Katie’s Creation


She’s not yet 30, but Katie Hedrich is already a rock star in the American artisan cheese world. The daughter of Wisconsin dairy-goat farmers, Hedrich made headlines at the age of 25 when her aged goat cheese, Evalon, scored 99 points out of 100 to become the 2011 U.S. Championship Cheese. The win propelled the Hedrich family to build its own creamery—the winning cheese was produced in borrowed space—and take a deep dive into cheese.

You can purchase Evalon online from LaClare Farm—the Hedrich family business—but I’m enthusiastic about one of Katie’s newer creations: Chandoka (shan-DO-ka). A blend of family goat’s milk (30 percent) and purchased cow’s milk from neighbors (70 percent), Chandoka resembles a young, mellow Cheddar but with a twist.

“I patterned it after Cheddar,” says Katie, “but I used a few different cultures to give it more of a fruity finish versus an acid finish. I wanted to make something that wasn’t intimidating, something familiar yet unique.”

Like most Wisconsin Cheddars, Chandoka is made in 40-pound blocks and matured in plastic bags, without exposure to air, so it never develops a rind. This method is less labor-intensive than rinded Cheddar that has to be frequently brushed (to control mold) and turned. Rinded Cheddar loses a lot of water weight as it ages, which is like money evaporating. Cheeses matured in bags, like Chandoka, do not, so they tend to be creamier and not so costly.

Released at two to three months and retailing at around $18 a pound, Chandoka delivers excellent value. I’d rather eat Chandoka than cook with it, but the reasonable price means it’s not an outlandish choice for a grilled-cheese sandwich.

Chandoka is a mashup of the names of Katie’s grandmother and great aunts (Charmaine, Ann, Donna and Kathy—just so you know). The cheese has the color of a stick of pale butter, aromas of warm melted butter, and obvious Cheddar genes. It’s silky when shaved, creamier when sliced. It finishes with some tang but no bite, and the salt is just right. I honestly don’t discern any goat’s milk flavor, but for some consumers, that’s probably a good thing.

Look for Chandoka at Cheese Plus and Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco; Draeger’s (multiple locations); Mollie Stone’s (multiple locations); Piedmont Grocery in Oakland; and some New Leaf Community Markets. You can also purchase it online from LaClare Farms. Pour a medium-intensity red wine or an American pale ale like Firestone Walker Brewing’s Pale 31.