June 03, 2012

Wisconsin Cheese Tour: Chalet Cheese Cooperative (Monroe, WI)

Our first stop on the Wisconsin Cheese Tour was Chalet Cheese Cooperative in Monroe, which is the only producer of Limburger in the United States.  Green County is famous for cheese making due to its Swiss heritage.  In the 1840s, the Swiss settled in the area and Chalet Cheese was founded in 1885. 

Green County is also home to Cheese Days, the oldest food festival in the Midwest, which honors cheese making, dairy farming and Swiss traditions.  I've been going to Cheese Days since I was a young child, and I highly recommend going, especially if you like fried cheese curds and polka music :)

Myron Olson took us on a fascinating tour, and really opened my eyes when it comes to the cheese making process.  He is a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker, a title that only 44 people hold, for Limburger, Baby Swiss and Brick. 

The milk comes from 21 farms, which are all in Green County.  Olson explained that limestone in the area provides a natural filter for water, which is good for both crops and cows.  Good milk equals good cheese.  75% of the milk comes from Holsteins, with the remainder from Brown Swiss.

Chalet Cheese is most famous for its production of Limburger cheese, a cheese that Myron Olson says is misunderstood.  He told us the typical customer is 76 years-old and will climb mountains to get Limburger.  Unfortunately its reputation prevents people from trying it.

Despite its pungent, strong aroma, I had to try the Limburger and while I wouldn't seek it out, I must admit that it was very good when paired with jam.                          

My favorite was Deppeler's Baby Swiss, a cheese I have loved for years and grew up eating in Monroe at my grandma's house, and also at Baumgartner's.  Rye bread and mustard complete the perfect Swiss cheese sandwich.

Disclaimer: The expenses associated with the Wisconsin Cheese Tour were covered by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB).