm cheese trade has once again begun to boom in Vermont. The selections below are a perfect example of this.

In her book "The Vermont Cheese Book," Ellen Ecker Ogden,WW Norton Publisher, Ellen writes, "Making cheese is a basic formula, but Vermont cheese makers are proving that cheese goes beyond a recipe: it takes nurturing of both the soil and the flock, tribe or herd with a healthy respect for the process of turning raw milk into cheese. Behind every wedge of soft-ripened, gently seasoned, or wheel of naturally aged Vermont cheese is a passionate cheese maker and a farm." This is a book that really brings you up close and personal with Vermont, its cheese and its history and we highly recommend it.
Excerpts taken from The Vermont Cheese Book, Ellen Ecker Ogden,WW Norton Publisher

Artisanal Cheese-makers of Vermont

Willow Hill Farm
Willow Smart creates some of the best cheeses you'll find anywhere. She has set the standard for what American artisan cheeses can be. Certified organic, Willow's cheeses are hand-crafted from sheep milk (East Friesians raised on the farm) and matured in an underground cave. Recommended styles: Alderbrook, Autumn Oak, Fernwood, Summertomme, Vermont Brebis.

Consider Bardwell Farm
Straddling the rolling hills of Vermont's Champlain Valley and easternmost Washington County, New York, 300-acre Consider Bardwell Farm was the first cheese making co-op in Vermont, founded in 1864 by Consider Stebbins Bardwell. A century later, Angela Miller and Russell Glover, along with cheese-makers Peter Dixon and Chris Gray, are revitalizing the tradition with goats' milk from their herd of Oberhasli goats who enjoy rotational grazing on pesticide-free and fertilizer-free pastures.

Grafton Village Cheese
Grafton Village Cheese makes cheddar. Really, really good cheddar. Aged from 1 to 6 years, Grafton cheddars are full of flavor and much more complex than typical store varieties. Aged 4 to 6 years have a drier, slightly crumbly texture with strong flavors. If you've never tried real artisan cheddars, Grafton is a place to start.

Shelburne Farms
Created in 1886, Shelburne Farms is nearly 400 acres of sustainably managed woodlands on the shores of Lake Champlain. Now a national historic landmark and education center, Shelburne Farms raises a herd of 125 purebred Brown Swiss cows that produce the milk for some of the best farmhouse cheddar in America. Available in ages from 6 months to 3 years, longer aged cheeses will be more robust and drier.

Blythedale Farm
One of the few American cheese-makers that attempt to make French-style soft cheeses like brie and Camembert. Tom and Becky Loftus have succeeded in crafting cheeses that are simply amazing. You will be hard pressed to find a better example of Camembert outside of France. Varieties include: Vermont Brie, Camembert Vermont, Green Mountain Gruyere, Cookeville Grana, Jersey Blue.

Vermont Butter and Cheese Company
Using milk from over 20 family farms, Vermont Butter and Cheese makes both goat and cow dairy products. Varieties include: Chevre, Feta, Creme Fraiche, Mascarpone, Quark, and yes, butter. To my mind, their goat cheese (chevre) is some of the best around (American or French). Creamy, yet firm with a great earthy, slightly sharp flavor, not at all goaty.

Green Mountain Blue Cheese
The Boucher Family has lived in the New World for nearly 400 years. Today, some of them are making cheese for a living. Their French ancestors would be proud. The Vermont Blue Cheese is truly exceptional with smooth, creamy texture and great depth of flavor.

For more about Vermont cheeses, along with a complete list of the artisanal cheese-makers of the state, you can visit the Vermont Cheese Council's website.

The Cheeses

Blythedale Vermont Camembert
For over 100 years, the barn at Blythedale Farm has been a focal point of the village of Cookeville, Vermont. A much newer barn houses the 30 or so Jersey cows in Becky and Tom Loftus' herd. These cows supply all of the milk for Blythedale Farm's Vermont Camembert. Becky and Tom make all of their cheeses by hand, using only whole milk. Their Vermont Camembert is the only farmstead cheese of this type made in New England. It requires a great deal of hands-on care and is considered one of the most difficult of cheeses to make. Free from added animal enzymes, be assured that the cows who live at Blythedale Farm have a good home. They are cared for with love and respect and live in a clean, comfortable stable with year-round outdoor access. Their stress-free lives create a milk with delicious flavor. Blythedale's Vermont Camembert is much different than today's stabilized French Camembert in that it ages gracefully. When fresh, it is mild and creamy with a pale yellow color and a bloomy, white mold rind. When aged, it develops a lot more character, turning yellow-orange and losing most of its fluffy white coating. The texture turns from creamy to almost crumbly and the flavor explodes with a complex earthiness. This is truly one of New England's greatest cheeses.

