Not Your Typical Cheesemaker
Picture this: an artisan dressed in crisp cheesemaker whites from head-to-toe stands surrounded by Dutch pine planks stacked to the ceiling with wheels of handcrafted gouda.
What music do you think is playing? Mozart? Beethoven? Bach?
Nope. It’s Pearl Jam. And it’s turned up loud, baby. That’s because this is Marieke Penterman – and she’s not your typical cheesemaker.
Marieke, a fiery Dutchwoman-turned-Wisconsinite who dances to Drake between batches and can tell when curds are ready just by feeling them, is an expert at the unexpected.
Take, for example, that iconic moment when she busted out the Kiki Challenge* dance onstage while accepting a national award from the American Cheese Society.
Or the fact that she chose to make Old World gouda in the heart of Wisconsin, combining traditional Dutch techniques with the world’s best milk.
A Gouda Approach
Marieke put her livelihood on the line to see whether her innovative approach would work. And over 150 awards later – including winning the U.S. Grand Championship (AKA the Superbowl of cheese) – she says, “Apparently, it does work.”
Oh, it works.
In fact, Marieke’s cheesemaking chops earned her a green card through the “extraordinary ability” route, which normally only professors and athletes are able to get.
So what makes her gouda so...gouda?
“The milk quality is very important,” says Marieka. “We’re a farmstead creamery, so that means we milk cows right here on the farm, and then that milk goes straight through a pipeline into our cheese vat.”
The Magic of Marieke
Marieke combines the magic of Wisconsin milk with the historic tradition of Dutch cheesemaking, which she learned from a feisty 60-year-old woman back in Holland whose first batch of cheese was made in a bathtub.
And beyond trusting the freshest ingredients and time-honored technique, Marieke has learned to trust her gut.
“I’m not a science cheesemaker,” says Marieke. “I feel and touch. I always say I’m more of a lucky cheesemaker.”
If you ask us, luck has nothing to with it. Marieke’s hard work, warmth and talent have earned her respect and love from her staff, her customers, and from fellow Wisconsin cheesemakers.
“The cheese world is so wonderful. People are so helpful,” she says. “I think other industries could learn something from the cheese world, to work better together.”
And we could all learn from Marieke – a cheesemaking boss lady who brings the party from the pasteurizer to the aging room.