Questions & Answers with Jeff Wideman, Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker at Maple Leaf Cheese
Did you create the cheese recipe for The Cultured Way yogurt cheese?
Yes, I did create the recipe for The Cultured Way yogurt cheese in 1999 from scratch. I worked with The Center for Dairy Research at The University of Wisconsin in its development. I wanted the challenge of making a unique cheese that incorporated my 36 years of expertise.
How many quarts of milk go into making a pound of finished cheese and how long does it take?
A gallon of milk weighs 8.6 pounds and 100 pounds of milk makes about ten pounds of cheese. After the milk is delivered from our family farms, it takes about six hours to make.
What happens after the cheese is made?
We have a ripening room and I constantly watch all of the cheeses while they are ripening and make any of the necessary adjustments during this critical time. I am also a licensed State of Wisconsin Cheese Grader so I grade all of my own products.
How did you get into making specialty cheeses?
In 1978, I became a supervisor with a major dairy plant in Wisconsin. While there I earned my Wisconsin Cheese Graders License for American style cheeses. After two years of corporate production, I wanted to return to the small dairy atmosphere I had grown up with. So in 1982, I was hired by a small farmers’ cooperative in Green County, Wisconsin and began focusing more on specialty cheeses. I wanted to use the highest quality milk from the family farms I had grown up with and did not want to spare any costs with the ingredients. I wanted it to be about the cheese and the quality.
When did you get involved with the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program?
In 1997, I enrolled in the Master Cheesemaker Program offered by the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin. The program was very intense and required hours of studying and class attendance. The course was intended for a small percentage of Wisconsin Cheesemakers who are highly interested in quality and the production of only the best cheeses obtainable. When people realize the amount of dedication it takes to become a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker, they understand that it reflects in the cheese. I am also currently the president of the Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute.
What rennet type does The Cultured Way® cheeses contain?
The Cultured Way ® cheeses are made with microbial rennet. This rennet type makes our cheeses perfect for vegetarians.
What is the shelf life of The Cultured Way® cheeses?
All of our cheeses have a best by date on the packaging and vary based on format, i.e. chunks, sticks, slices.
Please note, once the cheeses are opened and the vacuum seal is broken, the shelf life depends on how well the cheese is stored.
How should I store my yogurt cheeses?
Cheese is a living and breathing product and therefore, it is sensitive to changing temperatures and environments. Our Cultured Way® yogurt cheese is semi-soft so storing it in a cool environment, such as the cheese or vegetable draw in your refrigerator is important.
If you have leftover cheese after opening the package, tightly rewrap the cheese in plastic wrap. Store in your refrigerator. Limit the cheese’s exposure to any other foods to preserve the flavor and shelf life.
What do the cows eat?
To make a great cheese you must start with the finest most wholesome milk. Small herds of registered Holsteins roam free on the open meadows of a handful of small farms in the Green County area of Wisconsin. Their all-natural additive and artificial hormone-free diet of highest quality oats, corn and alfalfa, which is grown just for them, guarantees the very finest milk. Their fresh, certified rBST-free milk is delivered each day to our dairy.