The 2007 American Cheese Society competition was one of record-breaking proportions, with a total of 1,208 entries received from 200 companies, a 27 percent increase over last year. This year’s Best in Show award went to Suttons Bay, Michigan, cheesemaker Leelanau Cheese Company for its Aged Raclette. Raclette is both a variety of cheese and a means of serving it. A semi-firm, cow's milk cheese traditionally from the Swiss and French alps, it is usually melted by fire or heat lamp and accompanied by cornichons, pickled pearl onions, and boiled fingerling potatoes. Its great meltability also makes it a wonderful cheese to incorporate into a fondue.
The name "raclette" comes from the French verb racler meaning "to scrape," and describes the way in which the melted surface of the cheese is harvested when serving. Leelanau’s aged raclette is made with pasteurized milk from the Garvin Farm, located west of Cedar, Michigan, on the northern end of the state’s lower peninsula. Raclette is usually aged anywhere from three to six months, but Leelanau’s winning cheese was cave-aged for nine months, a process which imparts a drier consistency and nuttier flavor than is present in younger, more mild varieties. According to cheesemaker-owner Anne Hoyt, the aged raclette is better enjoyed simply by eating it; Leelanau's mild three-month old variety, which is creamier and more buttery, is better suited to melting in raclette or fondue.
Leelanau’s cheeses are available primarily at the farm and other retail locations in the immediate area, although they will ship their cheeses anywhere in the U.S. (via only through next-day shipping in the summer). Their current inventory of aged raclette is low, but their mild raclette is readily available for order by contacting them directly.