Life Along Wisconsin’s Great River Road And Why You Need To Go
By ANASTASIA PENCHI
It is central to the core of Wisconsin’s identity.
We eat it with crackers and summer sausage while watching Green Bay Packer games. We order it everywhere battered and deep fried and chase it with our favorite pilsner-based beverage.
Wisconsin cheese is available at many locations along Wisconsin’s Great River Road, the 250 miles of Highway 35, which runs adjacent to the Mississippi River from Kieler, Wis., in the south, to Prescott in northern Wisconsin.
Those looking to eat Wisconsin’s best homegrown snack — or even just gift it to relatives in other states who have no access to the best-of-the-best — should check these businesses:
That squeaky goodness
The Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery wants Ellsworth to be the Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin, and the creamery brings more than 100 years of cheese-making experience to the community. Milk from the cooperative’s more than 450 dairy farms contribute to its famous white cheddar cheese curds and specialty artisan cheeses. A distinct packaging process that takes oxygen out of the bag results in cheese curds with a shelf life of six months or more (when kept refrigerated and unopened). The creamery says the longer the cheese remains inside the sealed/unopened package, the more enriched the cheddar flavor becomes. Known for fabulous flavored curds like Cajun, Taco and Hot Buffalo, this business doesn’t disappoint.
Retail cheese charm
The specialty store Le Coulee Cheese Castle is just a few miles off the Great River Road in West Salem, but it has such a wide variety of more than 50 Wisconsin cheeses to choose from, you won’t mind the trip. Known locally as a great place to purchase edible Wisconsin souvenirs that can be mailed in those white boxes plastered in black and white dairy cows, this shop celebrates locally-produced goods. Besides, they also sell ice cream. Who doesn’t love eating ice cream cones while shopping for some of the best cheeses Wisconsin has to offer?
Small batches; top quality
Available in many grocery stores along Wisconsin’s Great River Road, Westby Cooperative Creamery has been producing products for more than a century with its more than 100 farmer-members. A commitment to creating the best quality cottage cheeses, sour creams, dips, yogurts, cream cheeses and organic products has never wavered. Visit the Creamery Plant and Cheese Store in Westby to get fresh, squeaky cheese curds that are worth the drive. Do you prefer traditional orange cheddar or white? How about a little dill or other flavoring? No matter the selection, your taste buds will thank you. And if your timing is right, you might hit it a day when the store is selling trim ends, which are leftovers from perfectly cut cheese blocks. Who can resist a great sale price on such fabulous tasting cheese?
What does the goat say?
The Mt. Sterling Co-op Creamery sells award-winning goat cheeses. Cut and packaged by hand, its farmer-owners are committed to sustainable farming practices. This co-operative got its start more than a century ago as a dairy creamery when local farmers were looking to capitalize on excess cream, which they turned into butter. Over time, it specialized in dairy-based cheddar cheese. Then, in 1983, it converted its cheese-making business to goat’s milk. Its first artisan cheese, Sterling Reserve, won third place at the 2011 American Cheese Society Competition. Also available for order on its Web page are Country Jack with Tomato and Basil and Country Jack Smoked with Jalapeno Pepper.
Meet the Writer
Anastasia Penchi is a self-employed writer who lives just off Wisconsin’s Great River Road. You can read more about Wisconsin’s Great River Road, and the festivals and people of Western Wisconsin, at the Web site: www.loislaneforhire.com.