In 2017, Wisconsin reminded everyone just how strong their cheese industry is when the state’s combined dairy farms produced over 3 billion pounds of product in that year alone. This makes Wisconsin the top cheese producer in the country, accounting for over 20% of cheeses produced in the United States and helping bump up the country as the second most prolific cheese producer in the world, rivaled only by the entire continent of Europe.
While Wisconsin produces more than a dozen different types of cheese (maybe even hundreds, depending on the farm), there are four main types of cheese that reign supreme over other cheeses. Here are some of the most popular cheeses in the Dairy State:
One of the most distinctive and well-known cheeses in the world, Parmesan is also one of the most heavily regulated cheeses to come out of Italy, with Italian authorities campaigning actively for world governments to ban the use of the word ‘parmesan’ for products that weren’t explicitly produced in the Parma region of Italy.
This hasn’t stopped Wisconsin producers, of course, from creating a parmesan cheese that is just as tasty and sharp as their Italian counterparts. In fact, Wisconsin has been continuously winning awards from international cheese bodies for their full-flavored Parmesans throughout the past decades.
The King of Wisconsin cheeses in terms of production, the state produces more than 980 million pounds of this stringy, melty cheese every year, accounting for 33% of the Wisconsin cheese market. Mozzarella is created by dipping cheese curds in hot water then stretching it, allowing the proteins inside the cheese to melt quickly. In Italy, mozzarella is traditionally made with water buffalo milk; In Wisconsin, however, only the best and freshest cow’s milk is used.
You will never see cheese stores in Wisconsin be without one of the most cherished and emblematic cheeses of the state! Cheese curds have been around for as long as actual cheeses (and, in fact, maybe even older) and are well-known and sought after for their fresh taste, snappy texture, and of course, that trademark squeak.
The village of Ellsworth in Pierce County holds the high honor of being the Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin and is home to one of the largest cooperative creameries in the country.
Known for its distinctively orange color, Wisconsin cheddar is colored with annatto, a technique that was used to replicate the rich gold color of early cheddars back in the 1800s. Since then, it’s become a trademark for cheddar produced in the state (although white and yellow cheddars also exist!) and, while no official regulation exists for it to be orange, it’s become a part of the Wisconsin Cheddar identity that it’s hard to imagine it any other way.
It’s also one of the first cheeses to be mass-produced in Wisconsin, thanks to cheddar’s natural hardiness that made it easy to preserve, store, and transport. Most cheddars produced in Wisconsin are aged between 2 to 4 years, although some farms have rare sub-types that are aged up to 14 years.