The state of Wisconsin's 1,200 cheese-makers offer more than 600 varieties of cheeses and have won more awards than those of any other U.S. state or nation in the world. Wisconsin's cheese artisans utilize strict standards for grading, quality and safety. Wisconsin is the only state with advanced training programs for cheese-makers.
Anne Pickett started Wisconsin's first cottage industry cheese factory in 1841. By 1868, John J. Smith purchased the first cheese vat to produce cheese from his home in Sheboygan County. He is also known for marketing cheese outside Wisconsin. In 1869, Hiram Smith opened the first full-scale cheese factory, and the cheese industry in Wisconsin took off. The Dairyman's Association established marketing procedures in 1872, and in 1886, college classes became available to train both farmers and cheese-makers. By 1922, more than 2,800 cheese factories existed in Wisconsin.
Today, Wisconsin hosts more than 35,000 dairy farms, with over 1 million cows producing 13,500 pounds of milk per year. Seventy-four percent of this milk is used in the production of 2 billion pounds of cheese per year, which is more than 25 percent of all cheese in the United States. The cheese artisans of Wisconsin offer hundreds of varieties, styles and types of cheese.
Immigrants from Europe brought their centuries-old cheese-making skills and techniques to Wisconsin and have brought the U.S. wonderful cheeses such as Edam and Gouda from Holland, cheddar from England, muenster and limburger from Germany, and blue, camembert and brie from France. We can thank Italy for mozzarella, provolone and gorgonzola and Switzerland for, of course, Swiss cheese. But our own Wisconsin cheese-makers were the originators of brick and Colby cheeses.
Where to Buy
Wisconsin cheese and many others have online sites where you can order fresh, vacuum-sealed packages of all varieties of cheeses. Cheese gift boxes as well as cheese baskets make great gifts, and they guarantee freshness.
Crocks and Spreads
In addition to blocks and strips of cheese, you can also find string cheese, crocks and spreads. Some of the more popular spreads that make last-minute entertaining a breeze are smokey bacon and cheddar, port wine, jalapeno, horseradish, garlic and toasted onion.