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Meet the Girl Bringing a Contemporary Perspective to Roth Cheese

We’ve teamed up with Wisconsin Cheese for an interview mini-series known as Meet the Makers, that includes a sampling of the state’s best cheesemakers and their award-winning creations.

Cheese has been made in Wisconsin since earlier than it was even a state. Within the 1830s and 40s, a wave of European immigrants planted roots within the area and began dairy farms, the place they made selfmade cheeses to get essentially the most out of all that milk. It was a lady in actual fact, Anne Pickett, who began the primary official cheesemaking enterprise within the space, a complete seven years earlier than Wisconsin joined the union in 1848. This time interval additionally noticed the creation of now-classic Wisconsin cheeses—specifically Brick (we now have the oldsters at Widmer’s Cheese Cellars to thank for this) and Colby. By 1910, the state surpassed New York in milk manufacturing, incomes it the nickname, “America’s Dairyland.”

Right this moment, Wisconsin is residence to over 1,200 licensed cheesemakers who’ve introduced residence greater than 6,000 awards for his or her cheeses since 1995—that’s a lot of award-winning cheese. Roth Cheese is one such award-winning cheesemaker that’s been woven into the material of Wisconsin’s cheese traditions for over three a long time. However with a lot superb cheese popping out of this state, Roth, like others, has needed to innovate to rise to the highest. Enter: Madeline Kuhn, a relative beginner on the planet of cheesemaking—and as a lady, nonetheless a minority within the trade—who combines her science background together with her love of artwork to dream up new recipes on the decades-old cheese firm. I sat down with Madeline to be taught extra about her course of and to search out out what it’s prefer to be making cheese historical past.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

MADISON TRAPKIN: Are you able to inform me who you’re and what you do?

MADELINE KUHN: My identify is Madeleine Kuhn, and I’m the analysis and growth technician and a cheesemaker at Roth Cheese.

What do you’re keen on about cheese?

Cheesemaking is a captivating course of and it is a historic commerce. As a scientist by commerce and an artist by alternative, cheesemaking is one thing that occurs to fall proper in the course of these, so it is a very rewarding pursuit. And because the Dairy State, we now have to stroll the stroll.

Photograph by Dusan Harminc

What does it imply to be a Wisconsin cheesemaker?

Wisconsin is the one state that has a license requirement for cheesemaking. For us, that implies that you are not solely mastering the occupation and the craft of cheesemaking, [but you] additionally develop an appreciation for the artwork of it as effectively. It’s good to show [those things] in order that we are able to keep the standard and degree of product that’s popping out of Wisconsin.

You grew up on a dairy, so are you able to inform me a bit about Roth Cheese’s relationship with Wisconsin’s dairy farmers.

Roth has at all times been using the milk from our native dairy farms in southern Wisconsin. Presently, we supply from farms inside a 60-mile radius, which is pretty small at the moment. We’re joyful to work with milk co-ops [in order] to assist these small farms. For me personally, that connection to the farms and being in shut proximity to them may be very close to and pricey to me as a result of I come from a Wisconsin dairy farm and a multi-generation dairy farming household. So to search out myself working within the dairy trade, not to mention in cheese, is a very neat place to land.

Photograph by Dusan Harminc

Roth has been making cheese in Wisconsin for over 30 years—how has the corporate advanced because it began?

We began again within the Nineteen Nineties with one creamery right here in Monroe, Wisconsin. Over time we now have expanded to a few manufacturing websites and we proceed to develop and develop, not solely the financial system and create jobs in these areas, however create methods to share this top quality, award-winning cheese from Wisconsin a lot additional past the state.

Initially, the method was very conventional and was influenced and impressed by the Swiss immigrants who had that connection to cheesemakers and cheesemaking in and round Switzerland. So, when cheese began to be made right here in Monroe, they used copper vats and aged cheese on picket boards. We proceed to hold these cheesemaking traditions all through our processes at this time, whereas using some new applied sciences and developments that enable us to handle our individuals and handle the land in a extra aware approach, and proceed to unfold the cheese and love.

What’s it prefer to be on the helm of such a powerful cheesemaking operation so early in your profession?

