by Dan Moore, Prepared Foods Manager
Last year, after writing out a comprehensive compendium of cheeses, I discovered that to include every variety we carry with a brief description would require leaving just about everyone else’s article out of the Reader. There were just too many types of cheese. This year, we’re going to try a different strategy—a compendium of our Wisconsin cheese suppliers. There are 21 different Wisconsin cheese makers supplying the Willy Street Co-op at this time. Of those, ten qualify as makers of artisanal cheeses.
Run by Felix Thalhammer, Capri is the first organic goat cheese producer in Wisconsin. At the National Dairy Goat Convention in October Felix received his first blue ribbon at a national awards ceremony. We carry a variety of their goat cheeses, as well as two of their own creation—St. Felix and Bear. The St. Felix is a combo of techniques used in making Havarti and Gouda (or as Felix refers to it, “Govarti”). Bear cheeses are made like the traditional Muenster cheese, and are very mild for a goat cheese—perfect for those trying it out for the first time.
Quite possibly the finest cheeses in the world come from Carr Valley Cheese. Don’t take my word for it; they’ve won more than 60 top awards in U.S. and international competitions. We carry the Mobay, a goat and sheep’s milk combination that came in second at both the 2004 and 2005 American Cheese Society Competition in its category. We also carry their Cocoa Cardona, another original that combines chocolate and cheese and took first place in its class in the 2004 competition, as well as Best of Class and Overall Second Runner-up out of 1,000 entries in the 2005 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.
Located in Waterloo, the Crave brothers supply us with our Marscapone and Les Frères (pronounced “lay friar”). Les Frères is a European-style, aged, washed-rind cheese with a fruity flavor that goes well with both fruit and bread.
One of our organic cheese suppliers, Cedar Grove supplies a wide variety of our cheeses. In addition to a variety of premium cheddars, Monterey Jack, and Butterkase, we carry their original faarko. Faarko is a semi-soft cheese made with a blend of cow and sheep’s milk and is one of the better melters out there. We also carry their Prairie Premium Cheddar, the first place winner for mature cheddars in the 2005 American Cheese Society Competition.
A relatively small outfit originating in Barneveld, Hook’s supplies us with a blue cheese that was Grand Champion from 1999-2002.
A Wisconsin legend, Roth Kase has won over 100 regional, national, and international awards, and has been making cheese for over 140 years. We now carry the Grand Cru Gruyère, a cheese these experts consider to be their crown jewel and which has won Best of Show for the American Cheese Society, first place from the World Cheese Championship, and a Gold Medal at the World Cheese Awards. We also carry their Rofumo, a versatile semi-soft cheese with a hickory-smoked flavor; the award winning Vintage Van Gogh with a caramel-like flavor; and the Butterkase, a creamy butter-like cheese.
Salemville Cheese Co-op in Cambria provides us with our Amish Blue and Gorgonzola cheeses. Among their awards are a third place in the World Championship Cheese Contest and a first place for the American Cheese Society.
I think Uplands is the only cheesemaker I’ve ever done an entire article on. After reading a few blurbs about them, I was so amazed at their production style and farm that I couldn’t help myself. Best yet, they only make one type of cheese—the Pleasant Ridge Reserve—the only cheese to be named grand champion of both the American Cheese Society and the U.S. Cheese Championship. You must try it!
Our last artisanal cheese maker is my personal favorite. Joe Widmer is one of only a handful of certified Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers in the country, and it shows in his aged cheddars. The two-, four-, and six-year aged cheddars are so good it should be a crime to eat anything else. They won third in both the American Cheese Society Competition and the World Championships this year. We also carry their handcrafted mild and aged brick cheeses, which are rich, creamy cheeses that melt extremely well.
Larger batch cheesemakers
Those are our ten artisanal cheese makers, meaning their cheeses are made in small batches, and often by hand. We also have 12 other Wisconsin cheese suppliers, and while their batches may be larger, their quality is excellent as well. Here’s a brief summary of each.
Organic Valley is our largest supplier of organic cheeses. We currently carry 14 varieties including cheddar, Colby, and Monterey Jack.
Mount Sterling Cooperative provides the bulk of our goat cheeses including their international world championship cheddar style.
Another favorite is Grande’s fresh mozzarella. We also carry their
aged smoked provolone and grated Parmesan.
Montchevre supplies us with two varieties of fresh goat cheese logs and three varieties of Crottins, mild and creamy fresh curd cheeses.
Our newest organic cheese supplier, Next Generation provides us with organic raw milk Colby and cheddar.
One of our best sellers, Wisantigo supplies us with Parmesan and Asiago cheese.
Located in Denmark, WI, we carry BelGioioso’s Parmesan, Asiago, and sharp Provolone.
We carry Country Castle’s Limburger and smoked Swiss cheeses.
Another new supplier of flavored cheeses, Sugar River is our only supplier of kosher cheeses. We carry four varieties, including a Monty Jack with tomato and basil that is fantastic.
We carry two types of Brie from President.
Located in Cashton, WI, Pasture Pride supplies us with its baked juusto cheese, a Finnish style cheese that has won Best of Show in numerous competitions.
A Wisconsin cheese sampler in our Community Room
So there you have our quite lengthy list of Wisconsin cheese makers supplying the Willy Street Co-op. Please make sure to join us on December the 8th as we provide a sampling of some our favorites in the Community Room. See page 8 for more information. Some of the cheeses scheduled for you to try out include Pasture Pride Juusto, the Roth Kase Grand Cru, and the Cedar Grove faarko, among others. Look for a complete list in the store.