Making dairy the star of the holidays

Alice in Dairyland shares tips for celebrating the season with Wisconsin dairy products

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JUNEAU, Wis. — Incorporating cheese and other dairy products into holiday parties is a tasty way to celebrate the season. Adding delicious, festive fun can be done in a variety of ways through charcuterie boards, flavorful butter logs, cheesy breads and more.

In a Professional Dairy Producers Dairy Signal Dec. 14, Ashley Hagenow, 76th Alice in Dairyland, offered tips for using Wisconsin cheese and butter to celebrate with family and friends.

“What better way is there to connect with loved ones than over food?” Hagenow said. “That might include Wisconsin dairy products like cheese. Wisconsin is home to over 600 styles, varieties and types of cheeses. They make great additions to recipes and are also delicious snacks. Cheese makes a great gift idea during the holidays as well.”

On behalf of Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, Hagenow shared three recipes during her presentation, starting with homemade artisan pizza that included Wisconsin cheeses, pepperoni, sausage and marinara sauce.

“This is such an easy and fun recipe to make at home with family or friends,” Hagenow said.

She began by putting sauce on the pizza crust. Next, she added pepperoni and sausage.

“Start by spreading out pepperoni around the crust and feel free to add as many as you like,” Hagenow said. “Then, sprinkle on sausage. You can also add mushrooms. Mushrooms and sausage go hand in hand when it comes to pizza. We have our base, and now comes the fun part with adding in some delicious dairy with Wisconsin cheeses.”

Just like she did with the sausage, Hagenow sprinkled Odyssey Feta cheese onto the pizza to round off the toppings and said it makes a great topping on homemade artisan pizza.

“You can’t go wrong with any amount of cheese,” Hagenow said. “I always put a lot of cheese on my pizza because it bakes so well together and incorporates all of those delicious ingredients to any type of pizza you might be enjoying with family and friends.”

Last but not least, Hagenow topped off the pizza with one of her favorite ingredients — fresh mozzarella — from Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese.

“Mozzarella is a classic topping on any type of pizza that you enjoy any time of year,” she said. “I love eating fresh mozzarella as a snack as well. Sometimes I have it with basil and tomatoes to make a delicious treat during the summer.”

Hagenow recommended experimenting with flavors when making pizza.

“Sometimes, I like more of an alfredo sauce as the base,” she said. “I also like adding in chicken and veggies. You can add any type of ingredients you want to your pizza.”

Next, Hagenow provided ideas for making a cheese board.

“You can’t go wrong with a cheese board during the holidays or any time of year,” she said.

Her cheese board included specialty cheeses like Sartori’s Merlot BellaVitano.

“This cheese is absolutely delicious and complements some of the chocolates and berries on our cheese plate,” Hagenow said. “We also have some Hoard’s Dairyman cheese — another great local dairy here in Wisconsin as they have delved into the cheesemaking business.”

Other specialty cheeses like Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese mozzarella and a variety from Alpinage Cheese were also featured on Hagenow’s charcuterie board. In addition, she added citrus flavors, raspberries and dried fruit along with a bit of crunch in the form of crackers and candied pecans.

“We have made it an exceptional savory experience, focusing on mindful indulgence,” Hagenow said. “This is just one example of ways that you can spruce up cheese boards, especially during the holiday season. This makes for a great appetizer or snack to enjoy with family, friends and other loved ones.”

Hagenow said a cheese board can highlight local products.

“The Proudly Wisconsin badge helps you identify cheese, butter and other dairy products that are made and processed here in Wisconsin,” she said.

Hagenow shared a recipe for cranberry chipotle cheddar butter featuring Carr Valley chipotle cheddar cheese.

“This recipe is so easy to make; it’s absolutely delicious and really versatile,” she said.

To make this compound butter, Hagenow said she finely shreds the cheese and then mixes in softened butter, dried cranberries, honey, a little bit of ground chili powder, and salt and pepper.

“You could put it all in a mixer, mix it together and get a good consistency going and then shape into a log form and place in the refrigerator for about two hours,” Hagenow said. “Enjoy with bread or add to holiday side dishes like green beans, sweet potatoes, or other potato dishes, or even warm up some corn bread to spread it on. The possibilities are endless.”

Hagenow said any brand of cranberry chipotle cheddar cheese can be used in the recipe.

“Other flavors you might want to try include dill and citrus,” she said. “That’s a super unique flavor to try with compound butters. You can also try pear and blue cheese.”

This recipe can be found on Wisconsincheese.com/butter — a Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin website that features hundreds of recipes for incorporating Wisconsin dairy products into your meals or special occasions. The website also includes a tab for holiday recipes.

“I’m eager to experiment with different themes for a holiday charcuterie board this season, such as fruity flavors and savory flavors that use dill and bacon,” Hagenow said. “I’d also like to do one that is chocolate focused. You can make a fun or unique charcuterie board stand on its own just by tying in some chocolate and caramel flavors.”

Hagenow enjoys adding milk, cream, butter, sour cream, cheese and other dairy products to her recipes, whether it be a potato dish, green bean casserole or other holiday cuisine.

“Food is something to be savored and enjoyed, and it brings all of us together,” Hagenow said. “I’m excited to add Wisconsin dairy wherever I can this holiday season.”

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