Most cheese novices would look at the slab of Red Rock and think it was a cheese gone horribly bad, but you and I know that looks can deceiving. In the case of this blue/cheddar hybrid by Wisconsin’s Roelli Cheese Haus, the craggy, veiny interior of the cheese symbolizes the elevation of your basic mild cheddar to an artisan foodstuff. Red Rock is a case in point why your mother taught you not to judge a book by its cover.
Though Red Rock is relatively new, debuting late last year, the Roelli family has been making cheese in south-central Wisconsin for four generations. Best known for most of those years for making Wisconsin classics like cheddar, brick and colby, the Roellis first ventured into artisan territory with Dunbarton Blue, which has won critical raves since debuting in 2008. Though Dunbarton Blue and Red Rock both feature cheddar bases criss-crossed with blue veins, Red Rock is, as Wisconsin cheese champion Jeanne Carpenter put it, “a working man’s cheese.”
But while Jeanne implies that Red Rock is more suitable for a sandwich than a cheese board, I wouldn’t hesitate to feature it front and center, not only for its striking appearance (it has twice the amount of annatto of a typical cheddar), but also for its delightful flavor. The cheddar, though mild, dances across the tongue, and the blue streaks add a minerally, earthy overtone that boosts the cheese’s overall savoriness. For a kick, try it on an all-cheddar cheese board, comparing its merits to other favorites like Isle of Mull and Lincolnshire Poacher. With some beer (Pastoral recommends Port Old Viscosity from Port Brewing Company), a hearty wheat or rye bread and some apples, you’ve got a ploughman’s lunch that’s sure to satisfy. For as much as we love our fancy-schmancy cheese plates, sometimes you need a cheese that’s solid, dependable and, well, a rock.
Want to hear from the cheesemaker himself about Red Rock? Watch Wisconsin Cheese Talk’s interview with Chris Roelli.