photo by Caitlin Abrams
In a Minnesota September it is entirely okay to make a big ol’ plate of apples and cheese for lunch or dinner. We’re hard-wired to yearn for that sweet-savory combo as soon as the first leaf falls. (Not sure that’s scientifically accurate but this isn’t science, this is yearning.)
So many apples—and so many cheeses! We asked Surdyk’s and Chris Aamodt (third-generation owner of Aamodt’s Apple Farm near Stillwater) how to upgrade your apple-cheese tray beyond the old Havarti-Honeycrisp combo. They came up with some delicious pairings, complete with plenty of local options. (And that Minnesota-shaped marble cutting board? That came from a St. Paul Patina.)
Pro-tip: If you visit a pick-your-own orchard like Aamodt’s (which is open through early October), Aamodt recommends storing your bounty in a plastic bag in the fridge with a damp paper towel inside.
Now, for the pairings! All cheese mentioned here are available at Surdyk’s. Look for the apples mentioned at your local co-op, orchard, or local-produce-friendly market or grocery.
Bleu Mont Bandaged Cheddar (Wisconsin)
This grass-fed, organic cow's milk cheddar is smooth, sweet and grassy with notes of nuts and earthiness. It’s aged between one and two years in a cave carved into a Wisconsin hillside, and has just the right amount of crunch. (This one is middle left in our photo.)
Pair with: Haralson
This apple has a firm texture with a “complex tart flavor,” says Aamodt. Perfect for pairing with a dense aged cheddar. Haralsons are being harvested locally now!
Alemar Cheese’s Blue Earth American Brie (Mankato)
Made from the milk of grass-fed cows from Cedar Summit Farms, Blue Earth is luxuriously light and buttery. (This one is top left in our photo.)
Pair with: Honeycrisp
This sweet, juicy apple with just-right crispness will play off the grassy notes.
Shepherd's Way Farms’ Big Woods Blue (Nerstrand, Minn.)
Can any domestic blue compete? This is 100 percent sheep's milk, and carries all the punch of Roquefort with a drier texture. (This one is bottome left in our photo.)
Pair with: Minneiska (a.k.a. SweeTango)
Beloved for its juiciness—which complements the dry, crumbly texture of a blue—SweeTango has a delightful sweet-tart balance.
Pronounced "holler hocker,” (meaning "sitting in the cellar"), this Swiss Alpine cheese is creamy, dense and smooth. It’s nutty and slightly sweet with notes of caramel.
Pair with: Keepsake
“This is my favorite apple!” Aamodt says. This parent of the Honeycrisp is “smaller, but its flavor is sweet and nutty.”
Fourme d’ Ambert (France)
Made in Auvergne, France, this milder (and not-too-salty) blue is velvety and reminiscent of sweet cream and earthy mushrooms. Great for those who are still on the fence about blues.
Pair with: Regent
Semi-sweet and juicy, Regents (which are also being harvested now) have a slight honey flavor that complements the cheese’s velvety texture.
+ ACCOUTERMENTS FROM SURDYK'S
The experts at Surdyk’s have a few additional accoutrement recommendations to make your tray tres special.
Wood From the Hood cutting/cheese board: Reclaimed trees from urban areas are made into nice, solid handcrafted boards. You can even search for wood from your ZIP code!
Deco parchment leaves: These work super well to line your tray or board. Bonus: they double as coasters.
Potters crackers: Wisconsin-made artisan crackers and crisps in foodie flavors like apple crisp and applewood smoked give your guests something crunchy to snack on. (They’re featured in our photo.)
Honey and honey butter: Drizzle on Ames Farm and Bare Honey—both are available in many flavors to complement your spread. St. Paul-made Velvet Bees Honey Butter also makes a lovely complement to apples and cheese. (The Ames Farm honeycomb is featured in our photo. So delish!)