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Here in the Heartland, the heart of America's diary production, you'd think that there's be more cheeses than just cheddar, jack and monty jack. Oh my bad, I forgot shelf stable "parmesan" cheese product.

With all of this milk, how come we're not seeing great cheese like you do in Eurorpe?

(I will grant that we haven't been making cheese for nearly as long as the old world nor are they as inclinded to mass production).

But on a brighter side, I have actually found an artisanal cheese maker outside of Duluth, MN which has a really good product. As white-bread as gouda is, Green Pastures Dairy of Carlton, MN makes their different flavors of gouda with raw milk -- like all of their cheeses -- and it has a sharp bite and a semi-hard texture, almost like an asiago.

So where did I find this cheese? At the Duluth Farmer's Market which recently opened and they're open Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 7 am (I think) to noon o'clock (I know). So far there is no produce, only plants, and a single cheese maker who also sells nitrite-free sausages. Unfortunately you're not going to find a soft, stinky toe-jam cheese from them but I really wanted to try their aged gouda which was touted as harder and more dry than the samples he had on hand.

So who are the other artisanal cheese makers in the Midwest? We are they so hard to find? Why must mid-westerners stuff their face with flavorless domestic mozzarella?

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I've had good success finding Midwest artisanal cheese in two places, farmers markets and the cheese cart at Tru. One of my favorites is the Capriole Farms goat cheeses-- keep an eye out for Wabash cannonballs. I've seen these (and met the cheesemaker) at the Green City Market in Chicago and the market in Bloomington Indiana. I've seen a couple of other cheesemakers at both markets. I think the cheeses are there, we just have to do a little seeking.

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Here are a few of the Wisconsin cheeses that are worth seeking out.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Uplands Cheese Company (Dodgeville, WI): absolutely fantastic Gruyere-style cheese from pastured cows. Flowery when young and then it gets sort of nutty as it ages.

Brick, Widmer's Cheese Cellars (Theresa, WI): one of the best examples of this american-born cheese, smooth and creamy. Each mold still weighted with bricks.

Various Goat Cheeses, Fantome Farm (Ridgeway, WI): lots of different types of fresh and aged, French-style goat cheeses from pastured goats. Their fresh goat cheese balls packed in olive oil are terrific as is pretty much everything they make.

Various Cows' Milk Cheeses, Bleu Mont Dairy (Blue Mounds, WI): nice versions of young swiss-style cheese from organic milk but the real draw is the fresh curd available at the Madison farmers' market on saturday morning, much higher moisture than the packaged cheese curds available, just very young salty hunks of fresh cheese.

Provolone, BelGioioso Provolone (Denmark, WI): pretty much as good as domestic provolone gets. Not as rubbery as the commercial grade provolone because it has been aged far longer, tangy.

Fresh Limburger, Chalet Cheese Company (Monroe, WI): I'm constantly trying to get people to taste fresh Limburger from the last dairy in the US that still produces this fine cheese. It does have a sort of intense smell to it but the tastes is very buttery. It's a shame that it has fallen so far out of favor.

As a side note, in Steve Jenkins' Cheese Primer, he mentions two MN dairies: Dancing Winds Farm (Kenyon, MN) for goat cheeses and La Paysanne (Hayward, MN) for sheep-milk cheeses. I haven't tried either.

By the way, Hope Creamery Butter is amazing. I think it is better than plugra for eating.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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Thanks for that list - you've given me a fun project. I've also been wondering where WI has been with the artisinal cheese movement. Glad to see it's catching on there as it has in Vermont and California (and elsewhere). Fresher cheese for us located nearby!

Kevin

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Just across the Minnesota/Iowa border (on the Iowa side), south of Harmony, MN, there is a bleu cheese producer called Schwartz and Weiss (black and white). They sell a natural rind and washed rind. I was just there last Saturday. The natural rind cheese is some of the best and creamiest bleu I've had. Very nice, if on the milder side of bleu.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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No, I haven't even heard of Hope butter. However, I have been in a dreamland because the Wedge Co-op has Plugra. :wub:

How do they compare?

They don't, in my mind. Hope wins by a mile.

Hope Creamery Butter. They don't have a web site, but this is a nice article about the butter and how it is made. I do believe I have seen it at the Wedge, but I could be wrong. I know you can get it at Kowalskis and I'd be suprised if Lund's doesn't have it as well.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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After a discussion about this thread with my wife over lunch I realized that I had forgotten another Wisconsin favorite.

Tradelake Cheddar, Lovetree Farms (Grantsburg, WI): sheepsmilk cheddar that is cave aged on cedar and has a subtle cedar or woody flavor. Wonderful snacking cheese.

Klink, this might be particularly of interest for you since it seems you travel between the Twin Cities and Duluth regularly. Grantsburg appears to be located along that route and may be worth a visit if you have time. According to their website (here) they also have dry-aged, grass-fed, lamb for sale.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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Thanks for the link Snowangel, that's a great read.

slbunge, a very warm thanks for the leads. I've been toying with the idea of doing a cheese trip throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota, a la visiting vinyards, but didn't know where to go!

Dry-aged, grass-fed lamb? :wub::wub:

slbunge, you're my new hero. :wub:

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Hmm...dry-aged, grass-fed, lamb sashimi? Think about it.

Back to the cheese...and to my blathering on about Wisconsin.

