Wisconsin in Fall: Rush Creek’s Raw-Milk Return, and, Limburger.

Andy Hatch Cutting Rush Creek (1 of 1)

Uplands Cheesemaker Andy Hatch Cutting Rush Creek. Yes, it’s back.

When I recently got invited to join a tour visiting some of my favorite Wisconsin cheesemakers this October with 2015’s top ten Cheesemonger Invitational competitors, I did two things. First, I thought about how it would be an amazing way to celebrate American Cheese Month. Second, I packed my bags on the spot, all the way from the east coast. The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board had an extra spot on the tour for a media person/writer, and since Heritage Radio was on board from the east coast, maybe I’d like to join them from California. They told this Bay Area girl that the leaves would be changing into beautiful midwest oranges and reds, the crew on the bus would be fun cheese geeks from all over the country, and the cheesemakers would be Uplands, Chalet Cheese Limburger, Roelli, Roth, and Hooks. So, you know, I said yes.

Abby of WMMB, me, Jack of Heritage Radio, Chris of Mission Cheese/Makers Common, and Heather of WMMB.

Abby of WMMB, me, Jack of Heritage Radio, Chris of Mission Cheese/Makers Common, and Heather of WMMB.

I started prepping my cheese curd game immediately, packed my bags another time for emphasis, and hoped the CMI competitors wouldn’t test my cheese wrapping skills before allowing me on the tour bus, because then I would not be allowed on the tour bus.

This is a photo tour of our trip.

SoftServeRoelli (1 of 1)

First place we hit up was Roelli’s Cheese, where Chris Roelli (below) makes Dunbarton Blue and Red Rock. The sign above is where the Roelli family announces when they have “fresh and squeaky” cheese curds ready. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, folks.

Master Cheeseamker Chris Roelli of Roelli Cheese

Master Cheeseamker Chris Roelli of Roelli Cheese

Quinn of Curd, Boulder

Quinn of Curd, Boulder. Quinn is the BIGGEST fan of Dunbarton Blue that there every was. Really. This was her smallest smile of the Roelli visit.

One of the cool things about cheese curds, besides how awesome they taste fried, is that selling them can provide a little financial cushion for cheesemakers like Chris so they focus on creating and maintaining artisan wheels that require a lot of time and labor without worry.

Dunbarton Blue aging on wooden boards. Chris fought long and hard to keep those wooden boards when the FDA challenged American cheesemarkers on their use.

Dunbarton Blue aging on wooden boards. Chris fought long and hard to keep those wooden boards when the FDA challenged American cheesemarkers on their use.

Dunbarton Blue

Joseph of C’est Cheese and Ryan of Bi-Rite admiring the Dunbarton Blue view.

Dunbarton Blue is the only blue-cheddar in the country (world?). It is amazing and I sneakily slipped it into the Cheddar chapter of my book. I think…

Hooks Cheese Sign (1 of 1)

 

Tony Hook of Hook's Cheese, explaining the popularity of one of his first cheeses, Blooming Idiot.

Tony Hook of Hook’s Cheese, explaining the popularity of one of his first cheeses, Blooming Idiot.

After Roelli’s we hit up Hooks, who makes such blue cheese faves as Tilston Point, Hook’s, and Ewe-Calve-to-be-Kidding-Me. Though this blue cheese maven didn’t start using Penicillium roqueforti (the blue cheese mold) until 97, he was making cheddars, swiss and colby since the seventies. This is also the man who makes THE twenty year-old cheddar (and donates much of the earnings to a local non-profit).

PiercingHooks (1 of 1)Ever wonder how blue cheese gets blue? The blue mold is added to the milk in the beginning of the process. After the wheels are formed, they’re set on the platform of this delicate device, that looks a little like a cheese torture, and pierced, allowing oxygen to circulate within the wheel. Oxygen + Penicillium roqueforti = Blue color. More veining? More piercing.

Mixing salt in with "parmesan" curds at Hooks.

Mixing salt in with “parmesan” curds at Hooks.

MixingHooks (1 of 1)

Blue cheese hoops (molds).

Blue cheese hoops (molds).

Jane from Pasta Shop and Eric from Maker's Common.

Listening to the blue master speak next to his huge cheddar vat.

So you don’t feel like I’m being unfair to my traveling group, here is a photo of me in a hair net, too (in the Jura, drinking raw whey cream).

Drinking raw Comté whey-cream in the Jura.

