CHEDDAR BITES from MAPLEBROOK FARM, BENNINGTON, VT
These fresh, buttery, and cheesy curd bites are made using pasteurized cow milk.
Maplebrook Cheddar Bites are cheddar cheese curds pulled from the vat before they would be pressed into blocks for aging. They melt wonderfully for poutine and deep fry even better; they’re also a wonderful and easy snacking cheese.
In 2003, while visiting an Italian specialty store in Manchester, Vermont, Johann Englert had a flashback to her college years. A cluster of fresh mozzarella balls on the counter reminded her of a groceria she had visited while traveling in Italy. Johann bought 20 balls of mozzarella on the spot. After sampling those 20 balls at gourmet shops in Boston, third-generation mozzarella makers Johann and Mike Scheps joined together to found Maplebrook Farm in Bennington, Vermont. Business boomed; the operation moved from a kitchen to a small store to a 10,000 sq. ft. building.
Maplebrook Farm developed an apprenticeship program to teach new employees the art of making perfect mozzarella. The program started with three aspiring cheesemakers and has grown to include 50 employees who are making small batches of cheese and wrapping them by hand every day of the week. Maplebrook went from those first 20 mozzarella balls to more than 40,000 pounds produced weekly.
Enjoy these Vermont cheddar bites as squeaky, buttery cheese treats, or (if feeling adventuresome) try them in this Poutine recipe!
Poutine with Cheddar Bites
For the Gravy:
- 2 tbsp water
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 20 oz. beef broth
- 10 oz. chicken broth
- Pepper, to taste
For the Deep-fried Fries:
- 2 lbs. Russet potatoes (about 3 - 4 medium potatoes)
- Peanut or other frying oil
- 1-½ cups of Maplebrook Farm Cheddar Bites
Prepare the Gravy:
- Using a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water and set it aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring regularly for about five minutes until the mixture turns a golden brown.
- Add the beef and chicken broth, then bring to a boil while stirring with a whisk. Stir in about half of the cornstarch mixture and simmer it for approximately one minute. If you'd like your gravy thicker, add more of the cornstarch mixture in small increments, as needed, until thickened.
- Season with pepper, then taste and add in some additional salt, if necessary / to taste. Make the gravy ahead and re-warm, or keep it warm until your fries are ready.
Prepare the Deep-fried Fries:
- Prepare your potatoes and cut them into ½-inch thick sticks.
- Place them into a large bowl and cover them completely with cold water. Allow the bowl to sit for at least one hour, or several.
- When ready to cook, heat your oil in your deep fryer or large, wide and heavy cooking pot to 300°F.
- Remove the potatoes from the water and place them onto a sheet of paper towel. Blot the potatoes to remove as much excess moisture as possible.
- Add your fries to the 300°F oil and cook them for five to eight minutes, or just until the potatoes are starting to cook but are not yet browned.
- Remove potatoes from oil and scatter them on a wire rack.
- Increase the oil temperature to 375°F. Once oil is heated to that temperature, return the potatoes to the fryer and cook until they are golden brown.
- Remove the potatoes to a paper towel-lined bowl.
Prepare the Poutine:
- Add your fried or baked fries to a large, clean bowl.
- Season them lightly with salt while still warm.
- Add a ladle of hot poutine gravy to the bowl then, using tongs, toss the fries in the gravy.
- Add more gravy (as needed) to mostly coat the fries.
- Add the Cheddar Bites and toss them with the hot fries and gravy.
- Serve immediately with freshly ground pepper.
Cave to Co-op is a partnership between Provision International and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) to support local, artisanal cheese producers in our region and make their products more easily available to co-op shoppers. The NFCA is a network of more than 35 food co-ops in our region — including yours — that are working together to advance their vision of a thriving regional economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system and a vibrant community of co-operative enterprise. For more information, please visit www.nfca.coop.