The plaque mounted inside the Statue of Liberty—a gift to the U.S. from France—says “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

It doesn’t say, “Give me your cheesemakers.” but, thankfully, some cheesemakers (ahem, Old Europe Cheese) have immigrated to the States and began handcrafting some of the best, most authentic, and most true-to-style European cheeses on this side of the pond.

And one of the main reasons Old Europe Cheese chose to settle in the Southwest Michigan region was because of its unique “terroir.”

Terrior—a word commonly heard in association with winemaking—refers to the special characteristics of geography, geology and climate that contribute to the unique qualities of a crop. Similar to wine, the flavor of cheese is influenced by terroir. Cows in different areas produce milk containing different lactic acid bacteria, which in turn, affects the taste of cheese.

In the case of cheesemaking, it’s the grasses upon which the cows graze that impart these unique flavors to their milk. As with making great wine, you have to have the best grapes. The same principle applies to cheesemaking. To get great cheese, you have to have the best milk.

In the U.S. there are four classes of milk, with Class I being the best. However, most of the cheese manufactured in the U.S. uses Class III milk, which is deemed suitable for cheesemaking…but not drinking.

Old Europe Cheese exclusively uses fresh Class I milk to make each and every Reny Picot cheese. The milk is sourced from one of 45 dairy farms in the region that are part of a Southwest Michigan co-op. All the farms are inspected regularly, and not just for consumer health and safety, but also to make sure the cows are well treated.

Cheese is a highly local reflection of its place of origin. And as the adage goes, “What grows together goes together.”  So essentially, any local products that come from the same region as cheeses share complementary properties. This means pairing by terroir is a great place to start when it comes to cooking. See for yourself in this Old Europe Cheese original recipe that combines four local products to create a sandwich of the highest order founded on the concept of terroir:

Brie, Turkey, Rhubarb Butter Panini

What are your favorite local products to pair with Reny Picot cheese? Do you have a really great recipe you’d like to share? Head over to our Facebook page and let us know! And if you have any questions for us here at Old Europe Cheese, contact us today! We’d love to hear from you!