That is a very good query. I got here to Roth virtually seven years in the past, having by no means made cheese earlier than, and I realized very quick and the one approach that was attainable for me is due to the group that we take pleasure in in cheesemaking. There are such a lot of lifelong cheesemakers and cheese professionals who’re very beneficiant with their information and their time and imagine in carrying this custom into the longer term by educating and sharing it with younger, inexperienced individuals like myself.

I am undecided that I see myself as being on the helm of it, but it surely definitely is a chance and having an open thoughts and being a sponge to absorb that information from others in an effort to be part of that.

You’re additionally a part of one other particular group as a lady in cheese—do you discover that mentorship is an enormous a part of this sub-community?

Yeah. An fascinating factor about cheesemaking traditionally is that it began very small on a farmstead homestead degree, and a lot of the cheesemakers have been ladies who have been on the lookout for retailers to protect the milk produced on farms for themselves and their households. However due to modifications within the manufacturing trade over centuries, that panorama has modified lots.

Right this moment, there should not that many ladies working within the cheese world, so I recognize my relationships with actually glorious examples of different ladies within the trade. That is essential for me to have these people to look as much as and to share an expertise with. It is also an inspiration as a younger lady on this place to see some rockstar ladies main the best way, particularly in specialty cheese and artisan cheese.

Photograph by Dusan Harminc

Favourite a part of the cheesemaking course of?

I’ve at all times been fascinated by tangible bodily modifications in meals. Take into consideration cracking a uncooked egg on a scorching pan and watching the sunshine solidify and change into opaque and the yolk change colour and texture, or watching bread dough rise due to the motion of yeast—you may inform issues are taking place. My favourite half about cheesemaking is that this transient second of time. After including the clotting enzyme known as rennet to the milk and earlier than it begins to solidify to curd, there’s a couple of minute the place you can begin to see the proteins coming collectively within the liquid milk and you may really feel it and it appears grainy and you may see issues are taking place. I look ahead to that at any time when I can once I’m making cheese. I simply love that second. It tells me that cheese is occurring. It is on its approach.

Out of the greater than 200 awards Roth has received, what are some standouts?

It is at all times thrilling to win awards, particularly for one thing that we pour our hearts into. We have been lucky to obtain a whole lot of awards and we worth all of these. It is a approach for us [makers] to understand the standard of our product. It additionally units the bar for what we attempt to obtain on daily basis and what we wish to put our identify on and pull out from Wisconsin. We have had some actually large thrilling wins [like] in 2016, Roth received the World Championship Cheese Contest with our Grand Cru Surchoix. Grand Cru is the place Roth began, so to be acknowledged on a world stage within the extremely aggressive World Championship Cheese contest for Grand Cru was very thrilling [as] a Wisconsin-based cheese maker producing an Alpine-style cheese.

Are there any thrilling issues on the horizon at Roth Cheese?

There’s at all times one thing on the horizon at Roth Cheese. We simply accomplished the development of our model new headquarters and conversion facility in Stoughton, Wisconsin, which is additional solidifying our dedication to working and creating in Wisconsin and contributing to a vibrant specialty cheese trade.

On a private degree, I really feel lucky to be on the artistic aspect of the cheese trade. Discovering [ways] to be revolutionary and convey recent new ideas and concepts into a really historic, very conventional trade like cheese is a problem, however sort of problem. It’s good to proceed to remain on prime of how persons are interacting with and having fun with cheese in an effort to hold shifting ahead. I am at all times enthusiastic about what which means for Roth, for the specialty cheese trade, and for Wisconsin cheese.

What’s your favourite kind of Roth Cheese? Inform us within the feedback beneath!

Our pals at Wisconsin Cheese are dedicated to showcasing all of the wonderful cheeses the state has to supply—and there is lots of them. Wisconsin has extra flavors, varieties, and kinds of cheese than wherever else on the planet. From Italian classics like Parmesan and ricotta to Wisconsin Originals like Colby and Brick, this cheese-obsessed state has slightly one thing for everybody. Discover out extra about Wisconsin Cheese by visiting their web site.

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