Kelly the Culinarian: Tasty tour: Wisconsin Dells, Part II

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tasty tour: Wisconsin Dells, Part II

Cheese is more important economically to Wisconsin than citrus is to Florida or potatoes are to Idaho. Each year, Wisconsin produces 26 percent of the country's cheese supply and employees 160,000 people in the dairy business. Dairy farming and processing contribute about $20.6 billion to the Wisconsin economy.

Therefore, Wisconsin cheese is an art form practiced throughout the state and has often been passed down through the generations. On our way back to Illinois, Tim and I stopped at the Mousehouse Cheesehaus located at 190-94 on exit 131. The store is a family establishment with a plethora of dairy and sausage products, along with some convenience store-type products. We initially went in wanting to purchase cheese curds, the fresh curds of cheddar cheese best characterized by their misshapen exteriors and "squeaky" quality when you bite into that.

What you see here are the goodies Tim and I found. On the left is a smoked cheese spread, which is aged cheddar cheese with a real bite to it from the smoking process that gives the spread a unique tartness that is really pleasing to the palate. And it should be; Mousehouse won the 2006 world championship for its cheese spreads. In the middle are those lovely cheese curds, which tasted delicious and didn't make it to the Illinois border.

On the right is two chunks of the house specialty, Mousehouse cheddar. This family-recipe was passed down to the current owner from his father and he boasts that right at the Mousehouse is the only place in the world you'll get that blend. I tried it in the store and had to get a piece. What's interesting about this cheddar is that it's both creamy and sharp. Usually, as a cheddar ages, it becomes more sharp and crumbly, but this cheese maintains the best of both worlds. Tim used it on a quesadilla and didn't have great results, but we've used it on sandwiches and crackers since and love it. There's even a Mousehouse mac n' cheese recipe in their catalog, but I didn't buy enough cheese to make it. There's always another trip ...

14 comments:

New Kid on the Blog said...

Hi dropping by from Christy's site.

team bsg said...

we are learning about yr great country thru you !
we have included your links to us TQ

Cynthia said...

I heard so much about smoked cheese but never had any.

tigerfish said...

Cute mouse on top of the Mousehouse. What a "cheesy" trip!
I always thought potatoes are to Idaho ?

Kelly Mahoney said...

Yes, it is Idaho, thanks for correcting my mistake!

Nags said...

i know indian ingredients are hard to rem or learn quickly.. i feel that way about the variety of cheese that you guys have :D

daphne said...

oh creamy yet sharp? That's new to me! And smoked chedder cheese spread? That will be waaayyyy better than Kraft I'm sure :p. I can see that on top of nachos! hhehee

Nora B. said...

The cheese curd looks very interesting, not like any curd that I've seen before. Is that a sort of cheese snack? I love smoked cheese.

Jenna Z said...

Mmmm, cheese curds! My husband's from WI so we visit there and we ALWAYS bring back some cheese curds. But sadly, I can never fry them up as tasty as they do up north. Yum! My favorite shop is the Cheese Chalet, which also has a mouse, but he is running up ther sign!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

I've never had cheese curds but having seen a recipe for poutine (?) I really want to get hold of some. We are definitely learning lots from your posts at the moment.

Kelly Mahoney said...

Jenna, we stopped at the Cheese Chalet, but they didn't have any tasting samples and we wanted to know what we were getting. It looked like a cute little place though. I found this Web site that describes home cheese making and the "curd" stage. http://schmidling.com/making.htm

Many restaurants, including Culver's, has deep-fried cheese curds on their menu. Unfortunately, thge curds lose a lot of their characteristic "squeaky" qualities when fried and instead ressemble a fried cheese stick.

Dr ve Thru said...

The colour of the cheese looks like what we call Leicester cheese here, quite orangy in colour.

Cate said...

Great minds are thinking cheese this week. ;) Sounds like a fun place!

Judith said...

What a trip the Wisconsin Dells is! Strange place!