Wednesday, April 04, 2012

New King of Kings: Louie's Pudding

Built in 1890 by "Butter King" John Newman of Elgin, sold to "King of Kings" cheesemaker Albert Deppler of Green County, and today owned by Anne Lancaster, whose product logo - in a nod to the creamery's past - includes a bright yellow crown perched on the "L" in its label, the century-old Springbrook Creamery on the banks of the Pecatonica River in Argyle has been home to two kings of dairy in its lifetime.

With the rebirth of her family's "Louie's" line of dairy products, owner Anne Lancaster is working hard to become the third king of this Wisconsin creamery. And this time, she's doing it with pudding.

Now home to Louie's Puddings, the creamery is where Anne and her team of four part-time employees make small-batches of baked custard and home-made bread, rice, tapioca and chocolate pudding. Products are marketed regionally in local grocery stores and convenience shops.

Known for its colorful lids featuring a pencil sketch of the creamery behind the regal Louie's label, Louie's puddings are making something of a comeback here in Wisconsin. The business was started by Anne's parents-in-law (the original Louie) in 1984, after the couple retired from farming, and like most "retired" farmers, they promptly started another business.

All of the recipes, except for the Chocolate Pudding, are Old World family recipes. The chocolate is a new creation, and is my favorite. Sweetened with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, it carries a creamy and rich taste, not a sickly sweet flavor one often finds with commodity chocolate puddings.

In addition, Anne and her part-time team also make Baked Custard, plain, with raisins or with rice (yummy), and add raisins to the original Old World Rice recipe, for a fabulous Rice with Raisin home-made pudding. Making only 1,200 pounds of pudding a day, Louie's Puddings is an anomaly in the pudding world. Not only is it small, it uses custom-made equipment to produce that home-kitchen taste.

Each day starts when milk is delivered and pasteurized, and then cooked for 55 minutes at over 200 degrees. Ingredients and flavors are then added, cooking stops, and the mixture is stirred. The batch is poured into a hopper, which dispenses it piping hot into plastic tubs. It is then sealed and wheeled to a cooling room, where later it will be labeled and packaged for delivery, carrying a 45-day shelf life.

Although distribution right now is limited, Anne is working to increase sales. She also dreams about sharing the 3,000 square-foot space with other dairy artisans.

"I'd like for this building to become an artisan dairy incubator, similar to what Bob Wills is doing for the artisan cheese community," Anne says. "I know there's quite a few people who have a good recipe and a unique product, but can't afford a factory of their own. We're looking at adding some equipment and possibly renting out space by the day."

If anyone can make that happen, it's Anne. She and her husband were both raised on family farms in the Argyle and South Wayne area. A banker by trade, she bought the business from her retired in-laws in 2009 and since then, has increased production, shelf-life and flavors.

She has no desire to return to the corporate world and appears to have found her calling, in of all places, an old butter plant built into a hillside along a river that is also home to the community's bomb shelter in southwest Wisconsin (more than 2,000 square feet expands underground and is used for storage).

"I'm going to be making pudding for a long time," Anne says. "It suits me. I'm looking forward to the future, working on new plans and new flavors."

So are we, Anne. And if that future could contain a certain someone's favorite pudding, as in perhaps, ahem, Pistachio, we'd love Louie's Puddings even more. Just sayin'.

1 comment:

Alyssa said...

Awesome Jeanne! Can't wait to check it out. Maybe Metcalffe's has it? I saw Sentry listed on their site.