If you buy packaged shredded cheeses you may have noticed these new Sargento Artisan Blends and wondered what they were all about. Sargento is doing something very interesting, something that I don’t ever recall a large food company doing. They are blending their own shredded cheese with cheeses made by artisan Wisconsin Cheesemakers. That to me seems like Miller Brewing deciding that they wanted to blend their beer with Lakefront or Sprecher. As disgusting as the thought of having your Riverwest Stein mixed with Miller Lite sounds, it works quite well when you are pairing what is a decent shredded cheese with an excellent artisan brand. While you probably wont get the nuanced flavors that you would if you used the artisan cheese alone, you will save money since these Artisan Blends are priced around (or maybe just a tad higher) than their regular shredded cheese. I am not a huge conveinence foods fan, but I do use a lot of shredded cheese for pizzas, chili topping, tacos, etc., so I like when there are more interesting options for me.
The blends include Roth Kase Grand Cru Gruyere (Monroe WI), which is blended with Sargento Swiss, a Double Cheddar which features Maple Leaf Sharp Cheddar (also Monroe, WI) with Sargento Mild Cheddar, a Whole Milk Mozzarella from Burnett Dairy Cooperative (Alpha, WI) mixed with Sargento Whole Milk Mozzarella or a combo of Mozzarella and Smoked Provolone. The lone non-Wisconsin artisan partner is a imported Zanetti Grana Padano blended with Sargento Parmesan or Parmesan Romano mix.
There was a short discussion going over at the Cheese Underground Blog about worries that Sargento is looking to co-opt the term “artisan” in order to try and fool the public into thinking that Sargento is somehow making artisan cheese. I don’t think that is the case here because they are actually buying cheese from the cheesemakers and placing their logo on the bag. If they were trying to steal the term artisan they would simply act like Miller Brewing and come up with a front company name (like Miller’s Plank Road Brewery label) and trick unwitting customers. Sargento isn’t just adding the logo, they are actively promoting their artisan partners. If anything this could drive up business for these small producers now that they have the Sargento marketing machine behind them.
Sargento has launched a pretty cool website called the Artisan Cheese Center where you can find profiles of cheesemakers, recipes, events, and pairings. In this video on that site you can see American Club (in Kohler, Wisconsin) Executive Chef Ulrich Koberstein talk about a recipe for Truffle Mac & Cheese using Roth Kase Grand Cru Gruyere (Monroe WI), which is blended with Sargento Swiss.
If you want to make the Truffle Mac yourself, the recipe is included below.
1/2 lb. dried cavatappi or elbow macaroni pasta (cooked according to instructions on box)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 cups whole milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups (8 oz.) Sargento® Artisan Blends Shredded Swiss Cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (chives and rosemary)
1 to 2 tsp. White truffle oil or shaved black truffle (or you could use truffle salt in place of the regular salt)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Add butter to a saucepan over medium heat until the butter begins to foam and bubble. Add the flour and stir for about 1 minute.
2. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking continuously until all the milk has been incorporated and the sauce begins to thicken. Make sure that there are no lumps in the sauce. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve if needed. This process should take 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese, mixing until it has completely melted.
4. Add the fresh herbs and truffle oil. Season to taste, with salt and pepper.
5. Add the cooked and still warm pasta to the cheese sauce. Divide evenly among 4 bowls and shave the black truffle (if you have one) over the pasta), if desired. Serve immediately.