Episode Four

River Travel Media/La Crosse Local

Bob: There are probably a lot of people around the country who don’t know what a cheese curd is. Scott Sweere from Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery. What is a cheese curd?

Scott: A cheese curd is a dairy product that is agitated, warmed, curdled. And with a few of the primary ingredients taken out, it will result in a cheese curd.

Bob: All right, Scott. I’m going to stop you right there, because that’s totally wrong. A cheese curd is delicious. You bite into it and it squeaks. You can take those things in your pocket with you wherever you go. You can smuggle them into a movie theater. Cheese curds are wonderful.

Scott: That sounded a whole lot better than my answer.

Bob: I would have to agree with you. So why are they squeaky, then? If you’re taking all that stuff out of them, what makes them squeaky?

Scott: That’s just the final product. Like I said, it’s a clean, finished product so you don’t have that whey in the way anymore.

Bob: So you’re getting that whey out of the way in order to make it taste as good as it does?

Scott: That’s correct.

Bob: Wonderful. So is that a process that you guys invented? Are cheese curds something that Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery invented?

Scott: No. It’s an ancient story. The story goes that there was a goatherder. He had milk in a leather pouch, and he was traveling. That gave the agitation that he needed. He was also very warm, and that began to curdle that milk. And as that happened, the leather leaked the whey out and left a curd. It was kind of an accident that resulted in a pretty fine product. I love the squeaky cheese.

Bob: Do you like the deep-fried cheese curds?

Scott: As much as my waistline doesn’t, I love them.

Bob: Talking about travel, I know that you’re a motorcyclist. You’ve probably had a lot of chance to cruise up and down the Great River Road. Do you have a specific destination when you hop on your bike?

Scott: If it’s just a quick getaway with the wife, we like to head down to Nelson, stop for some ice cream, maybe a barbeque sandwich, and then it’s a happy ride home. If I’m doing a weekend, we always try to go to La Crosse and enjoy some of the things that are going on there and some of the nightlife. We try to make a few stops along the way. Bucknuckles and what used to be called Hansen’s Hold Up is now Vino Over The Valley. Those are always great stops and very biker-friendly and just off the main road a little bit. The Alma Overlook, we always end up stopping there. It’s nice to stop in Prescott; I always stop there. That’s kind of the beginning of things for me. We run into friends and run into people. It’s more of a starting point; we’ll say, ‘Meet us in Prescott at noon.’ Then we head out from there and then head down. Some of those places that I mentioned are almost like must-stops where we always end up there.

Bob: Just taking in the beauty of what the Wisconsin Great River Road has to offer. I think it’s funny that a guy that works for a cooperative creamery … The first thing you mentioned is ice cream. That must be in your blood. But then you mentioned a couple of other Wisconsin treasures as well such as stopping at a winery and stopping and having some of the nightlife, which beer is a big thing in the State of Wisconsin. You’re kind of tying in a bunch of different Wisconsin products into your trips.

Scott: Absolutely. In fact, I rode with some guys from Minnesota last year pretty extensively. They were always [saying], ‘I want to come to Wisconsin. This is where it’s all happening. There is way more fun going on Wisconsin. Let’s go to your side.’ I’d like to be fair and come over to their side from time to time, but we always end up in Wisconsin.

Bob: Where does somebody find the stuff we’ve been talking about?

Scott: You’ll want to check out ellsworthcheese.com. It’s as simple as that. We have a very simple process online to go through that. But you can always call us here at the store and we can take your information and ship you directly from here as well. Our number is 715-273-4311.

Bob: Only a million pounds of milk a day and 180,000 pounds of cheese curds a day. What are you guys doing with your time?

Scott: Sometimes I kind of wonder that myself. I can’t find any.

River Travel Media/La Crosse Local