Artisan Cheese

Get back to basics with artisan cheese

Seeing is believing, and having a chunk of artisan cheese before you is to witness the magic of cheesemaking. To wonder at the ancient alchemy of turning raw milk into the complex mélange of flavor and texture that is cheese – handmade, in small batches, the way cheese used to be made. There is a sense of awe when taking part in a food ritual that human beings have practiced for thousands of years.

In Wisconsin, we have hundreds of artisan cheesemakers producing some of the best artisan cheese in the world. In fact, it's hard to drive a few miles through the county roads of Wisconsin without stumbling across a cheesemaker producing little miracles of artisan cheese. Our advice: next time you come across some artisan cheese from Wisconsin, take a short break, savor a small sample, and give thanks for the artisan cheesemaking heroes who have given the world the creamy goodness of cheese.

Our favorite artisan cheese

Here are a few of our favorite artisan cheese varieties from Wisconsin:

  • Dunbarton Blue is a cellar-aged, natural-rind cheese with the earthy character of a fine English cheddar and deep veins of blue flavor.
  • Juustaleipa, or "bread cheese" has a texture like toasted bread. Originally made in Scandinavia from reindeer milk, it's a squeaky, buttery, slightly caramelized cheese with such low acidity that it softens rather than melting when heated.
  • Oaxaca is a semi-soft Mexican-style cheese with a flavor like a young Monterey Jack but a stringy texture like mozzarella.
  • Extra aged asiago is aged a minimum of 12 months to give it a creamy maturity and nutty flavor.
  • Marieke Black Mustard Gouda is an Old-World style gouda with a creamy, earthy flavor and extra bite from the addition of black mustard.
  • Butterkäse, a decadently creamy cheese with a soft, silky texture, and mild buttery flavor.
  • Martone, a mixed-milk, surface-ripened, buttery, bloomy cheese made in small discs.
  • Brick cheese, a Wisconsin original that is a tamer but still strong-smelling version of limburger.
  • Little Mountain, a traditional washed-rind alpine-style cheese made in the Appenzeller style, with a smooth and nutty flavor and aged at least six months.
  • Cupola, a semi-hard cheese with caramel notes and toasted pineapple flavor.

Videos: Discover Your Next Favorite Cheese

FAQs: What is artisan cheese?

What is artisan cheese?

Artisan cheese is cheese that's made primarily by hand, in small batches, incorporating many of the traditional techniques of the art of cheesemaking. An artisan cheesemaker typically uses no machines and little to no mechanization. Artisan cheese may also use a variety of milk and added flavorings.

What is artisan cheese versus specialty cheese?

A specialty cheese is a cheese of limited production – it can be in artisan cheese, but it's not required to be. Many specialty cheeses are made with added flavorings such as herbs, fruits, spices, and nuts.

What is artisan cheese versus farmstead cheese?

A farmstead cheese is made on a farm with the milk from the farmer's herd or flock. The milk used in farmstead cheeses may be from any type of milk – cow, sheep, goat – and may include flavorings.

Why Wisconsin artisan cheese is amazing

Wisconsin cheesemakers have been making artisan cheese for more than 175 years – since before Wisconsin was even a state. European immigrant cheesemakers found that our fertile dairy land was perfect for producing the high-quality milk they required to make cheese. So, settlers from France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, and Scandinavia soon began making the cheeses of their home countries. Today, Wisconsin cheesemakers lead the nation in producing artisan cheese, winning cheese-vat loads of international awards.

Where does this single-mindedness for high-quality cheese making originate? Well, that's what happens when a whole state is dedicated to one thing: making the tastiest, most award-winning, highest-quality cheese on the planet. It's why we require our cheesemakers to have a license, and why we have the only master cheesemaker program in the world outside of the one in Switzerland. It's also because we like to eat cheese, and when you eat as much cheese as we do, you want it to be dang good. So, next time you're looking for the finest artisan cheese you can find, look north to Wisconsin.

Craving award-winning aged cheddar, pining for parmesan, or searching for a new cheese to try? The world’s best cheese is just a click away! Explore our directory of Wisconsin cheesemakers and retailers who offer online cheese shopping and get cheese shipped right to your door. What are you waiting for?

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