The cool thing about this tour is that I’m getting to see several aspects of the cheese-making process. In the town of Dodgeville, we visited the Uplands Cheese farm.
Cheesemaker Mike Gringrich makes the much-awarded Pleasant Ridge Reserve, which is the only cheese they make at the farm. It’s also unique because instead of bringing in the milk from elsewhere, they use milk from the 160 cows raised right on the farm — milk that isn’t heat-treated or pasteurized during the process.
I’m starting to learn how the smallest things can factor into the eventual taste of the final product. The cows are rotated among the 300 acres of pasture so that they’re always grazing new grass, herbs and wildflowers. If it’s not raining and they have to start feeding the cows hay because the grass isn’t growing — they don’t make any cheese. That’s also why they only make cheese in the summer months.
The milk Uplands produces is organic, but the cheese they churn out is not. Why not? Our guide, Joe Milinovich, told us they would only need to make some changes in the cleaning process to obtain that distinction, but the resultant price increase that would be passed on to the cheese isn’t worth it at this point.
We were also given access to the caves where the cheese is cured a minimum of four months. While we were there, one of the workers, Dora, was busy “washing” each cheese wheel, which is essentially coating each wheel with a liquid solution unique to each cheesemaker. During the curing process, each wheel will be handled a minimum of 50 times. Check out the video below to see this labor-intensive work in action.
Uplands can certainly make a case that smaller is better. A small percentage of the 2.2 billion pounds of cheese produced in Wisconsin comes from here, but Pleasant Ridge pulled off the rare honor of winning Best of Show twice (2001 and 2005) from the American Cheese Society.
4540 County Road Zz
Dodgeville, WI 53533