Friday, November 16, 2007

Saxon Homestead Creamery

A well-known Wisconsin dairy farm family publicly launched its own farm cheese operation this week, debuting a series of new American Originals carrying patented three-dimensional labels.

Saxon Homestead Creamery, the brainchild of brothers Karl and Robert Klessig and brother-in-law Jerry Heimerl, is a dairy business 15 years in the making. Although their cheeses are still in the developing stages, the prototypes look amazing.

Saxon head cheesemaker and recipe developer is none other than Neville McNaughton, long known for his industry expertise and fondly called "the cheesemaker's cheesemaker." Neville has thus far created a a set of American Originals using milk from the Saxon Homestead that I predict will be in demand even before they hit the retail market early next year.

The most interesting aspect of the operation thus far is a brand new cheese wheel labeling system for which Saxon has patented. The wheel of cheese itself carries three-dimensional leaves on the sides and top, with the name of each cheese stamped on top in edible ink. This could very well be pure genius. I predict retailers will buy this cheese just to show off in their top cases no matter how it tastes (and if Neville's making it - I'm betting it will taste as good or better than it looks).

Saxon makes its cheese in an old beer distribution center in Cleveland, Wisconsin, but you'd never know it. The Klessigs, Heimerl and their staff have transformed the building into a world-class European-style creamery. All cheeses are made in 5,000-pound vats, allowing for very small batches and artisan crafting methods. Many of the cheeses seem to be continental, European-styles and are unique recipes. They carry wistful names such as Green Fields, Saxony, Pastures, Meadows and Grandpa Ed.

Saxon's new website - launched this week - has good descriptions of each of the new cheeses, including a future variety hailed as "top secret" and ready for launch in 2009. Called Hika Bay, Saxon tells us to "think small, think cute, think fluffy, like the clouds over Hika Bay."

I'm already thinking good thoughts. Can't wait to taste these cheeses!

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