Wisconsin cheese is all about quality. Whether you prefer squeaky fresh cheese curds, or 10-year old aged cheddar, you can bet that if it was made in Wisconsin, it will be top notch. The standards for making cheese in our state are high, ensuring Wisconsin cheese remains the best of the best. Wisconsin is the only state in the nation that requires a license to make cheese.
All across the globe, Wisconsin is recognized for producing consistent, high quality cheese. At the 2018 World Championship Cheese Contest, Wisconsin earned 47 gold medals out of a field of 3,402 global entries. Five entries from Wisconsin were also selected as finalists for the best cheese.
Earlier this week, the best of the best Wisconsin cheeses were sent in to Milwaukee to compete in the Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Products Contest. Each year, this contest is held for dairy manufacturers looking to earn the coveted title of Grand Master Cheesemaker. Entries must be made by a Wisconsin licensed cheesemaker in a Wisconsin licensed dairy facility. 2019 was a record year, with more cheese entries than any previous contest.
I had the opportunity to attend the dairy products judging event this year to learn more about how our Wisconsin cheese is evaluated.
All of the cheese entries were submitted in 27 different classes. These classes represent different styles, types and varieties of cheese made in Wisconsin. Examples include blue veined cheeses, flavored semi-soft cheeses, and natural goat milk cheeses.
Cheeses were evaluated on a 100-point scale for each of the following: flavor, body and texture, make up and appearance, color, and rind development. The first step in the judging process is to evaluate the outside packaging of the cheese. Is the seal tight? Is the wheel an even shape? Does the rind look consistent? Next, the professional cheese judges will core the cheese. This allows the judges to pull a sample of the cheese from the center, without cutting it open. The judges will smell, taste and feel this sample of cheese. Is there an off smell? Is the flavor uneven? Does the cheese crumble too much?
Two judges evaluated each cheese, and then averaged their scores together. Once all of the classes were scored, the top cheeses were brought back out for a further evaluation to determine the Grand Master Cheese. The winning cheese has been selected for 2019, but will not be announced until the Blue Ribbon Dairy Products Auction on Thursday, August 8 at Wisconsin State Fair Park.
To find high-quality Wisconsin cheese in the store, look for the Proudly Wisconsin Cheese badge. This badge can be found in stores nationwide, and represents consistent, quality Wisconsin cheese.