Ever wonder why Wisconsin’s motto is “America’s Dairyland” and the state’s residents call themselves “cheeseheads?” One factor could be the 2.6 billion pounds of cheese that are produced annually in the state. This represents one quarter of all the cheese produced in the United States. Wisconsin is home to the Cheese & Burger Society whose members believe Wisconsin cheese is the Grand Poo-bah of every cheeseburger. This outfit has a great website at www.cheeseandburger.com.
Colby cheese (along with cranberry pie) is the state food.
Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, recently told voters in his home state that his “blood runs with cheese, bratwurst, a little Spotted Cow (a Wisconsin brew), and some Millers.” The potential VP is obviously a cheesehead. You get the picture; Wisconsin is all about cheese.
Wisconsin where Cheese is King
The major reason so much cheese is produced in Wisconsin harks back to the last Ice Age when the state was covered with glaciers. Rich soil left in the wake of the receding glaciers resulted in land that was desirable for the cultivation of wheat, hops, and other grains; then dairy farms started appearing with grazing cows that produced large quantities of high-quality milk. Early dairymen used excess milk to make cheese for their own dinner tables. This served as the foundation for small commercial enterprises that followed.
European emigrants to America with experience in dairy farming and cheese making frequently headed to the Wisconsin area where they brought along recipes for specialized dairy products: Limburger and Muenster from Germany, Brie and Camembert from France, Mozzarella and Provolone from Italy, Gouda from the Netherlands, Cheddar from England, and Swiss from Switzerland.
The first Wisconsin cheese factory was constructed in the mid-1880s and by 1922 the state had more than 2,800 factories. Through the years, many new flavors and styles of cheese were created in Wisconsin. For example, Brick cheese, processed in a brick shape using real bricks to press moisture from the cheese, was invented in 1875. Wisconsin currently boasts approximately 130 cheese plants of varying size that produce more than 600 varieties of cheese.