Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers
A member of the first Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker® program graduating class in 1997, when he was certified as a Master in Swiss, Tom returned to the program to graduate in 2012 with additional certifications for Fontina and Gouda. Eight years ago, Tom joined forces with fellow Master Cheesemaker Sid Cook to head up Carr Valley Cheese's Mauston operation, where Fontina and Gouda are among many specialties produced. Says Jenny, "The Master's program is extremely valuable because even though you're focusing on one or two specific varieties, everything you're learning is applicable to everything you do as a cheesemaker."
Fontina originated in Italy in 1477 in the mountainous Val d’Aosta region near the Swiss border. It was named Fontina d’Aosta for Mont Fontin and the nearby village of Fontinaz. Fontina is considered one of the most versatile cheeses in the world because it is excellent as both a table cheese and a cooking cheese. Fontina has been copied often, with the most notable styles being Italian, Swedish and Danish. Today, Wisconsin cheesemakers produce all three. The Italian style has a smooth, supple texture with tiny holes, a brown coating and a flavor that is mild, earthy and buttery. The Swedish variety is slightly tart and nutty yet has a mild earthy flavor that runs mellow to sharp depending on age. Danish Fontina is also slightly tart and nutty with a mild earthy flavor that ranges from mellow to sharp depending on age.
Gouda and Edam originated in Holland over 800 years ago. The name "Gouda" comes from a village in southern Holland. The town of Edam shares the same valley. Made with whole milk, Gouda and Edam have a rich, buttery, slightly sweet flavor and smooth, creamy texture and develops complex caramel flavor and a firmer texture when aged. In the early days of Dutch cheesemaking, cheesemakers wrapped Gouda for export in red cloth to identify the variety. Today, Wisconsin producers carry on the tradition by covering the cheese with red wax or cellophane.
This full-flavored, buttery, nutty cheese with characteristic holes is aged at least 60 days. Interestingly, American cheesemakers, not Swiss, modernized Swiss production. About 50 years ago, the only way to protect Swiss wheels as they ripened was to allow a hard rind to form. The advent of plastic packaging, which keeps moisture in but allows carbon dioxide to escape, made it possible to produce rindless Swiss cheese in blocks. Rindless blocks were developed for better yield in foodservice; retailers appreciate the higher yield and ease of cutting.