Cabot Sharp Vermont Cheddar
During the past ten years, Cabot has been honored with virtually every major award for taste - both national and international - for its outstanding Vermont cheddar. In fact, its cheddar was named "Best Cheddar in the World" at the 22nd Biennial World Championship Cheese Contest in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Aged for approximately eight months, this cheddar is sharper than most, but not to the extent that it stings the roof of your mouth. It has a rich, tangy flavor and a wonderfully silky texture. 

Cabot Vintage Choice Cheddar
As it was early last century, Cabot is still a sleepy little farm town tucked into the rocky soil of Northern Vermont's rolling hills. Cabot's best cheddar is called "Vintage Choice." Each block of Vintage Choice is hand-selected by Cabot's president. Aged undisturbed for 18 to 24 months, limited edition Vintage Choice is complex, opulent and full of nuances. After this long aging period, it takes on a full-bodied, rich, extra-sharp flavor. Cabot's finest cheddar has a texture that is more compact and a bit drier than authentic English Cheddar, different, not better or worse. Cabot Vintage Choice is set apart from other Cabot cheddars by its deep purple wax. 

Classic Chevre by Vermont Butter & Cheese Company
The Vermont Butter and Cheese Company story begins with this mild goat's milk cheese. It was on a farm in Brittany where young Allison Hooper, working for room and board, learned the time-honored traditions of European artisanal cheese-making. Working as a dairy lab technician in Vermont a few years later, she produced a Chèvre for a banquet organized by Bob Reese, then marketing director of the state agriculture department. Chèvre was still largely unavailable in Vermont at the time - but not for much longer. Inspired by the response to her Chèvre, Allison teamed up with Bob to found Vermont Butter & Cheese Company.
Since then, Vermont Chèvre has earned an honored place among chefs and consumers alike. Distinguished by a simple, mild, fresh goat's milk flavor, the cheese is highly versatile and an excellent ingredient in many dishes as well as on its own. While Chèvre continues to grow in popularity, Vermont Chèvre maintains its reputation for quality through superlative taste, freshness, and lower salt.

Creme Fraiche by Vermont Butter and Cheese
Creme Fraiche is a thickened cream with a slightly tangy, nutty flavor and velvety, rich texture. This French specialty is traditionally made with unpasteurized cream. However, this version is pasteurized and made in Vermont. It is a rich treat that is perfect for thickening sauces and soups because it can be boiled without curdling. It is also delicious spooned over fresh fruit desserts. Its creamy tang is the perfect complement to a tender, smoky bite of salmon. Crème Fraîche is the traditional accompaniment to caviar, and it smooths out the saltiness of the eggs. Vermont Crème Fraîche is exquisitely rich, with a cultured, nutty flavor and creamy texture. Enjoy this staple of French cuisine, served by many of the world's finest restaurants.

Fromage Blanc
Fromage Blanc is a French-style fresh cheese that is similar to fromage frais or Crème Fraîche. This extremely soft, fresh cream cheese has the consistency of sour cream and a similar tang. The fat content, however, is significantly lower. Fromage Blanc is often eaten with fruit and sugar as a dessert, but it can also be used in cooking without separating.

Grafton Classic Reserve Cheddar
Grafton, Vermont is a likely setting for a world-class cheddar. Cheese-making traditions in this historic village date from the nineteenth century when dairy farmers gathered together in a cooperative to make their surplus milk into cheese. In the days before refrigeration, there were many such cooperatives in the rural agricultural communities and an abundance of fresh, creamy milk was turned into a food that could be stored for a longer period of time. Grafton 2 Year Classic Cheddar is an outstanding mature cheddar cheese selected for its pronounced flavor and smooth finish. This two year aged cheese is excellent when accompanied with dried fruits and nuts, crusty breads, and big wines.

Grafton Red Wax One-Year Premium Cheddar
Aged for a year and sealed with red wax, Grafton's One-Year Premium Cheddar is made with unpasteurized Jersey cow milk for maximum flavor and richness. It takes ten pounds of this milk to make a pound of cheese. Grafton's Premium delivers the full flavor of old-fashioned farmhouse cheddar.

Grafton Village Maple Smoked Cheddar
Maple Smoked Cheddar is just one of the Grafton Village Cheese Company's excellent cheeses. It is bathed in the cool smoke from smoldering hard maple wood for four to six hours at the end of the aging period. When one thinks Vermont, maple is a staple. The smoke is used to season, not to preserve. It adds a delicious nuance reminiscent of bacon, and is an excellent part of any breakfast menu and on cocktail trays.

Jalapeno Cheddar by Cabot Creamery
This delicious Jalapeno Cheddar is spicy enough to satisfy the heat-seekers, but still allows the quality of the cheddar taste to shine through. The great news for weight-watchers is that this tasty treat has only 50% of the fat of other cheddars. Terrific on burgers, grilled cheese, quesadillas, this cheddar will liven up lunch sandwiches and salads too.

