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This Cheesemaker Took a Cue From the Moon to Craft Hill Valley’s First Award-Profitable Wisconsin Authentic


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


Should you grew up within the ‘90s like I did, likelihood is excessive that you just additionally watched the charmingly British collection of brief movies that includes Wallace and his intelligent canine, Gromit. In an installment titled A Grand Day Out, Wallace and Gromit notice they’ve eaten by means of their cheese shops, in order that they embark on a quest to seek out extra. Naturally, their journey takes them to the moon—that massive, pale yellow orb within the sky with its Swiss cheese-like holes. Spoiler alert: Wallace and Gromit uncover that the moon is just not, in actual fact, product of cheese and return house with none further curds in tow.

Wisconsin cheesemaker and Hill Valley Dairy founder Ron Henningfeld regarded to the moon with comparable tacky curiosity when making his first ever cheese, Luna—and the remainder is historical past. Immediately, Ron and his spouse Josie churn out wheel after wheel of this celestial-inspired cheese together with a formidable lineup of cheddars, Goudas, and cheese curds, all made utilizing milk from his brother’s household farm. I sat down with Ron to study extra about his moon cheese, their milk-to-market mannequin, and what it means to be a cheesemaker in Wisconsin.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

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

RON HENNINGFELD: I’m a cheesemaker at Hill Valley Dairy and I make small batches of artisan cheese utilizing milk from my brother’s dairy farm

What does it imply to be a Wisconsin cheesemaker?

I feel to be a cheesemaker in Wisconsin means to be a part of a household, a part of a neighborhood. We’re all rooting for one another [and] making an attempt to make the most effective Wisconsin cheese that we are able to.

How cool is it whenever you get to really watch anyone take their first chunk of one among your cheeses?

After I get to see clients attempt [our] cheeses for the primary time and I get to see the response, it is rewarding simply to see them smile or nod or give this notion [that] they’re having fun with it. That is the rewarding aspect of cheesemaking. When individuals ask me what I like about being a cheesemaker, after all I like beginning with our household’s milk and making cheese, however I additionally get pleasure from that cheese makes individuals comfortable. I like making a product that makes individuals comfortable.

What does “milk-to-market” imply?

What we do at Hill Valley Dairy is just a little bit distinctive [in] that we’re ready to make use of milk from solely our household’s farm to make the cheeses we produce. It makes me consider that first day once I began Hill Valley Dairy and we bought a load of milk, a small truckload from the farm, and introduced it to the creamery. I might already been a cheesemaker for a couple of years, however this was the primary time I used to be making cheese with milk from our household farm. That was simply actually, actually particular. It was particular to make that product, share it with the household, and finally promote it to clients. So milk to market is a direct line. It is not a advertising and marketing ploy—it’s extremely tangible, particularly with customers eager to know the place [things] are from. It’s [about] figuring out. Understanding the farm very personally, figuring out my brother runs a implausible farm and takes care of the animals—wholesome animals and high quality feed produce high quality milk, which is finally what we want for producing nice cheese.

Picture by Dusan Harminc

How does Hill Valley Dairy construct neighborhood by means of cheese?

I feel the neighborhood of cheese lovers existed for a very long time and Hill Valley Dairy, however now [we] play a job in that. Our function is to maintain producing nice Wisconsin cheese. Whether or not it is the farmers markets or the cheese store or the cheese occasions, we offer a spot for a neighborhood of cheese individuals to return collect, get good cheese, and speak about cheese. I feel we additionally supply an entrance level for individuals who won’t know but how a lot they do admire cheese. Once we can put some actually good cheese in entrance of them that has a narrative and has a taste and style and profile to go along with it, then we’re rising this neighborhood to do extra.

Let’s speak cheese—inform me concerning the origin story for Luna.

I have been a cheesemaker for about 12 years now and it’s turn into a giant a part of my life and my household’s life. My spouse, Josie, and I are all the time speaking about cheese. Everyone knows [the story] of [how] the moon was product of cheese, and [Josie and I] all the time took that dialog additional. If the moon was product of cheese, what would it not style like? So we might all the time have that banter concerning the moon and cheese and finally type of having this concept of like, we should always make a cheese that tastes just like the moon.

When Hill Valley Dairy was youthful, I used to be making some trials of cheeses that might be originals for [us]. There was a day that I introduced three or 4 samples of cheeses to the kitchen desk with Josie. We sat down and tasted a few varieties, and we bought to this one. We tasted it and we have been like that is Luna as a result of [of] its crumbly texture, its saltiness, its tanginess, its nuttiness. It simply type of struck [us] that that is what the moon would style like.

Picture by Dusan Harminc

You’ve made some award-winning cheeses over time—what are a few of the awards you’re most pleased with?

During the last two years I’ve submitted Luna and a few different cheeses into the World Cheese Championship competitors and so they’ve accomplished very properly. Luna has taken third in its class and fourth in its class in numerous years and its accomplice cheese, Alina, has taken fourth in its class as effectively. So these are, these are some awards we’re very pleased with. In a world championship competitors the place there [are] over 3,000 entries and our does okay, that is fairly spectacular, actually.

Your operation is exclusive in that your cheeses are made with milk from your loved ones’s dairy. Do you are feeling that this lets you be extra nimble in your cheesemaking course of?

I feel having a continuing supply of milk from a single household farm really results in extra consistency. I do know that milk very personally [even as] it adjustments all year long. I feel nimbleness comes from making small batches of cheese and having the ability to be hands-on with it.

If we have to make changes or need to make changes, we are able to. We will as a result of it is only a small batch and we are able to tweak issues come what may if we’re making an attempt to be in line with the cheese or if we’re making an attempt to alter cheese, and particularly if we’re making an attempt to make a brand new cheese. Our batch sizes are actually cheap to play with and take a look at some enjoyable issues and see what comes from it.

What does the longer term maintain for Hill Valley Dairy?

We’re fairly excited proper now. It was simply months in the past after we acquired our personal micro-cheese manufacturing unit. We’re excited for our workers to ramp up the cheeses we already make, get extra of these into the market and to clients who’re in search of it and actually asking for them. So we’re excited to convey extra milk from the household farm to the cheese manufacturing unit, make extra cheese, and attain a bigger area. [We’re] additionally enthusiastic about the opportunity of making a few new cheeses as a result of we’ve got management of our manufacturing facility on this area.

Our new manufacturing facility in Milwaukee has a entrance finish that we’re going to revamp into good cheese retail, but additionally [as] a gathering place for individuals who love cheese.



What’s your favourite Hill Valley Dairy cheese? Inform us within the feedback beneath!

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

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