The late August harvest season has foodies in full swing with the bounties of the garden hitting the table at an alarming rate. Being the dairy state, we have more opportunities than most people to get out, take a day trip, and get closer to our food sources. Karen Herzog of the MIlwaukee Journal Sentinel put together a great list of ideas for a food trip this weekend. My favorite: visiting a cheese factory.
If you’re looking for a day trip, Henning’s Wisconsin Cheese in rural Kiel (www.henningscheese.com) is purported to be the last cheese factory in the United States that makes mammoth wheels of cheddar (150 to 12,000 pounds). The fourth-generation family-owned cheese factory makes award-winning cheddar and Colby, along with other cheeses.
The best time to go is between 7:30 and 10:30 a.m., when you can watch cheese being made through a viewing window. A four-minute video explains the process. If you’re lucky, co-owner Kurt Henning will be there to answer questions and take you in the cooler to get up close to the mammoth cheddars. Free wine and cheese samples are available.
At Widmer’s Cheese Cellars in Theresa (www.widmerscheese.com), another day-trip destination, you can get within 15 to 20 feet of the cheese vats, watch a video of how cheese is made, sample the cheese and ask questions.
I remember, as a kid, when we would take a drive to the local cheese factory for some curds and maybe a small block of cheddar. Back then the cheese plants didn’t have the fancy gift shops and viewing windows. You went into the place and walked among the vats to the cooler to get some cheese. The cheesemaker would then scoop the hot curds out the vat into a baggie, sometimes throwing one to you to nibble. Most of the little cheese factories have closed up, but Widmer’s in Theresa is the closest thing to those memories I have found.
As for my foodie adventure, I’m on my way to the farmer’s market this morning to pick up some tomatoes to supplement the ones we’ve grown in our garden for tomato sauce. More on that later.