This Wisconsin Cheese Tour was paid for by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. This post and all of the opinions in it are not sponsored and, as always, are my own. Scroll all the way down if you just want to grab the recipe. 🙂
They don’t call them cheeseheads for nothing! I recently had a chance to go on a Wisconsin Cheese Tour thanks to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. I was expecting to eat a lot of cheese and learn about the cheesemaking process but what I didn’t expect was to learn so much about the history of cheese in the United States.
So many immigrants (Swiss, German and Italian) settled in Wisconsin because it was great grazing land for dairy cows. Many of these immigrants were dairy farmers and cheesemakers in their homeland. Wisconsin has the climate that dairy cows love along with great expanses of open land to allow the cows to graze. Happy cows equal lots of good quality milk. In fact, most family farms in Wisconsin rely on immigrants to this day to help keep their family farms running. So immigration policy is extremely important to them and they are active in politics in Washington to protect their immigrant workforce.
ALL the cheese!
I feel like there should be regular cheese tours like there are wine tours. Everyone should be able to experience this. There are so many variations of cheese and to learn from the people who create it is an awesome thing. You come away with a deeper appreciation for America’s cheesemakers. And they really are masters in their craft. In fact, Wisconsin is the only state that has certified Master Cheesemakers! And you’ll find their master marks on any of the cheese that they make.
Blue Cheese? Umm….
I have never liked blue cheese (or Bleu Cheese if yer fancy). I have tried it numerous times over the years and it just tasted rank to me. Bleck. Until I met Chris Roelli (Master Cheesemaker) from Roelli Cheese Haus and his award-winning blue cheeses. The Roelli family are Swiss immigrants. First of all, all of his cheeses are extraordinary. And I am completely and truly honest about extraordinary. On this entire trip, I remembered his cheeses the most. His Red Rock cheese is a Cheddar Blue Cheese – yes, cheddar! And then there was the Dunbarton Blue Cheese. You guys, if you don’t like blue cheese, I think you would go nuts for these. I know I did. These would be wonderful for a wine and cheese pairing party. And his Little Mountain cheese just won 2016 Best in Show by The American Cheese Society. That is a BIG deal for cheesemakers.
Chalet Cheese Cooperative in Monroe, Wisconsin is the only cheese factory still producing true Limburger cheese (also known as “stinky” cheese). This was my first time tasting Limburger and although I didn’t prefer the taste of newly made Limburger or the ripe 6-month old Limburger, I did enjoy the taste of the 2-month old Limburger. It was mild tasting and really creamy. The trick is to not smell it before eating. Worked for me every time! Ha! Limburger was a favorite of German immigrants but has since lost it’s popularity over the years. It’s a piece of history and my hope is that people will come back to it and not be scared by the title of “stinky” cheese. It deserves to stick around. Chalet also makes Baby Swiss, Swiss and Brick cheeses.
Colby, I love you.
So, by far, one of my favorite cheeses to come out of Wisconsin is Colby Cheese. It was invented in Colby, Wisconsin. If you love a mild and creamy cheddar, then Colby cheese is the one for you. Every time someone mentioned Colby cheese on our trip, my ears perked up like radar dishes. And when Colby cheese is done right, it tastes like buttah! And Joe Widmer at Widmer’s Cheese Cellars does right by Colby cheese. Creamy, delicious, mild and the younger Colby cheese melts like a dream (perfect for Mac and Cheese)!
Let’s bring back fondue…
We visited Roth Cheese in Monroe, Wisconsin. They made us a really simple fondue of cheese and white wine. See recipe HERE. Y’all, we need to bring back fondue parties. Honestly. It’s been years since I ate fondue and I had forgotten how yummy and fun it was! FYI – Roth makes a cheese called GranQueso® that has become another new favorite for me. Roth’s Grand Cru® Surchoix is a 2016 World Champion award winning cheese.
So, I have to tell you. There was a surprise bonus on this tour and it came outta nowhere. We went to dinner one night at Salvatore’s Tomato Pies in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. While there, we got to make our own pizzas with Wisconsin cheese, of course, (see my Instagram post HERE) and we had some homemade bread and butter as an appetizer. Y’all, let me tell you about this butter. It was UNREAL. Best butter I have ever tasted in my entire life (and this is coming from a butter connoisseur). It was creamy and had a touch of sea salt in it. I could not stop with this butter. So, I asked Patrick Depula (chef and owner of Salvatore’s) about this dream butter. And he told me it was Cultured Butter with Sea Salt made by Nordic Creamery in Westby, Wisconsin.
Nordic Creamery was started in 1917 by Norwegian immigrants and now home to award-winning cheesemaker and butter maker Al Bekkum. Some of my family is of Norwegian dissent (and settled in Wisconsin) so I’m pretty sure my tastebuds are recognizing some long-distant homeland. Y’all, I got home, and ordered some of that dadgum butter. Ha! It is so good. I ordered some of their cheese too. Dontcha just love how we can order online these days? They have a devoted customer for life (and I’m not being paid to say any of that – cross my heart). I hope to visit them the next time I am in Wisconsin. I’m pretty sure we’re cousins somehow. At least, that’s what I’m going to tell them in hopes for more butter. 😉
North meet South
So when I got home, I figured I just had to try my new favorite Wisconsin cheese in some of my favorite dishes. I made some Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese and some of my beloved Pimiento Cheese. This was a match made in heaven right here. I decided to use a mix of my favorite Colby with an Aged Cheddar Cheese. Aged Cheddar Cheese is not great for cooking but it is perfect for snacking or in non-heated dishes. It was made for Pimiento Cheese – just sayin’. 🙂
3 tbsp cream cheese, softened to room temp.
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp hot sauce (optional)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (4 oz) jar diced pimiento, drained well
1 1/2 cups shredded colby cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Cover with plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator to chill for at least 8 hours. This helps the flavors really come together.
Best Pimiento Cheese
- 3 oz cream cheese softened to room temp.
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp hot sauce (optional)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp dried mustard
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 4 oz jar diced pimiento drained well
- 1 1/2 cups shredded colby cheese
- 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Optional: 2 tbsp sliced green onion
- In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, hot sauce, sugar, dried mustard, salt and pepper.
- Then stir in green onion (if using). Finally, stir in shredded cheese and drained pimientos until fully coated with mayonnaise mixture.
- Cover with plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator to chill for at least 8 hours. This helps the flavors really come together.
Then dig in! Serve on crackers or sandwiches or stir into grits (yum!)