December is National Pear Month. What better way to mark the occasion than to “pear” this fruit with robust cheese? These two agricultural jewels go deliciously from the farm to your table.
To experience cheese making firsthand, registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) visited Cherry Valley Dairy on a farm tour hosted by the Washington State Dairy Council. They snapped photos of round-eyed Jersey cows and walked through a milking parlor. Cheesemaker Blain Hages explained how he crafts his award-winning cheese and cultured butter.
The tour was a terrific educational experience for the RDNs since most had never set foot on a farm, much less a dairy farm. They learned about the nutrient needs of cows at different ages and stages (just like humans!) and innovations dairy farmers have made in agricultural sustainability.
The RDNs later used Blain’s cheese and cheeses from other local creameries to create salads using wine-poached pears, learning from Chef Jamie Callison from Washington State University. A little friendly competition went a long way: Teams of foodies designed gorgeous, nutritious salads from an array of ingredients. Their creativity is captured in Wine-Poached Pear and Cheddar Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, a mix-and-match recipe featuring the divine combination of pears and cheese, along with nuts and dried fruit. This salad is perfect for a holiday table, not to mention helping your clients serve four of the five food groups on one plate.
Chef Jamie provided a hands-on class on making fresh ricotta cheese. The RDNs tried their new skills as they gathered warm, creamy milk into cheesecloth, making balls of their own homemade ricotta. The recipe appears in his book, “The Crimson Spoon: Plating Regional Cuisine on the Palouse,“ which celebrates the agricultural bounty of Washington State.
As health and wellness professionals, you know pears and cheese deliver not just good flavor but good nutrition as well:
Cheeses such as Cheddar and blue, which complement pears particularly well, have minimal amounts of lactose and 150 to 200 mg calcium per ounce.
Cheese is a high-quality food rich in nutrients and, when eaten in moderation, has been, and continues to be, part of a healthy eating plan.
One medium pear is an excellent source of dietary fiber and a good source of vitamin C, according to USA Pears.
So, while you’re humming along to “and a partridge in a pear tree” this season, consider visiting your local dairy farm and get inspired to create your own pear-cheese combo to share with your clients. That’s one way to give a nod to pear growers and dairy farmers.