Sampling Hook's blues and cheddars

Sampling Hook’s blues and cheddars

ATV Route Hooks (1 of 1)

Next we headed to Uplands, where cheesemaker Andy Hatch charmed the hell out of us, took us into the fields, and sampled us with different ages of Pleasant Ridge and the new batch of Rush Creek. Yes, my friends, Rush Creek is back.

Washing Rush Creek with a salt-water brine to encourage delicious microflora.

Washing Rush Creek with a salt-water brine to encourage delicious microflora.

Uplands Rush Creek (1 of 1)

Rush Creek, the raw-milk Uplands Mont D’Or stunt double. After a year-long lull, Andy is making this seasonal cheese again. Look for its release this month.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve Aging (1 of 1)

Pleasant Ridge babes in the aging room.

One of the many Montebelliard, Tarenteise, Holstein, Jersey mixes on Hatch's farm. They prefer to have mixed herds to encourage milk nuance.

One of the many Montebelliard, Tarenteise, Holstein, Jersey mixes on Hatch’s farm. They prefer to have mixed herds to encourage milk nuance.

Andy surveying his stock

Andy surveying his Pleasant Ridge stock

Tasting holes made for our sampling from three different ages of Pleasant Ridge.

Tasting holes made for our sampling from three different ages of Pleasant Ridge.

Cleaned boards upon which the cheese babes age.

Cleaned boards upon which the cheese babes age.

In the field.

In the field.

Uplands Grass Fed 2 (1 of 1)

Upland Cow 2 (1 of 1)

The ladies enjoying a fall Wisconsin just as much as we were.

Uplands Grass Fed (1 of 1)Mission Cheese Uplands (1 of 1)Then we moved on to Chalet Cheese, the home of the country’s only remaining Limburger producer (read more about Chalet in my book). And yes I did capitalize Limburger. It’s that good.

Chalet Cheese Sign Me (1 of 1)

Jane and James of St James Cheese.

Jane of Pasta Shop, and James of St James Cheese. James loves Limburger as much as I do. He’s been to the factory twice before (I’ve been three times, but no big deal).

Myron Olson earned the last given Master Limburger Cheesemaker award in 1976. He managed the Chalet Cheese Co-op. Myron Olson earned the last given Master Limburger Cheesemaker award in 1976. He manages the Chalet Cheese Co-op. Rosy cheeked, kind, and full of sweet jokes, he’s exactly who you want making your Limburger. He serves it to guests of the plant with Ritz, mustard, and strawberry jam, and it’s awesome.

Chalet Cheese Awards (1 of 1)

Perhaps dating back to when the last Master Limburger Cheesemaker Award was given, everything in Chalet is painted either white, or seventies sea-foam green. No visible computers were present.

Limburger just after being given a rub-down.

Young, young, not even slightly stinky Limburger just after being given a rub-down.

Limburger is what Limburger Master Cheesemaker Myron Olson calls a smear-ripened cheese (anywhere else but Wisconsin calls this style washed-rind). As the soft cheese ages, it’s rubbed down with a salt-water brine that contains healthy microflora bacteria from the plant’s inception in the 1900’s. It’s what gives Limburger strong, funky scent, but sweet flavor.

Wisconsin Limburger Washing 2 (1 of 1)

Smearing Limburger.

Wisconsin Limburger Wooden boards (1 of 1)

The hallowed Limburger wash is kept in these milk buckets.

Myron telling us that when he tries to explain to his wife that he's special as a Master Cheesemaker, she reminds him to still take out the trash.

Myron telling us that when he tries to explain to his wife that as a Master Cheesemaker, he’s very special, she reminds him to take out the trash.

Limburger Samples (1 of 1)We were served Limburger of various ages. Each Chalet brick has an “eat by” guide on it to assist in choosing the proper consumption for your tastes. My favorite were the youngest and oldest.

Outside the Limburger Factory.

Outside the Limburger Factory.

Roth Expirements (1 of 1)Our tour ended at Roth, where we sampled cheeses they were experimenting with, toured the make room and were fed delicious Swiss wine and fondue made with Roth’s “Gruyere.”

Roth Fondue 1 (1 of 1)I came home from the tour with a deliciously full stomach (otherwise known as a cheese baby) and heart that was pleased with making amazing new friends and reconnecting with old ones- It would be hard to imagine being with stuck on a bus all day with such an awesome group of near strangers. And cheesemakers, thank you for so warmly welcoming us to your make rooms and farms. WMMB, thank you for sharing so much.

This is Myron's car.

Myron’s car.