Wisconsin Cheeses

by Ian Kleine

Wisconsin is known for its world-renowned art in cheese production. Cheese, being one of the greater things in life, and probably the next best thing to sliced bread (forgive me for the pun). Wisconsin has have had at least over more than 160 years in cheese making history, and within those time, had developed the craft into an art and an esteemed profession. With the evolution of time and the progress of technology, the state has developed over six hundred new varieties, tastes and styles of cheeses.

Wisconsin, in the olden times, was a stage set for dairy making. The last Ice Age had left lush grazing fields for cows and other fodder creatures to graze on. The fresh grass, good sun, and the cool climate produced large volumes of fresh, delicious milk. Wisconsin is said to adapt the title as the nation’s ‘heartland’ because of this image.

Crops of wheat, hops, and other grains supplemented the state’s development and economy; but milk was still closest to the heart. The cows produced milk in abundance that most farmers were at a worry on what to do, since milk did not do well with preservation methods back then.

To preserve milk, they decided to employ cheese-making as an option. From selling perishable milk, to long-lasting, more profitable cheese; this was the start of the small-scale invasion of cheese makers. Other than milk preservation, large-scale and commercial production was really out of the question for the simple dairy farmers of Wisconsin.

It was in 1921 that Wisconsin, after so many years of trial and error, of development and failures, of recipes shared and handed down from generation to generation; the state was the first one to establish a grading system for cheeses. Grades that were based according to the type, variety, and quality of the cheese. Quality assurance had secured Wisconsin a spot in the cheese market of the United States by then, the state having at least almost three thousand commercial cheese factories by that time.

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