When we think of inclusions in the dairy industry, more often than not thoughts of fruits, nuts and confections for ice cream and yogurt come to mind.

When we think of inclusions in the dairy industry, more often than not thoughts of fruits, nuts and confections for ice cream and yogurt come to mind. I am here to remind you that you can include inclusions in other dairy products such as cheese and butter. Also, think beyond these three categories. After all, vegetables, seeds and grains can be included, too.

I was fortunate to attend the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco this past month and sample my fair share of cheeses.  There were many impressive findings, including the line of kosher cheeses from Sugar River Cheese Co., Deerfield, Ill., which come packed with an array of savory inclusions. The line includes specialties such as Monterey Jack with Tomato & Olive and White Cheddar with Roasted Garlic & Onion.

When choosing inclusions, “I purposely chose larger pieces and a coarse cut in order for the cheese to be visually impactful,” says Mark Rosen, president. “To be unique, you have to make the cheese stand out among the competition. These cheeses taste as good as they look.”

Made using only orthodox kosher-approved ingredients, “These ingredients are not commodities,” Rosen says. “They all require special handling.”

Holland’s Family Cheese LLC, Thorp, Wis., a farmstead creamery that specializes in authentic, handcrafted, Dutch-style Gouda, has developed some very unique cheeses for the American palate. For example, the Marieke Gouda Foenegreek is a smooth, creamy cheese with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor that becomes more complex as it ages. Foenegreek is a seed that is native to Holland and has a nutty, maple-like flavor. The cheese contains ample intact seeds that provide an ever-so-slight crunch to the cheese.

“Our special mixture of all-natural herbs is specially balanced to enhance the flavor of the Gouda while not overpowering it,” says Marieke Penterman, an artisan cheesemaker who owns the company with her husband Rolf. “The equipment, cultures, herbs and spices are all imported from Holland.”

Other delights include Marieke Mustard Mélange Gouda, which contains whole black and yellow mustard seeds that are distributed evenly throughout the cheese, and the company’s most recent rollout, Marieke Clove/Cumin Gouda, which contains clove pieces and cumin seeds.

England’s Ilchester Cheese Ltd. sampled Wensleydale cheeses loaded with some unique inclusion combinations such as spiced pear and ginger, and mango and ginger. The inclusion pieces are plentiful and also quite large, which is important in Wensleydale cheese, as this cheese crumbles when it cuts. The inclusions are large enough to break apart with the cheese and get scooped up for serving.

Sugar Brook Farms, Verona, Wis., continues to create innovative sweet cheeses. One of the company’s most recent introductions is Pumpkin Spice Dessert Ball, a spreadable cheese that combines the flavors of pumpkin pie and cheesecake. The cheese ball is rolled in a crushed graham cracker covering. Other dessert ball flavors are Chocolate Chip, Cherry Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip.

Under the company’s Kelly’s Kitchen brand, there’s also a new line of dessert cheese balls. Combining the cream cheese and flavors such as strawberry, chocolate and coffee, the balls are covered with an outer layer of almonds, graham crackers or chocolate chips, depending on the variety. Kelly’s Kitchen also has a new chunky spreadable cheese line in varieties such as Asiago with Red Bell Peppers, Spinach Florentine and Creamy Blue Cheese with Chunky Pear.

Pictured on this page is the most recent introduction from Green County Foods Inc., Monroe, Wis. All four of the company’s new sweet cheeses are made with Cheddar and cream cheeses, with the most unique flavor being Chocolate Walnut Fudge, which contains texture-rich walnut pieces. Cranberry Orange contains pieces of both fruits spread throughout the cheese, with the entire 8-ounce round coated with cranberry-orange relish. Both Triple Berry Almond and Peach Pecan have pieces of the fruit and nut dispersed throughout the cheese. They both are also coated with pieces of the characterizing nut.

Don’t forget to check out this month’s New Product Review for some unique uses of inclusions. For example, Brea, Calif.-based Ventura Foods LLC, has developed Marie’s Deli Style European Butter Blends. These spreadable butters contain either sweet or savory inclusions. An example of the latter is Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil.

Regardless of the application, quality is key when choosing inclusions. Pieces should be identifiable and able to maintain integrity throughout product shelf life.   n

Donna Berry is the product development editor of Dairy Foods. She can be reached at 312/656-6453 or donnaberry@dairy-food.com.