The Lady’s and my day started early with the first stop at Henning’s Wisconsin Cheese in rural Kiel.
The group was welcomed by Kate Schmitz, the granddaughter of the founder, Otto Henning, who started the cheese company in 1914 and graduated from the Dairy College of Wisconsin in 1915.
We gathered in their museum and met their Master Cheesemaker, Kerry Henning, third-generation cheesemaker at this factory. He is one of only 51 Licensed Master Cheesemakers in Wisconsin. Kerry’s enthusiasm and passion for cheesemaking is infectious and the group had a terrific tour of the plant.
Henning’s is a one-shift plant with everyone going home by 1pm to spend the afternoon with family and have a life.
Before the tour began, we watched a segment of the Discovery Channel Series, Some Assembly Required, that was filmed at Henning’s and informed the viewers how Kerry and his cheese crew make Cheddar Cheese. We will blog about the cheddaring process once The Lady and I return from Wisconsin… stay tuned…
35 Dairy farmers sell their milk to Henning’s; most are small farms that the larger cheese manufacturers ignore. 5-10% percent of the milk is from Jersey cows and the remainder is from Holsteins. The milks are co-mingled and immediately pasteurized at 161 degrees for 15 seconds.
Because it was Monday, the plant was making string cheese/mozzarella. The group watched the cheese being forced through tubes to form the ropes of string. Kerry pulled some off the production line and we got to sample warm mozzarella. It was delish!! There’s just not much that can beat really warm and fresh… that’s how I like my Rattus norvegicus… which are plentiful in the Wisconsin woods and some cities… but I digress.
According to Kerry, the ropes can go on forever; if you want to order a rope of string cheese that is a mile long, Henning’s can do it. From the cheesemaking room, Kerry toured us through the entire facility and we saw lots of cheese in various stages of readiness for the market. We even saw a 3500 pound wheel of cheese… now that’s a lot of cheese.
After the tour, the group was treated to cheese tasting: Mango Fire, Peppercorn, which took a first place at the 2010 World Championship Cheese Contest this past March, Mediterranean, Blueberry Cobbler and squeaky cheese curds that had just come out of the cheesemaking room… again, fresh and warm.
The Lady bought pieces of the Mango Fire (her favorite), Mediterranean, Horseradish (for The Man), the Award-Winning Peppercorn and a wedge of 10-year aged cheddar. The reviews will follow on these when we return to the Pacific Northwest and have a chance to do a sit-down tasting.
The Lady asked me to thank Kerry and Kay for inviting them in to their factory and sharing their love for cheese with the group.