The Grumpy Troll brewpub is located in the former Mount Horeb Creamery, a short drive from Madison, Wis. Willi Lehner’s father once managed the creamery, making cheeses in the Swiss immigrant tradition. Willi’s own cheeses are now sometimes served with porters and pale ales at the brewpub, and those cheeses are part of an entirely new tradition being developed by American artisan cheesemakers.
Lehner operates Bleu Mont Cheese in nearby Blue Mounds, Wis. It’s a business he started more than 20 years ago in which he schedules production time at four different local creameries and sells the products directly to consumers and a few restaurateurs at the Dane County Farmers Market on the capital square in Madison.
The larger part of his business is in standard Wisconsin cheeses in the Swiss and Cheddar traditions, and even fresh curds, although most are made with pastured, certified organic milk. But what’s really getting the attention of cheese aficionados in Wisconsin and across the nation are the special aged cheeses Lehner began to craft in 2002. These include washed rind cheeses like Lil’ Wil’s Big Cheese, clothbound Cheddars in the UK tradition and the famous Driftless Select Earth Schmier, which is washed with a solution made from the soil on Lehner’s farm, to impart native microbes. The cheeses have won awards at the annual American Cheese Society Conference, including a Best of Class for the Bandaged Cheddar in 2006. Lehner and his partner Qui’tas spent a month traveling in Great Britain, visiting with 16 farmstead cheesemakers, to learn the traditions of clothbound Cheddars.
The careful affinage of the specialty cheeses is an important part of what makes them so special, Lehner says, but the dairy and cheese community in Wisconsin’s Driftless Region has its own hand in the success.
“I know the sources of all the milk I use to make my cheese,” he said. “One of the clothbound Cheddars, for instance, is made using the milk from Uplands Cheese, and it’s the only organic raw milk clothbound Cheddar in the U.S. that we know of.” Uplands Cheese is a farmstead cheese facility which pastures its herds in season. That herd is made up of nine different breeds.
Initially, Lehner aged these cheeses in a closet-like room inside a straw bale greenhouse on his farm. But a year ago Bleu Mont’s aging capacity expanded ten-fold with the completion of a 1,600-square-foot cave excavated into the limestone of a hillside.
Lehner says he has begun selling some of his aged cheeses through select cheese shops in Wisconsin, Chicago and beyond.
And if you’re in Mount Horeb, you can stop by the Grumpy Troll for a beer and you might find Willi there with some of his cheese.
Mrs. Appleby Revived English CheshireA pillar of the British traditional cheese renaissance, Lucy Appleby died April 24 at the age of 88. Born Florence Lucy Walley on Lighteach Farm in Whitchurch, Shropshire, in 1920, Appleby was an accomplished cheesemaker by the 1940s. But 40 years later, she really made her mark on the cheese world and helped preserve a slice of British heritage in the process.
Wax binding was becoming the standard procedure in the late 1950s among the few artisans who were still making Cheshire, but Appleby refused to have anything to do with it, insisting that the ripening and flavor of the cheese depended on its ability to breathe. She instead stuck with the traditional methods of binding the cheese in cloth. Initially she followed most other Cheshire cheesemakers and sold her products through the Milk Marketing Board. But in the early 1980s, as most cheesemakers adopted industrial methods to meet the expectations of large supermarkets, Appleby went her own way, and began to market her cheese using the family name.
In 1982, she began working with Randolph Hodgson at Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. Hodgson’s marketing and selling skills made Appleby a commercial success with a growing audience cheese enthusiasts around the United Kingdom, Europe and even the United States. Hodgson and Appleby together founded the Specialist Cheesemakers Association with the aim of lobbying for the preservation of cheeses made from raw milk.
In 2000 Appleby received MBE honors for her role in the artisan cheese revival. Her son Edward now runs the business and the cheesemaker is Gary Gray.
Appleby was married in 1940 to Lancelot Appleby. She had four daughters, two sons and one son deceased.
DigestAurora Organic Dairy and Colorado State University (CSU) have reached a multi-year master research agreement to study animal welfare, veterinary medicine, growing perennial forage crops and optimizing soil fertility for organic pasture development in the Rocky Mountain West. The project will be funded by a three-year $500,000 grant from the Aurora Organic Dairy Foundation. The study participants hope to build the industry’s knowledge base and capabilities for continuing the sustainable growth of organic agriculture, particularly in Northern Colorado.
All Things Organic was held in Chicago in April with more than 12,000 attendees visiting over 600 exhibitor booths. The 2008 show marked All Things Organic’s eighth successful year. The show is presented by the Organic Trade Association in partnership with Diversified Business Communications, this year’s event teamed with two other trade shows-the Spring Fancy Food Show, and the U.S. Food Export Showcase-in an event billed as the “Global Food & Style Expo.”
Over Labor Day Weekend, August 29 to September 1, Slow Food Nation will transform San Francisco’s Civic Center into the largest celebration of food San Francisco has ever witnessed. The first-ever event of its kind in America, Slow Food Nation will present an extraordinary range of activities for all ages, including a farmers market showcasing hundreds of California growers and artisan producers, tastings and feasts, chef’s demonstrations, an urban farm, a music festival, a major conference on food values, social justice and the environment, and workshops, all highlighting food that supports an agricultural system that is good, clean and fair. Wendell Berry, Marion Nestle, Carlo Petrini, Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Vandana Shiva, Alice Waters and many more will share their vision for a good, clean and fair food system.
At its 20th annual meeting held recently in La Farge, Wis., Organic Valley bestowed veterinarian Dr. Paul Detloff with the cooperative’s highest honor, the Ray Hass Organic Pioneer Award. Dr. Detloff serves as Organic Valley’ resident doctor of veterinary medicine, educating the co-op’ farmer members and retail and consumer partners on the importance of organics in herd health through presentations, farm visits and workshops. For the past five years, Organic Valley has recognized a deserving farmer with the award, named for the late Ray Hass, one of its founding farmers. Dr. Detloff is the first non-farmer recipient, recognized by the co-op for his instrumental work in helping hundreds of farmers transition to organics.
The growing Oregon Cheese Guild’s Oregon Cheese Festival hosted some 2,200 attendees for its fourth annual gathering, held March 15 at Rogue Creamery, Central Point. Oregon-inspired culinary events, including a “Meet the Winemakers and Cheese Makers Dinner” and a farmers’ market-style artisan food and wine festival, were all part of the activities held under a giant tent at Rogue Creamery’s facility. Visitors sampled a variety of cow, sheep and goat cheese from Oregon and northern California creameries, including Fraga Farm, Juniper Grove Farm, Pholia Farm, Tumalo Farms, Siskiyou Crest Dairy, Tillamook County Creamery, Willamette Valley Cheese Co., Fern’s Edge Dairy, Rivers Edge Chevre, Ancient Heritage Dairy, Vella Cheese, Rogue Creamery and many others.