Milwaukee County Winter Farmers’ Market: Eating Local Year Round

All of Steve Pinnow's sheep at Pinn-Oak Ridge Farm in Delavan, Wis., are raised on pasture and are fed a vegetarian diet. Pinn-Oak Ridge is at the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market every Saturday except the third Saturday of the month.

All of Steve Pinnow’s sheep at Pinn-Oak Ridge Farm in Delavan, Wis., are raised on pasture and are fed a vegetarian diet. Pinn-Oak Ridge is at the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers’ Market every Saturday except the third Saturday of the month.

 

Live in the Milwaukee area and in search of fresh, local produce during the winter months? Well, you’re in luck. Every Saturday morning from November to April, local farmers and food producers set up shop indoors for the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers’ Market in the Tommy G. Thompson Youth Center on the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds. (Note: In October 2013, the market moved to its new location at the Mitchell Park Domes, 524 South Layton Boulevard, Milwaukee, WI 53215) For the last four years, Milwaukee area residents have taken advantage of the easy access to locally-sourced food as if it were the summer months. From vegetables to fruit, grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, artisan cheeses and bakery, the options are delicious and plentiful. Really, there’s no better place to do your grocery shopping on a chilly winter morning. “Our market’s mission is to promote local, sustainable agriculture; increase economic opportunities for small family farms and innovative food businesses; provide equitable access to wholesome food; and build a vibrant gathering place for metro Milwaukee residents and visitors,” says Deb Deacon, the market manager. Besides being an avenue for purchasing local, the market, in its fourth year, also thrives on supporting small family farms during the otherwise unreliable winter months.

The evolution of the market

The initial development of the Milwaukee Winter Farmers’ Market was formed by Bill Stone, co-owner of Brightonwoods Orchard in Burlington, Wis., and then president of the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association (WAGA). Inspired by the winter version of the Dane County Farmers’ Market in Madison, Wis., and Harbor Market in Kenosha, Wis., Bill had hopes of building a successful winter market in the Milwaukee area.

springdalefarm

Produce from Springdale Farm, Plymouth, Wis.

In January 2009, that dream became a reality as the WAGA agreed to be the funding agency for development of the new urban winter market. The market’s first year drew 30 vendors, 21 of which still attend the market. Throughout the market’s first two years, it operated under the oversight of WAGA’s executive director, Anna Maenner. Maenner worked on the logistics for the market and managed a special Farmers Market Promotion Program grant from the Agricultural Marketing Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Because Maenner had experience running the Apple Growers’ booth at the annual Wisconsin State Fair, she was able to secure the market’s venue, the Tommy G. Thompson Youth Center, located in the northwest corner of Wisconsin State Fair Park. The Center continues to be home for the market today. Thanks in large part to Deacon, who has been a part of the market since the beginning, the market’s mission hasn’t changed. “Diverse, small-scale family-owned farms from southern Wisconsin have access to a more reliable and consistent annual income and realize they have a market that justifies extending their operational season,” says Deacon. “It also provides a low-cost experimental venue for new value added products.”

alekaskitchen

Aleka’s Kitchen sells traditional home-made gourmet Greek pastries every Saturday at the market.

Tasked with vendor recruitment and market promotion, Deacon has initiated the market’s website and Facebook pages, and also visits vendors’ businesses and farms. As the market continues to grow in size (50 producers this year whose attendance ranges from three to 22 weeks), Deacon says a future goal of the market would be to secure a larger space to accommodate all of the vendors.

Market Breakfast

The market hosts a market breakfast each year. Milwaukee area chefs that specialize in using local ingredients come in and create a menu that uses the products and ingredients from the market’s producers. Wisconsin Foodie documented last year’s market breakfast on a recent episode.

What you can find at the market

Products available at the market include:

  • Grass-based meat: lamb, beef, goat, pork, elk, and bison; charcuterie
  • Pastured poultry and free-range eggs
  • Trout raised in artesian fed ponds
  • Artisan cheese, ice cream, butter
  • Apples, vegetables and fresh herbs
  • Breads and baked goods
  • Oats (in a variety of formats), granola
  • Wine
  • Specialty food producers that make fresh pasta, seasonal jams & jellies, pickled vegetables, salsas, pasta sauces, herbal teas/butters/pestos, frozen soups, organic caramels, and savory ethnic cuisine (Greek and Mexican)
  • Honey, Maple Syrup, Sorghum
  • Coffee and apple cider
  • Fresh flower arrangements
  • Stone ground flour
  • Dried edible beans
  • Frozen corn
  • For your four-legged friends, you can also find elk antlers, beef bones and other treats.

