Specifically chosen by European settlers in the 19th century due to its fertile land, Wisconsin is home to thousands of cheese factories that produce over one-fourth of the total US cheese production.
From cheddar to Gouda cheese and everything in between, Wisconsin has it all. Cheese is so embedded in the state’s culture that many aspects relating to cheese are now identifiable with Wisconsin.
For all cheese lovers, Wisconsin is heaven on Earth. Here are some of the unique contributions of Wisconsin to the world of cheese — and of cheese to the state of Wisconsin — that you can check out for yourself:
Given that cheese is an essential part of the state’s history, it is no surprise that Wisconsin has contributed a special kind of cheese that is still popular today.
Colby cheese looks similar to cheddar cheese but does not go through the cheddaring process itself, thus making it milder and moister in taste and texture. Colby cheese was developed in 1885 by Joseph Steinwand in his family’s cheese factory in Colby, Wisconsin. He then named the cheese after the village.
Since then, Colby cheese has become one of the most popular cheeses in America. Though the original factory has since been torn down and production is no longer done in Colby, the cheese still retains its identification with Wisconsin and remains a symbol of the state’s legacy in cheese.
There are various festivals in different parts of Wisconsin held every year to celebrate cheese. The largest is the Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival, which has been held in the town of Little Chute every June since 1988.
The festival features various cheese-related activities such as cheese tasting, a cheese carving demonstration, and a cheese curd eating contest. A gourmet take on one of America’s most beloved dishes, mac ‘n’ cheese, can also be sampled at the festival.
Since its inception, the Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival has also expanded beyond merely featuring cheese. It provides an opportunity for the community to come together, with other activities including a fun run, live music, and amusement rides.
Other cheese festivals include Great County Cheese Days, which harkens back to the European origins of cheese and features yodeling and people dressing in traditional Swiss clothing, and the Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival, which is where cheese lovers can sample the best artisanal cheeses Wisconsin has to offer.
Cheese is so popular in Wisconsin that it also constitutes part of their tourism. Many cheese farms and factories in the state offer guided tours that let you learn about the cheese-making process in depth.
To start off, you could visit a dairy farm, where you can experience milking a cow and learning about this mass production of milk, which is then used to create cheese. Afterward, head to a cheese factory to learn about the different processes used to create the different kinds of cheeses.
Guided tours are usually available in these factories, and the tour typically includes cheese tasting and a visit to the gift shop where you can purchase your own artisanal cheese.
Even if you are not a cheese lover, it is worth it to learn and appreciate the role of cheese in the history and development of Wisconsin. And who knows, maybe if you try some of their locally produced cheeses, you’ll end up becoming a believer as well.