If you’re a cheese lover in Charlotte, there’s something you should know. There’s a new cheese on the market in our city – a cheese with a heck of a story.
Most of you have probably never heard of Prairie Breeze cheese. And I’m fairly certain none of you have ever been to Milton, IA. But that’s where the Prairie Breeze story starts.
Mennonite farmers-turned-cheese makers Rufus and Jane Musser opened the tiny Milton Creamery five years ago. And for two years they struggled. Things got bad enough they worried they’d have to close their business. But their luck changed when they hit on a new recipe that would soon change the fate of Milton Creamery.
That recipe was for Prairie Breeze, a small-batch hybrid alpine Cheddar that’s spent the last two years turning heads in the cheese world. It’s won blue ribbons in two major US cheese competitions. And just last fall it won gold in the World Cheese Contest in London.
The critical acclaim has turned the Musser’s fortunes around 180-degrees. Cheese distributors – some who previously wouldn’t give the Mussers the time of day – were all of a sudden knocking on their door. Now, the cheese is available all over the country. The Mussers have gone from nearly closing their factory to expanding it.
The Charlotte angle on the Prairie Breeze story is this: You can now buy the cheese here. the Earthfare store in SouthPark has been selling it for several months.
Reed describes Prairie Breeze as blending an earthiness with a sharpness that, together, don’t overpower the tastebuds. He says Iowa isn’t well known for its fancy cheeses, but Prairie Breeze holds its own against products from cheese powerhouses like Vermont and New York. He likes introducing it to his customers.
“It’s a different option,” he says. “It’s good to show cheese that comes from places people don’t expect good cheese to come from.”
The Southpark location is currently the only store in the Earthfare chain that carries Prairie Breeze. But the distributor that provides Prairie Breeze to Earthfare stores – EuroUSA – is planning a promotional push later this month. That means Prairie Breeze will be available in all Earthfare stores through April.