Most of the serious artisinal cheesemakers in Wisconsin are based in, roughly, the bottom third of the state and of those, well over half are south and west of Madison. If I was your travel agent, I would say for the Wisconsin-leg of your midwest tour you could hit a five dairies with very fine cheeses in a single day trip based out of Madison (Roth Kase which I didn't even mention, Chalet, Uplands, Fantome, Bleu Mont). The benefits of this are very scenic drives through the rolling parts of the state, the fantabulous New Glarus Brewery is on the route and shouldn't be missed, and there are few great places in Wisconsin to have a beer and watch the sunset than the UW Memorial Union Terrace on Lake Mendota in Madison.

Package prices include deluxe motorcoach transportation and ......

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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For those in the Chicago area, Giles Schnierle has a stand at the Evanston Farmer's Market and the Sunday market at CHIC when it runs in winter. He runs the Great American Cheese Collection, and reps oodles of artisinal cheesemakers from all over North America. If you are outside the area, he does ship, and he will happily fax his current list-o-cheesy-goodness to you.

Not like we continue to get loads of cheese from him. Heh. If you're in the KCMO area, he's the supplier to 40 Sardines for their cheese course.

What do you mean I shouldn't feed the baby sushi?

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Klink, Green Pastures Dairy is just down the road from Duluth in Carlton. I know that I have had cheeses from them other than what are listed on the web site. Note that they are also at the Minneapolis and Duluth Farmer's Markets on Saturdays.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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For those in the Chicago area, Giles Schnierle has a stand at the Evanston Farmer's Market and the Sunday market at CHIC when it runs in winter. He runs the Great American Cheese Collection, and reps oodles of artisinal cheesemakers from all over North America. If you are outside the area, he does ship, and he will happily fax his current list-o-cheesy-goodness to you.

Not like we continue to get loads of cheese from him. Heh. If you're in the KCMO area, he's the supplier to 40 Sardines for their cheese course.

This guy has some great stuff-- my husband is addicted to a peppercorn cheese (pepino? I forget the name) that he distributes. He has a great variety, especially with the blues.

Having this type of distributor must be great for the cheesemakers too-- they don't have to spend all their time shlepping to various markets. Of course they don't get to meet the end-users either. Doubtless a mixed blessing.

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  • 2 months later...

A related story appeared in today's Chicago Sun-Times...

Cook's Gran Canaria, a Parmesan-style hard sheep's milk cheese aged for more than two years and marinated in olive oil, won best in show out of more than 700 artisan, specialty and farmstead cheeses at the American Cheese Society's 21st annual competition. ACS winners sported ribbons at Saturday night's gala "festival of cheeses."

Wisconsin cheesemaker shreds the competition

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Here's a link to a more local story about Sid Cook, which provides some additional information as well as some comments from Mr. Cook himself...

Cook's cheese stands alone

"I was absolutely thrilled," Cook said of his win. "Any competition where there are all those cheeses is tough. It's just an amazing thrill to win best cheese in American [sic]."

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I just attended a cheese tasting last night that in which I tried the finalists in this years American Cheese Society competition.  Some of the best cheeses, including this year's Best of Show, were produced by Syd Cook, of Carr Valley Cheese, in La Valle, WI.  This is the link to my notes on the tasting

American Cheese Society Finalists

Thanks Artichoke...very cool! :smile:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I was hoping there would be mention of Syd Cook of Carr Valley. What wondeful cheeses rich with character! And flavor, of course. He is just a great person, kind, thoughtful, dedicated and humbly proud of his cheese and his family tradition. I had the fortune to meet him at Tru when he was part of a Wisconsin Cheese Dinner there. Of course, his cheeses make the rounds of the dining room on the cart, fortuitously so........

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I'm an Iowa City native and after 10 year away i have moved back in with my parents and have come back with a new perspective on the area. As a high school student it was ideal, since the town is dominated by the University, which, as a teenager, being a college student is about the coolest thing possible, and while there are still several decent bars, i appreciate much more now. I do a majority of my shopping at the New Pioneer Co-op which tends to feature local products "whenever possible". (I assume you can grow most anything in the summer here, as i am doing in my garden currently, but that is another matter). I have discovered many new to me cheeses throough my shopping, some great, some good but overpriced. Some of my favorites have included the bleu from Cresco, IA, which has just been outed by the Cheese Society competition (which i am incredibly jealous of Artichoke for attending, as i was forced to dance at a wedding instead) as one of the best. I've also enjoyed a garlic and basil chevre from Northern Prairie Chevre recently. Of course, there is the classic Maytag Blue at the original Maytag (refrigeration, microwave, etc.) location in Newton, IA. I recently visited the facility while I was visiting my brother. The tour isn't that exciting, as they no longer have their own herd and buy from a cooperative and they don't provide a tour the cheese caves, but rather show you an antiquated, but amusing, video and let you talk to an employee in the packing portion, but the cheese speaks for itself. I took some pictures like this

[i10573.jpg

As previously mentioned, it was developed by Fritz Maytag in conjuncion with food scientists at Iowa State University. The same Fritz went on to found Anchor Steam Brewery. He is my hero.

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  • 1 month later...

Surdyk's latest blub mentioned that the cheese shop is now selling Shepherd's Way Farms a new butter derived from sheep's milk, which prompted me to look them up on the internet.

A quick google searched pulled up this piece: click!

Has anyone in the MSP area tried their cheese?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Should have mentioned, Klink, that for lunch today, I sliced up a Honey Crisp apple and some Eichten's aged gouda. Mighty tasty, if I do say so, myself.

Couple of weeks ago, got up early in the morning, went to the St. Paul farmer's market. Early enough to get some of their fresh mozarella, which I sliced up with an heirloom tomatoe, garnished with basil from the garden.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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