Going Back to my Cheese Roots

My earliest memory of visiting a cheese factory dates back to the mid-1980s when I was about 3 or 4 years-old. We lived close to Hustisford, a small town south-central Wisconsin, in which the nearest cheese factory was located, Radloff’s Cheese. I’m confident that I ate their cheese at some point in my young life and what I remember most about them, was their homemade ice cream bars. They were square, with vanilla ice cream hand-dipped in chocolate. But I digress…sadly, they closed in the mid-2000s, and my quest for the perfect Wisconsin cheese curd couldn’t start there.

Luckily, there were other cheese factories that I often visited as a child.

Widmer’s Cheese Cellars, located in Theresa, WI, was one of them. It was close to my childhood home. I remember my mom taking my sister and me there and spending time in the park right across the street, eating the cheesy-goodness. Widmer’s even became field trip for my Brownie Girl Scout Troop. Needless to say, it holds a special place in my memory.

Through the years, I’ve been back to Widmer’s on countless occasions, and they’re a required stop when I’m bouncing south down Interstate 41 on my way to Milwaukee and beyond. While I have gotten older, my taste for their cheese has remained the same, and I can usually be found leaving the store with a bag of their Brick Cheese Curds.

But are their Brick Cheese Curds worth the stop? Time to sort out my romanticized childhood memories from reality…

Last week, with my dad in tow, Widmer’s was the number one stop on my cheese curd journey.

The Widmer’s retail store is a delight to visit, as I believe that it is the quintessential small-town Wisconsin cheese factory store. As you walk in, you are greeted with pictures of Widmer’s history, and you immediately see the large vats where the cheese is made. When we stopped last week, they were busy flipping over blocks of cheese and cleaning out the vats, which made the store smell like fresh cheese.

I asked a fair number of questions of the gentleman behind the counter, who was happy to answer them for me. As a cheese maker (I could tell by his beard net), he must get the same questions over and over again, but he was patient with me when he gave the answers.

Through my line of questions, I discovered that they make their Brick curds daily and for the optimum squeak, you should leave them out at room temperature for about an hour before eating. In general, all curds should be eaten within about 7-10 days from purchase. Brick cheese curds are pre-cut into small little blocks of cheese, that is reminiscent their much larger counterparts. They sell the curds come in approximately one pound bags and are stored in a cooler until the sale. The bags aren’t dated, so I had no idea if the bag that I got was made that day, or if it was a leftover from the day before.

The Taste

The curds taste like fresh Brick cheese, and it is nice to have a curd that has a flavor, other than salt.

Squeak

Silent chewing means no famous cheese curd squeak. Remember how I mentioned that they sell them out of the cooler? That means that if you eat them right away, they’re not squeaky.

Texture

The curds that I purchased were dense, which made me think that they might not have been made that morning. I believe that their coldness also led to them being stuck together in a giant lump in the bag and why they were a bit slippery. To get out individual curds, you need to gently break them apart; or… if you are an old retired guy, this is the point where you start to “massage” them and start talking about this is how you get them to “squeak for you.” I will leave it up to you how you decide to break an individual curd off of the clump.

Verdict 

Overall, I do enjoy Widmer’s Brick Cheese Curds and would recommend that if you’re in the area, that you stop and get a bag for yourself. However, I was disappointed that they were sold directly from the cooler, and not at room temperature. My other nitpick was that there wasn’t a date on the bag that told me when they were made.

Score

A cheesy  3.5 out of 5 cheese wheels.

3.5 cheese wheels

But Ms. Hunter, only 3.5 cheese wheels out of 5??? Aren’t these brick curds your favorite?

Ahh, dear reader, there is more to the Widmer’s curd story…

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