Sunday, October 14, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: Vermont II - My muffin top is all that, cheddar cheese and so fat...

When we think of Vermont and food in the rest of the country, we think of maple syrup (and of course there's the pie).  The next thing that pops up is Ben & Jerry's.  What comes next?  Probably Cabot Creamery, Vermont's most famous exporter of cheddar cheese to the nation.  It is, of course, not the only one - not by a long stretch.  But a cheese company so notable needs a place in this blog tour.

Official Name: State of Vermont
State Nickname: The Green Mountain State
Admission to the US: March 4, 1791 (#14 - the first one they added after the thirteen original colonies)
Capital: Montpelier (5th largest city, though several unincorporated towns are larger)
Other Important Cities: Burlington (largest), North Burlington (2nd largest), Essex (largest town - if it were a city it would be the 3rd largest in Vermont)
Region: New England, Northeast; New England (US Census)
RAFT NationsMaple Syrup
Bordered by: Québec (Canada) (north), New Hampshire (east), Massachusetts (south), New York (west), Lake Champlain (northwest)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: apple (fruit), apple pie (pie), brook trout (cold water fish), honeybee (insect - for the honey), maple (flavor), milk (beverage), sugar maple (tree - for the maple syrup), walleye pike (warm water fish) 
Some Famous and Typical Foods: pie, pie and more pie; maple syrup (there's a pie for that, by the way); cranberries, apples (in the official state pie); French Canadian foods (poutine, tourtière - again with the pie!?)

For all the information you will ever need on Vermont cheeses, look up the Vermont Cheese Council, which dedicates itself "to the production and advancement of Vermont cheese" [2012]. Of course.  In doing so they list so many of the Green Mountain State's cheese makers and the many varieties of cheese they put out.  Yes, among those is the Cabot Cheese Cooperative, which makes the hearty Vermont cheddars you find in the stores.  Started in 1919 by a group of Vermont farmers looking to use up excess milk, Cabot eventually evolved into a cooperative of 1,200 farms throughout New England and upstate New York, and today:
Our company blends state-of-the-art facilities and a savvy entrepreneurial spirit, with the timeless values a personal commitment to quality that comes from being 100% owned by our farm families. [Cabot Cheese Cooperative 2012]
Hence, the co-op.

Cabot, like the Vermont Cheese Council, has a Recipes section on its website (along with pairings, natch).  It is on Cabot's website that I found a tempting muffin recipe that utilizes not just one but three popular New England ingredients: Vermont cheddar, apples and cranberries.  Nope, no maple syrup this time.  This is the recipe I interpret below.

The Recipe: Apple Cranberry Cheddar Muffins

For Cabot Cheese Co-op's muffins you will need:

* flour (again, White Lily makes a lovely albeit less Yankeefied muffin.  Cabot suggests King Arthur brand flour, based, yes, in Vermont)
* sugar (had it)
* baking powder (same)
* egg (again, same)
* vegetable oil (had it)
* salt (hey, my pantry's better stocked than I thought!)
* cranberry juice (a bottle of the high fructose corn syrup-free variety cost about $3.50 at Harris Teeter)
* dried cranberries (again Ocean Spray brand, like the juice.  Fork out about $3 to $4)
* apples (two for about $1.50)
* Cheddar cheese (8 oz for about $4, and yes I opted for Cabot in sticking with the theme of this post and the source of the recipe.  Use a sharper variety)

First, save yourself some trouble in the cleanup department by shoving some muffin cups into your muffin tin.

Peel and core your apples.  You will need to chop them finely.  I got my auto-hand chopper out for this task.

Wishing I had a mini-food processor.

Set aside those apples and grate your cheese.  The "Surprisingly Sharp" variety of Cabot's gets particularly crumbly when you do this.

Whisk together your dry ingredients.

Next, add the cheese and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg and cranberry juice.

Stir the liquid into the dry + cheese bowl.

Next add your apples and cranberries.  I found that one apple would have been more than enough. The other apple is sitting in my freezer, finely chopped and frozen.

Stir until just blended but still lumpy.

Bake in a 400° oven for about 15 minutes.

I liked this muffin, a little dry but packed with sweet and tangy flavors I don't always imagine together.  A little butter and, dare I say it, maple syrup just sends this muffin over the top.  A muffin, top?  Yes, a muffin, top.

- - - - -

Now leaving New England for the last time on this State-by-State trip, we head back towards 95 and across the Mason-Dixon and the Potomac for one last foray into the South, the Mid-Atlantic and our glorious Chesapeake Bay.  It's finally time to showcase the seafood, pork and legume wonders of our immediate neighbor to the south, the Old Dominion State.  Now entering Virginia, only 25 minutes on the other side of I-495 (traffic permitting).


Cabot Cheese Cooperative.  "Apple, Cranberry and Cheddar Muffins ".  Copyright 2012.

Cabot Cheese Cooperative.  "The History of the World's Best Cheddar".  Copyright 2012.

Nicole (blogger, Baking Bites). "Grade A Maple Syrup vs Grade B"  Posted February 13, 2009.  Copyright 2012 Baking Bites.  All rights reserved.

Stern, Jane & Michael.  500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late.  Houghton Mifflin: New York, 2009.

Traditional.  "An Old Yankee Poem".  Date unknown.  Reprinted from The Heart of New England: Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont website.  Date unknown.

Vermont Cheese Council.  "Home page".  Copyright 1996-2011 Vermont Cheese Council.  All rights reserved.

Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.  "Analysis of Vermont's Food System - 3.3 Food Production: Maple Syrup".  Prepared by Scott Sawyer, Ellen Kahler, and Kit Perkins.  Copyright 2012 Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.  All rights reserved.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Vermont" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Vermont".