An A-to-Z Guide to Wisconsin’s Best Artisan Cheeses
By Jeanne Carpenter | Photo By Jim Klousia 1
If you’re like me and have already forgotten your New Year’s resolutions, then take heart. A new year means there’s always a new day to start a new list, and no list is complete without cheese. Here’s a list of some of my favorite Wisconsin artisan cheeses, in a fun A to Z guide.
A IS FOR ANABASQUE from Landmark Creamery, Albany. This hard sheep’s milk cheese is as good (or do I daresay, better) than any Spanish import you'll find at your favorite cheese shop.
B IS FOR (STINKY) BRICK from Widmer’s Cheese, Theresa. Master Cheesemaker Joe Widmer's Lager Kase Brick Cheese is wrapped in foil and sealed in tight plastic to keep the stinky goodness from reaching the rest of your refrigerator.
C IS FOR CHEDDAR but let's face it, I'm not brave enough to name my favorite, as 66 different Wisconsin companies craft this iconic cheese. Since I'm in no hurry for my inbox to fill up with hate mail, let’s all just keep eating our favorite cheddars and be happy.
D IS FOR DUNBARTON BLUE from Roelli Cheese, Shullsburg. It’s one of the few Wisconsin cheeses that can serve a dual purpose on a cheese board and fill the slot of both cheddar and blue. That's because this cellar-aged, natural-rind cheddar sports occasional deep veins of blue, giving it a good, earthy flavor.
E IS FOR EIGER MOUNTAIN from Edelweiss Creamery, Monticello. Similar to what we Americans call “Swiss,” Master Cheesemaker Bruce Workman crafts Eiger Mountain with smaller eyes but with a big, bold Swissy taste.
F IS FOR FOENEGREEK GOUDA (pictured) from Marieke Penterman in Thorp. This Dutch-born cheesemaker routinely makes what's judged as the best Gouda in America, and the addition of foenegreek seeds adds a sweet caramel note
G IS FOR GRANA, Big Sky to be exact, from Bleu Mont Dairy, Blue Mounds. Better than any parmesan you'll find in the dairy aisle, Cheesemaker Willi Lehner has gotten this style of cheese down to perfection.
H IS FOR HATCH PEPPER CHEDDAR from Henning Cheese, Kiel. If you like spicy cheese, this is one of the best, created and crafted by Master Cheesemaker Kerry Henning.
I IS FOR ITALCO from BelGioioso Cheese, Green Bay. Deemed as the taleggio of Wisconsin, this stinky, soft cheese is perfect as a substitute for mozzarella on pizza.
J IS FOR JUUSTOLEIPA from Babcock Hall, Madison. Try heating this “bread cheese” up in a skillet for just a few minutes for a fun appetizer that won't melt. Eat as-is, or drizzle with maple syrup or honey.
K IS FOR KRAKOW from Springside Cheese, Oconto Falls. This soft, natural cheese made by Nathan Hintz is a great alternative to processed cheese and sports a better flavor when melted.
L IS FOR LE ROUGE from Red Barn Family Farms, Appleton. An alpine-style cheese reminiscent of a table Alp cheese one might eat at in a farmer's kitchen in Switzerland, it’s made from the milk of six Wisconsin dairy farmers who follow the Red Barn Rules.
M IS FOR MARTONE from LaClare Farms, Pipe. One of just a handful of French-style, soft, bloomy-rind cheeses made in Wisconsin, cheesemaker Katie Fuhrmann crafts this blend of cow and goat milk into a round beauty.
N IS FOR BLUE MARBLE JACK from Nasonville Dairy, Marshfield, a patented blend of easy-to-melt monterey jack with the tangy flavor of blue cheese.
O IS FOR ODYSSEY FETA from Klondike Cheese, Monroe. Whether you buy it in brine, crumbled or with added ingredients, such as peppers or herbs, this Wisconsin feta is one of the most popular in the country.
P IS FOR PLEASANT RIDGE RESERVE from Uplands Cheese, Dodgeville. As America's most decorated cheese, this seasonal Beaufort-style beauty is made by cheesemaker Andy Hatch and his team on the farm only from May through October, when cows are grazing on fresh grass.
Q IS FOR QUESO OAXACA from Cesar's Cheese, Columbus. We dare you to find a stringier, fresher “string cheese” made anywhere else in America. It's been deemed the World's Best. Twice.
R IS FOR RED WILLOW from Willow Creek Cheese, Berlin. Master Cheesemaker Jon Metzig crafts this slightly stinky, washed-rind beauty, wrapped in paper and sold in a round wooden box. Makes a perfect centerpiece on the cheese board.
S IS FOR SAXONY from Saxon Creamery, Cleveland. This cow’s milk, alpine-style cheese can compete with any European gruyere in both flavor and texture.
T IS FOR TRIPLE PLAY from Hook's Cheese, Mineral Point. Made from the milk of cows, goats and sheep, this firm cheese is sweet and crumbly.
U IS FOR GRAND CRU SURCHOIX from Roth Cheese, Monroe. As the reigning World Champion, this gruyere-style cheese is nutty, rich and was made to melt on a grilled cheese sandwich.
V IS FOR VAT 17 from Deer Creek Cheese, Sheboygan. This cheddar has an added adjunct culture making it extra sweet with loads of calcium lactate crystals.
W IS FOR WISCHEGO from Hidden Springs Creamery, Westby. Cheesemaker Brenda Jensen crafts this manchego-style cheese right on the farm from the milk of her 500 dairy sheep.
X IS FOR EXTRA AGED ASIAGO from Sartori Cheese, Plymouth. One of the best asiago cheeses crafted in America, there's no need to seek an Italian import.
Y IS FOR BLUEBERRY VANILLA GOAT CHEESE from Montchevre, Belmont. If you don't think blueberries go with cheese, this Wisconsin State Fair Grand Champion will prove you wrong.
Z IS FOR ... HMMMM... let's just say that Wisconsin cheesemakers haven't yet come up with anything that starts with a Z, so I can think of no better way to end an A-to-Z Guide of Wisconsin’s Best Artisan Cheeses than with a shout-out to Carr Valley Cheese in LaValle. Master Cheesemaker Sid Cook and his team are responsible for creating more than 50 American Originals, all of which are worth your time. Try Carr Valley’s new Porto Duet, a creamy sheep’s milk cheese soaked in Port. Mmmmmmm.