Finding Dairyland: Wisconsin's Cheese Universe | Midwest Living

Finding Dairyland: Wisconsin's Cheese Universe

If Wisconsin were a country, it would be a superpower. At least in cheese. America’s Dairyland outproduces all but three nations, racking up international awards along the way. Join us for a trip to the heart of the cheese universe, where cheesemakers talk like artists and chefs share their favorite recipes for showcasing ricotta, Parmesan and more.

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Andy Hatch and workers wash cheese wheels twice weekly with brine to remove all but the flavor-boosting bacteria they want to remain on the rind.
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Crumbled blue cheese adds salty punch to Smyth Steak Sandwiches at The Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee. For recipe, see end of story.
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Young gun

One of the newer stars in Wisconsin cheese making keeps things decidedly old-school. Andy Hatch apprenticed in the Swiss Alps, wears the cap of traditional cheesemakers, lives with his family in a farmhouse next to the Uplands Cheese Company creamery near Dodgeville and laments the subtleties sacrificed to “progress.”

“You can’t do much with milk that’s inherently uninteresting,” he says. “The more diverse set of fats and proteins you start with, the more flavor tools you have to work with. That’s one thing modernity has left behind.”

There’s no room for error in the raw materials with cheeses this high-end.  Uplands’ Pleasant Ridge Reserve is buttery with hints of fruit flavor and is one of the most-awarded cheeses in American history. Rush Creek Reserve is a silky soft cheese aged in spruce bark and features notes of beef broth. Uplands has blended nine breeds of cattle to perfect its milk. Production happens only a few months each year, when the milk peaks, and the aging process requires a strict regimen of turning and washing the wheels.

“When you live here, your lifestyle is dictated by the type of cheese you make,” Andy says. “It’s like having a new baby. You stare at it all the time, saying, ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong?’” Judging by the reputation of Uplands’ cheeses, nothing at all. (888) 935-5558; uplandscheese.com

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