Don't miss out on fresh chesseMost people who eat store-bought cheese are missing out on a fun experience.
Truly fresh cheese - the kind just made at a factory - will rub against the teeth as it is chewed, producing a slight squeak. The longer a cheese is refrigerated, the more the "squeak factor" decreases.
For that squeaky kind of fresh cheese, and to learn more about the Wisconsin's dairy background, there are several local places to visit.
Because of the nature of the production, hygienic standards require employees to wear hairnets, hard hats, gloves and no buttons. For this reason, and for liability issues, the listed businesses do not offer factory tours to the public.
Cady Cheese Factory
126 Highway 128 - Wilson, WI
Cady Cheese has been producing cheese since 1908. A series of fires necessitated it being rebuilt at least twice - the latest in 1991.
Located about 30 miles southeast of Hudson, Wis., it is a scenic drive to the factory and it offers visitors a chance to view 4,500 pounds of cheese on the table.
Two large public viewing windows are located in the office portion of the building street-side. The best time to see the cheese spread out on the table is around 1 p.m.
Wendy Marcott, co-owner of Cady Farms, said she is willing to come out and answer questions, if she is available. There are pamphlets explaining the history of the factory as well as the cheese-making process beside the windows.
A slide show tour of the facility is also available on their website.
The company is known for its Colby longhorn cheese, but they do make cheddar longhorn, Monterey jack and a combination of Colby and Monterey jack called "Gold'n Jack."
A retail outlet is situated in a separate entrance near the parking lot. There visitors can sample a variety of flavored cheeses, including pizza. Various meats are available, as well as jams, jellies and chocolates.
They are currently open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
For more information, visit their website or call 715-722-4218.
Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery
232 N. Wallace - Ellsworth, Wis.
Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery celebrated its 100th anniversary on July 3, 2010.
Ellsworth is known as the "Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin," so they know a thing or two about cheese.
The massive exterior of the building indicates it is a major player in the science of cheese production.
In fact, it not only manufactures naturally white cheddar cheese, but it uses the whey extracted from the cultured milk for a separate market.
"We dry our own whey and put it into 2,500-pound totes," said Tony Birkel, marketing and sales manager of Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery. "It's used to sweeten candy bars, ice creams and energy drinks. Nothing is wasted here."
The factory takes in approximately 1,900,000 pounds of milk a day from 460 dairy farms. They produce about 150,000 pounds of cheese a day.
They do have a retail store located in the side of the massive structure. Among other products, the most popular items are (naturally) the cheese curds. They are soon to be available in seven flavors: natural, Cajun, ranch, taco, lemon pepper, dill, and garlic.
They are open Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
For more information, visit their website or call 715-273-4311.
Bass Lake /Cheese Factory
598 Valley View Trail - Somerset, WI
Bass Lake Cheese Factory has been making cheese since 1918.
Located in rural Somerset, its outdoor patio takes advantage of the surrounding open fields.
"We're trying to be more of a destination spot than a pass-through," said Sarah Martinsen, employee of Bass Lake Cheese Factory - and resident "Cheese Wench."
Indeed, not only does the facility offer a large viewing window and videotaped tour of the cheese-making process, it also is a dairy museum and sandwich shop.
The antiques in the museum portion consist of a turn-of-the-century stove and icebox, metallic milk jugs and even milk delivery route books. Some of the items relate directly to the Bass Lake Cheese Factory's history, such as a three-foot milk jug stamped with the company's name dating from the 1920s.
Bistro-style tables and chairs are available in the store section of the building, where visitors can order sandwiches and ice cream. Soup is offered in the fall. They also sell beer, wine, mimosas, screwdrivers and bloody marys.
As for cheese, they make various kinds on site such as cheddar, Colby, Wisconsin jack, butter jack, munster del ray, goat milk cheese, cave-aged cheese and mixed milk cheese. They also offer other cheese not made on site, like a chocolate cheese.
They are open Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Martinsen advises people to call to see when they will be making the cheese if they would like to view it. For information, visit their website or call 715-247-5586.