KIEL, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Decades ago several cheese plants across Wisconsin and the nation were routinely making huge blocks of cheese. In this segment of Wisconsin Dairy News we'll see how Henning's Cheese in Kiel is keeping that tradition going.
Henning's Cheese in Kiel has the singular distinction of being the only cheese plant in the nation that continues to make mammoth cheese wheels.
Kerry Henning, Master Cheesemaker at Henning's Cheese says, "It's just something we've been doing for the last 30 years, and I don't think a whole lot about it, but it sure is fun to have people in our coolers here looking at these big wheels of cheese."
But looking at them is one thing, making them is quite another. Dufeck Wood Products in Denmark, Wisconsin has been making the forms for the big wheels for decades.
Paul Dufeck, President of Dufeck Wood Products says, "You've got to make sure you've got the right size, you've got to check to make sure the coolers are big enough to get them in. Usually the cheesemaker takes care of all that, and he sends us the specifications if he wants it wider or taller. Now this particular box is a 4,000 pound box and they wanted it tall."
Because the forms have to be food safe, they're made without glue using wood that will not taint the cheese.
Paul: "It's like making a barrel and you know you've got to make sure that everything stays together, make sure your bands are good, because they press a lot of pressure on this box."
It takes a brigade of cheesemakers to fill the mammoth form, using a whole vat of cheese to make the impressive wheel.
Paul: "The cheese that we just got done making is about 44 inches in diameter and it's approximately six feet high and it should weigh about 4,000 pounds when it's finished."
Most of the mammoths Henning's makes are shipped throughout the United States to be showcased at special events and grocery stores where customers flock to get a view and a sample.
Kerry: "When it's in the store, it's just dynamic. It's an impressive view; it brings in a lot of customers into the store!"
And that's Wisconsin Dairy News.
Mammoth cheeses start out at a weight of 75 pounds and can be as large at 12,000 pounds, but Henning's won't sell to a store unless they have been trained how to cut, wrap and merchandise a wheel of mammoth proportions.
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