 

ViolasHoney

Viola’s Honey is harvested from local hives on farms in Hales Corners, Pewaukee, New Berlin, Waterford, and the Wehr Nature Center.

Grab a cup of fresh coffee from Milwaukee's Valentine Coffee Roasters

Grab a cup of fresh coffee from Milwaukee’s Valentine Coffee Roasters.

soap

Soap of the Earth, Whitewater, Wis., sells handmade herbal soaps. Owner Lori Hoyt wild harvests her ingredients or purchases from other local producers.

RushingWaterstrout

Rushing Waters Fisheries, Palmyra, Wis., offers fresh and smoked rainbow trout, smoked Alaskan salmon, as well as salmon burgers.

rollingmeadows

Rolling Meadows Sorghum Mill, Elkhart Lake, Wis., brings sorghum, maple syrup and honey to the market every Saturday.

olysoats

Oly’s Oats, Elm Grove, Wis., sells Wisconsin-milled oats in a variety of formats.

pimentocheese

Martha Davis Kipcak’s “Martha’s Pimento Cheese” is a Southern staple made in Milwaukee with real Wisconsin Cheddar cheese.

lonesomestonemilling

Lonesome Stone Milling, Lone Rock, Wis., sells a variety of products, including cornbread and pancake mix.

lakeviewbuffalofarm

Lakeview Buffalo Farm, Belgium, Wis., sells a wide-range of meats every weekend at the market.

elkfarm

Golden Bear Monarchs Elk Farm, Beloit, Wis., offers elk meat, snack sticks, and elk antler dog chews.

dominionvalleyfarm

Dominion Valley Farm, Allenton, Wis., raises pork, poultry and beef on pasture.

clockshadowcreamery

Milwaukee’s Clock Shadow Creamery sells fresh cheese, including mozzarella, quark and cheese curds.

For a full list of the local producers who attend the market, visit http://www.mcwfm.org/producers.html The market welcomes the QUEST Card.

produceMilwaukee County Winter Farmers’ Market

Indoor Market November 2, 2013 to April 19, 2014 Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Mitchell Park Domes
524 South Layton Boulevard
Milwaukee, WI 53215

Website: http://www.mcwfm.org/index.html
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Chalet Cheese Cooperative and Hook’s Cheese: Wisconsin Cheesemaking at its Finest

freshcurd

Chalet Cheese Cooperative

 

myronolsonDubbed the “king of the stinky cheese,” Chalet Cheese Cooperative in Monroe, Wis., is America’s only producer of Limburger, the famous surface-ripened cheese with a pungent aroma. In fact, the 127-year-old company owned by 21 dairy farmers in Green County, produces and ships 500,000 pounds of the stinky cheese annually across the country.

limburgerbricksManaged by master cheesemaker and America’s last traditional Limburger maker since 1992, Myron Olson has been making cheese for the last 43 years. At Chalet, he manages 24 employees and mentors eight licensed cheesemakers. Since the 1930s, Olson is just the third manager at Chalet.

Made the old-fashioned, labor-intensive way as it was over a century ago, Limburger is a cheese that originated in Belgium. Once formed, the individual pieces of cheese, which are molded into the shape and size of small bricks, are laid side-by-side on specially cured pine boards. Bacteria grows on the pine boards and it inoculates the cheese and protects it from other bacteria that could grow.

limburgercheeseKept in Chalet’s cool and moist cellar, the white Limburger bricks are hand washed with a B-linen bacteria solution and are turned twice over a seven-day period. During this time, the bacteria introduced on the surface of the cheese ripens the cheese from the outside in and begins Limburger’s transformation into a buttery, pungent, aromatic cheese when fully aged. Finally, each piece of cheese is hand-wrapped in parchment and waxed paper and readied for shipping.

In addition to its notorious flagship Limburger, Chalet also produces national and international award-winning Swiss, Natural Smoked Swiss, Baby Swiss, German Brick, Muenster and petite Muenster, as well as traditional Cheddar cheese varieties.

chaletcheesecoopChalet Cheese Cooperative
N4868 Highway N
Monroe, WI 53566
Phone: (608) 325-4343
Find them on Facebook

 

 

Hook’s Cheese

 

tonyhookThere aren’t many husband and wife combos in Wisconsin who are married to cheesemaking like Tony and Julie Hook. With over 70 years of cheesemaking experience between them, the owners of Hook’s Cheese Company in Mineral Point, Wis., take pride in producing 40-plus varieties of cheese that consumers across the state of Wisconsin have come to appreciate.

