Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bon Bree Brick Comes Back From the Brink

Several years ago, when I was a guest on Wisconsin Public Radio talking cheese with Larry Meiller, a caller asked me (on live air) if I knew anything about Bon Bree Brick. I had to admit that I didn't, and soon thereafter, the phone lines lit up with callers sharing fond memories of Bon Bree, an old family favorite once made in Mapleton, Wisconsin.

Well, today, Bon Bree Brick is back, baby. The current issue of the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) Dairy Pipeline (if you don't subscribe to their free e-newsletter, sign up here), profiles several extinct cheeses brought back from the brink of long lost legend, including the infamous Bon Bree.

Up until the mid 1980s, Bon Bree Brick, a Brick cheese with a unique name, was well-known for its firm, mozzarella-like texture and creamy taste. It was crafted by a cheese factory in Mapleton, but when the plant closed in the mid '80s, the cheese disappeared from the market.

Luckily for all of us, Lloyd Williams, a dairy farmer in Delafield, loved the cheese so much he decided to bring it back to life with the help of Mapleton cheesemaker Terry Shaw and the now-closed Dairy Business Innovation Center (DBIC). Williams met with Shaw, who manufactured Bon Bree at the original facility, and Shaw provided Williams with a few Bon Bree recipes. Additionally - and this is crucial - Shaw gave Williams some of the original mother cultures that once produced Bon Bree in Mapleton.

After more than 16 batches and a few years of trying to re-create Bon Bree with the expert help from the Center for Dairy Research, Williams Homestead Creamery began selling Bon Bree under its trademarked name last year. Clock Shadow Creamery in Milwaukee now manufactures the cheese, which is made solely from the pasture-fed cow's milk produced on Williams' farm near Waukesha. In just the last year, Bon Bree has grown into three new varieties: dill, chive and caraway, and is available in more than 30 grocery stores throughout Wisconsin, including Metcalfe's Market-Hilldale in Madison.

"After three years we have an identical product - except ours is all natural, so we do not dye it yellow like the early cheese was. People don't miss that," Williams says.

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