One of the perks of helping organize cheese events is learning about them before anyone else. And that means I get to share that information with my friends! Here's a look at three stellar cheese-themed events being planned for this summer - each is open to only a limited number of attendees, so if tickets are on sale, act now.
June 25: Wisconsin Blue Ribbon Cheesemakers' Train, Mukwonago, Wis
June 24-25: Audacious Beer and Cheese Celebration, Delafield & Hartland, Wis.
July 16: All Star Blue Ribbon Tasting, State Fair Park Expo Center, West Allis, Wis.
All three of these events will be sure to sell out, so if you want to attend, make sure to purchase tickets early. See you all there!
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Nina is just one of 35 employees who works at Alcam Creamery in Richland Center, Wis., a family owned and managed butter plant that dates back to 1946. It's the kind of place where the original owner, Cam, age 88, comes into work most mornings at 4:30 a.m. and types up the bank deposits on a typewriter, and where the vice president didn't have a desk for the first three years he worked there.
"Not having a desk makes you keep moving - wandering around, talking with employees, staying on the move and trying to keep up," says Alcam Creamery VP Lenny Schaub, a good-natured and well-respected veteran of the dairy industry who spent 35 years in the cheese business before coming to a tiny butter plant in southwest Wisconsin that most people (well at least people like me) didn't know existed until last week.
Lenny, along with General Manager Jason Schultz, the son-in-law of current owner Gary Peckham (interesting tidbit: before he married into the butter family, Jason owned and operated a chain of Panchero's Mexican Grills) together keep things rolling along at Alcam Creamery. The pair oversee a butter plant that makes 200,000 pounds of butter a day and picks up cream from 85 cheese plants around the country.
When it started in 1946, the plant served local cheese plants and dairies, providing an outlet for their whey cream. Once just a local buttermaker, today it produces butter for a growing national market under more than 30 different private label names. Today, it serves plants throughout the nation and provides butter for domestic and international consumption.
General Manager Jason Schultz says the company's continuous growth is a testament to the quality of the company's butter and the loyalty of its customers. "Over the years, our mix of products has grown from bulk boxes of salted butter to a wide assortment of sizes and shapes for retail, food service and ingredient customers. Butter is what we do and we do it well," Jason says. "We like to say, it's the butter with taste."
The richer, fuller taste of the whey cream butter made by Alcam is a direct result of the cheesemaking process. Some say the flavor of Alcam Butter reminds them of what hand churned butter used to taste like, vs. the blander, finer taste of a sweet cream, USDA Grade AA butter. Alcam Creamery's whey cream butter is a Wisconsin Grade A butter, meaning instead of a "fine and highly pleasing taste," it has a "pleasing and desirable butter flavor." (Here's a link to the fascinating Wisconsin butter grading statutes, if you're interested).
Whey cream is more salty, tangy, and “cheesy” than "sweet" cream skimmed from milk. Whey cream is made from the fat that remains in liquid whey after the cheesemaking process is completed. The butterfat is separated from the whey, pasteurized, then churned. Salt is added to enhance flavor and preserve quality. The result is a butter that I can only describe as pretty freakin' awesome.
Friday, April 01, 2011
Rose Boero, a nurse and dairy goat breeder in Custer, Wis., was selected from a field of applicants for the $2,500 annual award from Wisconsin Cheese Originals. In pursuing her cheesemaker's license, Boero has already purchased a small pasteurizer and cheese vat and is apprenticing at Willow Creek Cheese, owned by Union Star Cheese in Fremont. She is developing plans to build her own cheese plant at her dairy goat farm, where she and her husband have raised Toggenburg dairy goats for 23 years.
"When I turned 56, I thought it was time to make a 'bucket' list," Boero said. "I've been making and giving away cheese to family and friends for years, and thought I can either turn 60 with a cheesemaker's license, or without a cheesemaker's license. I decided to make it with a cheesemaker's license."
After using the scholarship money to earn her cheesemaker license, Boero is especially interested in nurturing the upcoming generation of cheese enthusiasts. She plans to invite youth to visit her farm and learn cheesemaking. "I already know some of these young people who are just waiting for an opportunity. If I can teach enough youth how it is done, then I will actually be much larger than my own venture," Boero said.
Boero is a native of Kimberly, Wis., and received a bachelor's degree in Education from UW-Stevens Point. Soon after, she earned her Licensed Practical Nurse degree and has worked in the health field for years, while maintaining the family dairy goat farm. She plans to craft aged goat's milk cheeses to sell in Wisconsin and will offer custom cheese production for local dairy farmers looking to add value to their milk.
A five-person scholarship committee made up of industry leaders and cheesemakers selected Boero out of a field of eight highly-qualified applicants for the Wisconsin Cheese Originals scholarship.
The $2,500 award is funded through membership fees and Wisconsin Cheese Originals event proceeds. Last year's cheesemaker scholarship winner, Katie Hedrich, was named the 2011 U.S. Champion Cheesemaker in March for her farm-based cheese, Evalon. Thanks to all Wisconsin Cheese Originals members for helping these cheesemakers launch their businesses!