Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Golden Age Cheeses

When I was little, I liked to play in my grandmother's walk-in closet, mostly because the woman kept every article of clothing she ever owned, always with the reasoning of: "Don't worry, it'll come back into style someday." While I'm not sure there was ever any hope for that lovely lime green polyester pantsuit, I will acquiesce that there is some truth to "everything old is new again."

Case in point: Harmony Specialty Dairy Foods in Edgar, Wis.,, owned by a fifth generation Marathon County dairy farm family who reopened the old Cloverbelt shuttered plant and is now making cheese from the milk of their own herd, are re-creating the past with their Golden Age English-Style cheeses, complete with authentic, Victorian-era labels.

Ralph and Sharon Bredl have taken their passion of the Victorian era to a whole new level with this new line of cheese. Called the "Golden Age," it's a line of eight English-style cheeses and should be coming soon to a supermarket near you.

Of the four English styles they've chosen: Cheshire, Double Gloucester, Caerphilly and Abergele, I like the Abergele the best, probably because they made it up. They are quick to point out that the cheeses are modeled after their traditional namesakes, and should not be considered true Cheshire or Double Gloucester cheeses.

However, the Abergele, a moist and creamy cheese, is unique. The Bredl family's very own creation, it carries a distinctive tang and comes as plain or infused with a cranberry/orange or an apricot/ginger emulsion.

So just exactly how did the Bredls, a well-known area dairy farm family, come to be in the cheesemaking business?

It started when daughter Martine joined the 450-cow registered Holstein operation near Stratford in 2004. The addition of the next generation to the business, combined with a change in strategic direction from "volume" to "value" led to the realization that if the Bredls wanted future generations to stay involved in Wisconsin dairy, they had to diversify.

As fate would have it, the nearby "Cloverbelt" plant near Edgar, Wis., had just closed due to a declining commodity cheese market. Upon hearing of the closure, the Bredls quickly realized the plant had the potential to represent a key element of their "value" search by providing the tool to process the milk from their dairy farm into high value, handcrafted, single farm cheeses.

In May, 2007 the Bredls purchased the plant and established Harmony Speciality Dairy Foods, LLC. With the expert guidance of the former Cloverbelt cheesemakers (Gary Miller and Al Graveen) the first vat of cheese was produced on June 13, 2007. Up to now, they've created a good market crafting super kosher cheeses and conducting custom processing of both cow's and goat's milk.

The family is about to enter a whole era, however, with their Golden Age line. With a unique label and pleasant tasting line of cheeses, the Bredls are hoping to hit a home run. Be sure and check these cheeses out - they'll be hard to miss in the cheese case.

4 comments:

Dave said...

I'm always glad to hear about small regional dairies refocusing on "quality" over "quantity." I wish the Bredls great success with their Golden Age cheeses, and I hope their distribution network reaches into New England so I can try some.

Resident_Cheesemonger said...

You're so lucky to get to hear about (and sample!) all these great locally made cheeses. I try to search out new local cheeses at my friendly neighborhood cheese shop, but I'm sure I'm still missing some of the local greats. I will continue to live vicariously through your own cheese discoveries. ;-)

Rose City Reader said...

Yum! My friend and your relation Tracey W. is going to stock up for us on her upcoming visit. I can't wait for her to bring the deliciousness back to Oregon! I just polished off the Double Gloucester she gave me for Christmas and I want to try the others!

Anonymous said...

The Abergele with Portabella & Chive is delicious!