A supporter of family farms, Hook’s purchases all of its milk from small dairy farmers in the Mineral Point area.

Tony and Julie formed Hook’s Cheese Company in 1976 and began producing Cheddar and Swiss cheeses. In 1980, they expanded into Colby, Monterey Jack, some flavored Jacks and Marble Jack.

juliehookawardIn 1982, Julie’s Colby won the “Best of Class” award in the World Cheese Championship. It was also judged the “Finest Cheese in the World,” defeating 482 other entries from 14 states and sixteen countries. To date, Julie is the only woman in the history of cheesemaking to win the World Championship.

In 1987 Hook’s outgrew its rural Mineral Point cheese factory and moved into a larger facility in the historic “Shake Rag” district of scenic Mineral Point. The new home, which was built into the hills of Mineral Point over 150 years ago during the area’s mining era, has allowed Hook’s to store and cure larger quantities of cheese.

Hook’s curing caves are temperature-controlled, which allows for a slow curing process. Every few months each batch is taste-tested to ensure that only the highest quality cheeses are saved to age.

Known for their moist and creamy aged Cheddars, they have Cheddars that go from one year all the way to 15 years. In 2015, they’ll have a 20-year Cheddar available. In 2006, the 10 year cheddar won first place from the American Cheese Society.

http://farmtotablewisconsin.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/agedbluecheese.jpgIn 1997, Hook’s began producing Blue Cheese. The cave to cure the blue is kept at a higher temperature and a high humidity to allow the blue mold to develop. In 2001, the company began making Gorgonzola. In 2004, the company developed two new blue-veined cheeses – Tilston Point, a drier, washed-rined blue, and Blue Paradise, a double-cream blue.

Hook’s currently sells over 40 varieties of cheese. Besides aged cheddar, they also produce several varieties of Swiss and blue cheese. Three newer cheeses are Little Boy Blue (took first place at the 2011 American Cheese Society Competition and third place in the 2010 World Cheese Championship), Bloomin’ Idiot, a mild creamy cheese that is Blue only on the outside, and Red Errigal, a sheep’s and cow’s mixed-milk cheese that is a mild and somewhat sweet cheese.

hookscheeseHook’s Cheese Company, Inc.
320 Commerce Street
Mineral Point, WI 53565
Website: http://www.hookscheese.com/index.html
Phone: (608) 987-3259
Email: hookscheese@yahoo.com

Uplands Cheese: Old-world Farming, Award-winning Cheese

andyhatch

Andy Hatch, cheesemaker and manager of Uplands Cheese Co., in Dodgeville, Wis.

A common adage among Wisconsin cheesemakers is that happy cows produce better milk, and that better milk makes a better cheese. Uplands Cheese Company in Dodgeville, Wis., takes it a few steps further. The farmstead, managed by cheesemaker Andy Hatch, operates on the belief that great fields for happy cows leads to even greater milk, and that milk paired with great cheesemaking leads to highly decorated and award-winning artisan cheeses.

Home to 300 acres of rolling landscape in the Driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin, Uplands uses an old-world model lifted from the French and Swiss Alps, where it produces cheese with fresh, unpasteurized milk from its own cows. In order to produce artisanal cheeses that boast unique flavor complexities, special attention is paid to what the suppliers of the milk are fed.

Happy Cows

The location of the farm, coupled with the nearly 40 inches of rain it receives annually, is ideal for growing a diverse range of grasses, legumes and herbs. It’s this steady diet that the farm’s nearly 150-cow herd feeds on from spring until the final days of autumn, giving Uplands a high quality milk. In order to ensure the herd is getting its proper nutrients each day, the farm rotationally grazes the cows in 20 different pastures and never in the same field for consecutive days. Moving the cows from one pasture to the next allows the cows to feast on new patches of grass and legumes, while allowing the previous day’s pasture to rest and recover.

uplandscows

Uplands’ cows are rotationally grazed on 300 acres of pasture.