Mascarpone by Vermont Butter & Cheese Co.
It was only a matter of time before Allison Hooper and Bob Reese, co-founders of Vermont Butter & Cheese Company, were asked to create mascarpone locally. Since then, Vermont Mascarpone has garnered accolades for its fresh, rich cream flavor and smooth, thick texture - perfect for spreading or swirling.

Old School Cheddar - 5 Year
The Cheddar Master keeps a careful eye on the aging process, taking core samples along the way. When he gives the nod, they know the cheese has reached perfection. There's an old school of thought among cheddar scholars - the older, the better. They are proud to offer a rare, limited edition classic, Old School Cheddar - simply Cabot's oldest cheddar ever. Old School has been left to age undisturbed in their library of select cheddars for over five years. Old School is exactly what this cheese is - textbook cheddar crafted the old-fashioned way.

Quark is a German word that simply means "curds". This cow's milk cheese, produced all over Central Europe, is virtually identical to Fromage Blanc, but is whipped before packaging and has a slightly higher fat content. Quark can be eaten like yogurt, blended with fruit or jam. It is also a common ingredient used in filled pastries, savory and sweet sauces, spreads, soufflés, cheesecakes and mousses. Quark is so popular in Germany that it accounts for almost half of that country's total cheese production. The average German eats about 10 lbs. of Quark a year! This product is KOF-K certified Kosher.

Shelburne Farms Aged Vermont Cheddar
Shelburne Farms is a membership-supported, nonprofit environmental education center and National Historic Landmark on the shores of Lake Champlain in Shelburne, Vermont. It is a grass-based dairy, relying heavily on pastures to support their herd of Brown Swiss Cows. Their cows graze small sections of pasture for 12 to 24 hours and then are rotated to a new section the following day. The grazed area is given time to regrow before it is used again, keeping the pastures healthy. This grass-based method of dairying is friendlier to the environment because it eliminates the use of crop-based herbicides and pesticides, uses less machinery and fuel, uses manure as a natural fertilizer, and controls water pollution by maintaining thick pasture growth. Shelburne Farms has 197 registered Brown Swiss cows. This type of cow was selected for its hardiness, foraging ability, quality of milk, longevity and gentle temperament. A Brown Swiss cow on pasture at Shelburne Farms will produce an average of 50 pounds of milk per day. The level of milk production is highest for the 60 to 90 days after the cow gives birth, and then slowly decreases over the next ten months. At ten months, the cow is dried off and milking stops for two months. She then gives birth to a new calf (about 12 months from the birth of the last one). Most of their milk is used right there on the farm to produce Shelburne Farm's Farmhouse Cheddar cheese. Shelburne's cheese is only made from the fresh, raw milk of purebred Brown Swiss cows raised on the farm. This spectacular cheese, aged for approximately two full years, is noted for its sophisticated, rich flavor that leaves hints of maple and apple. It has consistently won awards from the American Cheese Society, including "Best Farmhouse Cheese" and "Best Cheddar Cheese."

Vermont Cultured Butter & Cultured Butter with Sea Salt
The gastronome Curnonsky was offered a lifetime of revenue to say margarine could one day replace butter. He responded, "Nothing will replace butter." Vermont Butter & Cheese Cultured Butter is made the old-fashioned way with an imported French culture to "ripen" the best fresh Vermont cream before it is churned into butter. This butter is made with only .33% salt (one-sixth the salt of standard salted butter). The result is a sweeter, more complex and more pleasing taste. Referred to in French as demi-sel, Vermont Cultured Butter is an all-purpose, full-flavored butter, ideal for every type of cooking and baking.
The Sea Salt Butter: After fermentation, the cream is churned into butter and the Atlantic sea salt crystals are added. This salt, harvested from tidal pools off the coast of Haiti, enhances the flavor of the butter and gives it an artisanal, marbled appearance. Finally, the butter is cut, wrapped in parchment paper and packed by hand in a small, handmade wooden basket. This butter is the "Grand Cru" of all Vermont Butters. Crunchy pieces of flavorful salt combined with incredibly creamy and delicate butter creates a perfect harmony as the butter melts in your mouth and the grains of salt crunch between your teeth. Serve a dollop atop grilled meats, melt it over shrimp or lobster, or try it in cookie recipes.

That ends our look at Vermont and some of the best cheese being produce here in the United States. In part three of the Artisanal Cheese-making in the U.S., in our next stop, we'll be California dreaming. I hope you are enjoying this cheese series as much as I am bringing it to you.

Bon Appetit!

Sources: All cheese pics are courtesy of the cheese-makers