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UPDATED: Carr Valley: Cheese artisans in Juneau County

UPDATED: Carr Valley: Cheese artisans in Juneau County

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You don’t have to be a Central Wisconsinite to know the name of Carr Valley Cheese.

A cornerstone of well-developed and hybridized milk cheeses, Carr Valley has earned best-of titles in prolific international competitions and continues to wow the world with their artisanal products. Carr Valley currently produces more than 100 award-winning cheeses and butters that range from traditional classics to American originals, meaning cheeses that are unique innovations to the U.S. They have earned more than 830 awards worldwide.

One of the things you can count on is their authenticity. Milk used for cheese is rBGH-free and delivered daily from local farms. Special finishing techniques like affinages and aging, are used to give each cheese a special profile and flavor. Not all cheesemakers utilize these techniques, but Carr Valley uses many such as waxing, smearing, open-air curing, cave aging, and dry curing.

When you walk into Carr Valley’s factory store in Mauston, a gentle aroma envelopes you in delicious briny warmth. As one may guess, classic cheese curds are their best seller. They practically fly off the shelves, and for good reason. Fresh curds collapse with a salty, slippery SQUEAK between your teeth. Mauston Retail Store Manager Deb Farr said they are a pre-pressed product.

Sid Cook is Carr Valley’s owner. Sid’s great uncle began cheese making in 1883. The following generation—including his grandmother Sarah—learned to make cheese as well. Eventually his mother Merna and her husband purchased the family’s Irish Valley cheese factory near Plain, where Sid Cook learned to make cheese as a child.

In 1968, Sid Cook passed his official cheese makers test and acquired a Wisconsin cheese maker license. He then bought the Irish Valley factory with his brother Monte where they made cheese together for nine years. In 1986, Sid began his solo venture into the business by purchasing Carr Valley cheese, which had been running since 1902. Since this time, Sid has opened stores and plants in Mauston, Portage, Sauk City, Wisconsin Dells, and Mazomanie, and earned several cheesemaker master certifications. From there the operation continued to grow, and is still growing to this day.

Operations and Compliance Manager Bob Koenig has also earned cheesemaker master certifications, specifically in fontina and gouda. Earning these accolades is no small feat. To earn one, makers must forgo five years of study of each respective cheese, ten years of cheese-making total, and pass rigorous testing. There are only 80 individuals who hold the distinguished title of “Master Cheesemaker” in the state of Wisconsin.

This story was updated to correct that Car Valley is owned by Sid Cook. Other changes also were made to correct or remove proprietary information.


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