Managing a closed herd, the farm only uses its own bulls and raises its own calves. It does not purchase cows from outside the herd. In fact, Uplands crossbreeds nine different types of cows. Because the cows spend their life outside grazing pasture, Uplands’ cows need to have athletic and robust characteristics. As a result, the farm breeds less for size and more for mobility and efficiency in converting grass into milk. The farm has found success crossbreeding larger breeds like Holsteins and Brown Swiss with smaller breeds such as Jersey and Tarentaise, says Hatch, cheesemaker and general manager at Uplands.

“We’re after a few things with our cows. Physically that they’re outside grazing all the time,” Hatch says. “We’re also looking for a flavor complexity. Different breeds of cows give different kinds of milk. They have different fats and proteins. The other end is the flavor you can develop in your cheeses is how those fats and proteins are broken down in the aging process.So our thinking is the more complexity you begin with in your milk supply, the more flavor complexity is available. It’s a luxury and we can approach it like that because we use the milk just from one herd. If someone is buying milk, they can’t pick and choose. But everything we do here, how we breed the cows, how we manage the farm, how we age the cheese, it’s all aimed at flavor complexity.”

uplandscheeseboards

Cheese is placed on racks and is moved into the ripening rooms.

Uplands’ philosophy is that its herd should go through a natural calving pattern, so the cows have their calves in the spring and are allowed to go dry throughout the winter, meaning they don’t get milked. This allows them to build body reserves for next year’s calves. As a result, cheesemaking does not occur in the winter months.

“It’s the old school way of dairy farming and it’s a natural way of farming,” says Hatch. “A cow is meant to have her baby in the spring when there’s abundant food and then hibernate when she’s pregnant in the winter. It’s not practical for most dairy farms but because our focus here is that grass-fed milk in the summer, we’re able to make it work.”

Hatch says the cows are milked seasonally in the spring, summer and fall, twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

“We don’t get very much milk out of our cows,” he says. “A holstein kept in a barn fed hay and corn will give you 100 pounds of milk a day. We get about half of that out of our cows. It’s because they’re eating only grass and their genetics aren’t geared towards volume. The volume is much smaller and the flavor properties are much different.”

From May through October, while its cows are grazing fresh pasture, Uplands is busy making its highly decorated Pleasant Ridge Reserve, a hard cheese made in the tradition of coveted Alpine cheeses like Gruyere and Beaufort.

Cheesemaking

The traditional practice in cheesemaking was to make cheese on the farm using milk that was as fresh as possible. That’s exactly what Uplands does. Moments after the morning milking is done in the barn (which is 10 yards from the creamery), the milk is pumped directly into the cheese vats in the make room and the cheese making begins.

“It’s pretty much straight out of the cow,” says Hatch. “We don’t pasteurize it or homogenize it or anything, it’s about as fresh as you can get. We get more flavor complexity out of raw milk.”

cheeseforms

Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese forms

Making Pleasant Ridge Reserve takes Hatch about six hours and the last step is to put the curd into forms. The cheese gets pressed over night and the next day the 10-pound wheels are removed from the forms, salted and placed on racks where they are then moved into the ripening rooms. Here, the cheese is hand-washed every two days in a brine solution, which encourages the development of certain cultures on the cheese rinds. These cultures, along with the micro flora that is indigenous to its unpasteurized milk, develop flavors in the cheese over time. And as the cheese ages, the flavors become more complex and concentrated.

Hatch says the cheese is aged a minimum of four months, and after 12 months it’s considered extra aged and is sold at a somewhat higher price.

“A large part of our work is ripening it and deciding if we can sell it,” says Hatch. “Each batch is a little different. We use raw milk, so each day cows are in different pastures the milk can be variable. It’s just a part of working with raw milk. So the name of the game is how do you ripen each batch differently and how do you sell it at its peak. It’s almost like dealing with different vintages of wine.”

By the time the cheese wheels are shipped across the country, they get turned and washed an average of 60 times. In fact, it takes more labor to age the cheese than it takes to make it. Hatch says washing rinds rarely occurs today because of all the labor it requires, but doing it this old fashioned way creates wonderful flavors during the maturation stage.

uplandscheesewashing

Cheese is hand-washed every two days in a brine solution.

The results have spoke volumes. In 2001, 2005 and 2010, Pleasant Ridge Reserve was named “Best of Show” at the American Cheese Society competitions, and is the only cheese to have ever received the honor more than once. It was also named U.S. Grand Champion at the 2003 U.S. Cheese Championships, making it the only cheese to have ever won both of the national competitions.

