- Where to Go
- The Best of Milwaukee and Madison
- The Best Wisconsin Weekends
- A Perfect Week in Door County
- Wisconsin for Recreationists
- Rustic Road Tripping
- Made in Milwaukee
- Madison Weekend
- Sports: The Packers and Beyond
- Out on the Town in Milwaukee
- Say Cheese!
- Four Days in the Mad City
- A Wisconsin Family Road Trip
- Wisconsin’s Best Brews
Wisconsin produces more than a third of the nation’s cheese (leading in cheddar, colby, brick, muenster, limburger, and many Italian varieties). More than 500 varieties of cheese come out of Wisconsin. And, yes, we really do eat a great deal of it. The loyal dairy consumption shouldn’t come as a surprise—laws prohibiting the use of margarine remained on the books until 1967.
The most common cheese in Wisconsin is the ever-versatile cheddar. For something different, eat it with fruit (apples are best) or melt it on hot apple pie.
Colby cheese was invented in the northern Wisconsin town of the same name. The cheese has a very mild, mellow flavor and a firm, open texture. It’s most often eaten breaded and deep fried, but try cubing it in fruit or vegetable salads. Firmer, with a smooth body, colby jack cheese is marbled white and yellow—a mixture of the mellow colby cheese along with the distinctive broad taste of monterey jack, a semisoft, creamy white cheese.
Wisconsin effectively brought swiss cheese to prominence in the United States more than a century ago. Swiss cheese fans should head immediately for the town of Monroe in southwestern Wisconsin; there you’ll find the greatest swiss you’ve ever tasted, as well as a milder baby swiss. While there, slip into a tavern or sandwich shop and really experience Wisconsin culture by sampling a limburger sandwich—the pungent, oft-misunderstood swiss on pumpernickel, with onions and radishes. Wisconsin may be the last place on earth where it’s couth to munch limburger in polite company; it is the last place in the world making the cheese.
Another Wisconsin original is brick cheese, a semisoft cheese with a waxy, open texture. Creamy white, young brick has a mild flavor; when aged, it becomes sharp. It’s perfect for grilled cheese sandwiches or with mustard on pumpernickel bread.
Two transplants the state produces to near perfection are gouda and edam cheeses, imported by Western Europeans. They’re semisoft to firm and creamy in texture, with small holes and mild, slightly nutty flavor.
Finally, for the most authentic cheese-eating cultural experience, go to a bar and order cheese curds, commonly breaded and deep fried. When bought at a dairy or a farmers market, cheese curds leave a distinctive squeaky feeling on the teeth and are a perfect snack food. Another unique cheese dish, especially in Green Bay, is beer cheese soup.
The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (www.wisdairy.com) is a wonderful place to peruse the “Joy of Cheese” and to request a copy of the fantastic Taster’s Guide to Wisconsin, a scenic agricultural tour of the Dairy State, highlighting each cheese factory (and dairy, winery, brewery, etc.) that offers tours. And check out their Cheese Cupid (cheesecupid) section; it’ll pair up whatever you’re drinking with the appropriate cheese!
© Thomas Huhti from Moon Wisconsin, 5th Edition