Wisconsin has long been understood to be the cheese making mecca of the U.S. Sure, great cheeses are made all over the country, did you know that Wisconsin makes over 25% of the cheese in this country?
Wisconsin has been producing cheese for over 175 years. By 1922 - Over 2,800 Cheese factories existed in Wisconsin, and it became a destination for cheesemaker and dairy farmer immigrants. All of the European countries were represented, and thus all of those cheese making styles became a part of the cheese making culture (oh, dear, that pun was not intended, but I had to leave it) in Wisconsin.
And new varieties, such as Brick and Colby were created right there.
By 1945, more than 1,500 cheese factories in Wisconsin produced about 515 million pounds of cheese a year. Today there are approximately 10,000 dairy farms with over 1.27 million cows producing an average of 21,436 pounds of milk each year, and Wisconsin produces more than 600 varieties, types and styles of American, international-style and original cheeses. The result is over 2.8 billion pounds of cheese each year.
And completely unsurprisingly, this cheese is good. Here are a few of the cheeses my family has been into lately (clockwise from the photo).
1. Pleasant Ridge Reserve
This cheese has pulled in lots of accolades. It is a washed-rind, Beaufort-style cheese with a smooth a creamy texture and flavor that hints of grasses and herbs, which is of course what these cows have been eating while they made the milk to make our cheese.
Uplands Cheese, Dodgeville, WI, www.uplandscheese.com
2. Triple Play
This unique cheese was my kids’ favorite. It includes a blend of three different milks—cow, sheep and goat—and then three different starter cultures are incorporated, not that any of this would have impressed my boys, but they thought it was just great.
It has the consistency of a classic white cheddar, and a mild, creamy flavor. Hook’s Cheese Co., Mineral Point, WI, www.hookscheese.com
Made with cow’s milk and aged at least 90 days, this handcrafted cheese is like an earthy English-style cheddar, but with a subtle hint of blue flavor. I’d like to use this in a macaroni and cheese for a pronounced cheddar flavor with a hint of blue cheese, but nothing too overpowering. Roelli Cheese, Shullsburg, WI, www.roellicheese.com
This unique cheese is made from cow’s milk with herbs and seeds speckling it throughout. Little bits of crunch punctuate the slightly sweet and nutty cheese – more of a grown up cheese, but very fun to nibble. Marieke® Gouda, Thorp, WI, www.mariekegouda.com
Made in small batches from the freshest milk, this rich, creamy blue is a blue that I will turn to over and over when I am looking for a blue cheese. It has just the right level of mellow-bold flavor, a bit of sweetness but not too much, and creaminess. Smeared on a cracker with a slice of pear, it was heaven. Emmi Roth USA, Monroe, WI, www.rothcheese.com