Cheese, it's good

Working with Curds
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Just like creating Maple Syrup requires 10 gallons of sap for a gallon of syrup, it takes 10 pounds of milk to make a pound of cheese.

(note from dwm - Maple Syrup takes 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. Otherwise the analogy applies.)

Making cheese in a century old dairy also takes rigorous effort and time.

I had the opportunity to visit and learn about Cedar Grove Cheese the other day, and most important, purchase cheese.

The relatively small plant employs 42 and makes a variety of cheeses:  Cheddar, Colby, Butterkase, Havarti, Muenster, Farmers, and Monterey Jack.

Raking curds in smallest vat.
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I asked our tour guide and virtual member of the dairy's family about their changing market.  Instead of competing with the big cheese makers - plants like these are doing artisan cheeses and flavored cheese.

Daily, two Cedar Grove tank trucks pick up milk from 33 farms, returning with 130,000 pounds of milk (one gallon = 8 pounds).

By the next morning, cheesemakers turn the milk into 13,000 pounds of cheese.
Award winning Cheese
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I knew some cheesemakers when we lived up north.  One guy I knew went into work around 2 in the morning and was done around 10.  At Cedar Grove, cheese creation starts between 11 and midnight.

Clean after making cheese earlier in the day wraps up around 9, by the way.

Their milk is filtered and pasteurized (heated to 161.5 degrees for 15 seconds to kill bad germs), then pumped into vats at 90.  There are three vats - 22,000, 16,000 and 15,000 pound capacity.

Once full, a cocktail of good bacteria is added to sour the milk by changing the lactose to lactic acid and activate the rennet.

Preparing the "hoops"
for curds
dwm photo
Rennet is an enzyme which clots the milk making it the consistency of pudding.  Wire knives are systematically pulled through the developing cheese until its cut into cubes, the curds.

Those curds are prepared, then placed into flexible boxes, called hoops. Under pressure, the curds become 42 pound blocks of cheese.

That cheese leaves this small dairy in farm country north of Plain, Wisconsin to be sold around the country.  You can buy some at www.cedargrovecheese.com.

The leftovers of cheese-making, whey and water, aren't wasted.  The whey is sent to a plant where is dried into powder full of protein and sugars and use in baked goods, cereals, candy, and baby food.

And but of course, it all starts with a cow.