Building on the success with its Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese, Uplands began producing its other highly-coveted cheese, Rush Creek Reserve, in the autumn of 2010. Previously, the farm always sold its milk to another cheesemaker in the autumn when the cows start transitioning to eating hay because the milk produced is less than ideal for Pleasant Ridge.

Instead of producing a hard cheese like Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Rush Creek Reserve, which is made from September to mid-November, is a soft cheese that, since being produced, is a hot commodity across the country.

“We like to say that Pleasant Creek is made in the pastures and Rush Creek is made in the caves,” says Hatch. “The flavor that you find in Pleasant Ridge is very much a product of the inherent complexity of the milk itself. Rush Creek on the other hand develops its flavor much more through the ripening process and the yeast, the molds and the microflora.”

Rush Creek Reserve is designed to show off the richer texture of the hay-fed milk and the delicate ripeness of a soft, young cheese. Made with unpasteurized milk, it is aged side-by-side Pleasant Ridge in the ripening rooms. It’s a smaller wheel, weighing 12 ounces, roughly an inch thick and wrapped in spruce bark.

Hatch says Rush Creek Reserve is inspired by the French Vacherin Mont d’Or, and is bound in spruce bark, which gives shape to the soft round and imparts a sweet, woodsy flavor to the cheese.

pleasantridgereserve

Pleasant Ridge Reserve in its early stages.

“Rush Creek’s flavor is a product of how its ripened, what molds are growing on the rind,” says Hatch. “The idea is you’re working with less flavorful milk, so you have to generate flavor somewhere else.”

The savory flavors born from the rind gives Rush Creek’s custard-soft paste a deep but delicate richness, reminiscent of beef broth or finely cured meat. Hatch says it’s best enjoyed by removing the top crust and scooping the cheese with a spoon or a nice crusty bread.

The award-winning cheeses that Hatch produces at Uplands is coveted in households and restaurants from coast to coast. In fact, the cheesemaker, who says he stumbled into the profession, says the company’s biggest market is San Francisco, followed by New York and then Chicago.

City Boy Turned Cheesemaker

AndyHatchUplandsCheeseGrowing up in Whitefish Bay, Wis., Hatch’s family was not a farming family. But somehow, he was always attracted to the profession. In the early 2000s, he began working for a corn breeder at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, Wis. But corn breeding wasn’t an ideal job for Hatch who was looking to go a different direction.

In a rather strange turn of events, Hatch was whisked into cheesemaking.

“The corn breeder I was working for had married into a Norwegian cheesemaking family, and right about the time I was getting ready to leave his lab, his elderly father-in-law in Norway died and he sent me over there to help out,” Hatch recalls.

While in Norway Hatch was taught how to make cheese. He then spent a couple years in Europe apprenticing for a few different cheesemakers. Upon returning to the states, Hatch decided to enroll at the University of Wisconsin to study dairy science. He then apprenticed with a couple cheesemakers near Madison and became a licensed cheesemaker. It was in 2007, when he was hired by Uplands’ owners Mike and Carol Gingrich and Dan and Jeanne Patenaude to head the operations.

Pigs

On top of raising a herd of dairy cows and cheesemaking, Uplands also raises pigs. In fact, it sells about 50 Berkshire pigs, which are pasture-raised, yearly to restaurants in Wisconsin.

“We fatten our pigs on whey – whatever is not incorporated into the curd from the milk,” ” says Hatch. “They go nuts over the whey. Most of the lactose is still sent out in the waste, which is sweet, sugary, and they just go [crazy] over it. They’ll drink five gallons a head a day.”

When the farm gets the pigs in the spring each year they are about 35 pounds. When they get butchered in November, they’re 400 pounds.

“That’s like 180 days and like 350 pounds,” says Hatch. “We finish them on acorns because there are a lot of oak trees around here. And then we sell them to chefs.”

Hatch says the pigs are sold to restaurants such as Sanford Restaurant, Rumpus Room and Lake Park Bistro in the Milwaukee area and to L’Etoile in Madison.

“The fat in this pork tastes like maple syrup. All of the sweetness in the whey gets concentrated in the fat,” Hatch says. “The fat is like three inches, it’s really amazing.”

Uplands Cheese Company, Inc.Racks of Pleasant Ridge Reserve at Uplands Cheese Company in Dodgeville, Wis.
5023 State Rd. 23 North
Dodgeville, WI 53533
Phone: (888) 935-5558
Email: contact@uplandscheese.com
Website: www.uplandscheese.com