Monday, November 13, 2006

Driftless: New Sheep Milk Cheese

Goats aren't the only small ruminants in the Wisconsin media lately - dairy sheep are now getting their fair share of fame as well.

Leading the way are Dean & Brenda Jensen, a pair of artisans near Westby, whose "Driftless" fresh sheep's milk cheese is catching the attention of retailers and chefs in the Twin Cities. Premier Cheese Market, 5013 France Ave. South in Minneapolis was carrying it earlier this year - look for it again in January when next year's milking season starts up again.

The Jensens have christened their business Hidden Springs Creamery and are making four flavors of fresh cheese from their herd of 150 East Friesen and Lacaune ewes. This season's flavors included lavender & honey, natural, basil and olive oil, and pumpkin & spice. Brenda is the lead cheesemaker and is planning to craft even more flavors next year after she finishes her own own farmstead cheesrie. She also plans to experiment with raw milk aged cheeses.

Dean, meanwhile, runs the farm and uses draft horses instead of tractors for fieldwork. They use zero antibiotics on their animals and no pesticides on their crops - visiting their farm is very much like taking a trip back in time.

Of course, their kids think they're nuts, but the grandkids think they're awesome. The pair didn't grow up farming - they both left successful professional careers for a rural lifestyle. Not only are they committed to hand crafting and marketing a high-quality artisan sheep's milk cheese, once their cheesrie is open, they plan to host cheesemakers to teach classes. They are also in the midst of finishing a bed & breakfast attached to their home. Once that's done, the Jensens plan to invite chefs to stay and see the farm and cheesemaking process.

Right now, they're looking for someone to help with milking and lambing, so if you know of anyone, give them a call at 608-634-2521 or email