Cheese Lovers Newsletter (3.28.2021): Last call for Grilled or Be Grilled!
Good afternoon, Cheese Lovers!
Things are heating up for a beautiful week. We’re available for tours at 12:30 p.m. this Friday and Saturday with the store open and our Panini Maker churning out grilled cheese in the store from 12 noon to 2:30 p.m.
No routes this week, just local delivery available for those within an hour of here. However, you can still order for future Twin Cities and Fargo Routes already today.
Curd Fest :
Yes, we pulled the trigger! Reserve your spot at Curd Fest 2021, on June 19.
Tickets are $12 in advance, and will be $15 at the door. Advanced tickets will be turned into gift cards if due to COVID or weather cancellation. We’ve got space for at least 728 people according to Minnesota guidelines when we count only our entertainment space, and more if we counted the entire grounds you can explore. Of course, we’re hoping the virus subsides and restrictions become more lenient by June.
What to expect: Saturday, June 19, 2021 - 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• Two bands
• Food Trucks
• All your favorite cheese foods
• Beverages that taste really good
• Vendors from Minnesota food and craft companies
• In the event of a COVID or weather related closure, the cost of your ticket will be transferred to a gift card. In a time of uncertainty, we don’t want you to have to gamble.
• We hope to soon add a VIP package as well featuring early admission, special one-of-a-kind releases from Redhead Creamery and our vendors, and more to be featured later!
Grill or Be Grilled
Our Grill or Be Grilled box is jam packed with everything you need for six grilled cheese sandwiches. Six!
Can’t wait to grill it up with all of you on April 10th! Preorders accepted until April 4th.
Your local/livestock angle on the Suez Canal
One thing we always want to bring you is the untold story of how agriculture is likely far more part of life around the world than you’d ever realize. Today – the Suez Canal stoppage, which hopefully will be over a few hours after we send this (final Sunday high tide is 11:23 p.m. local time in Egypt, about 6 hours after we send this).
You may or may not have heard that amongst the ships in the backlog are cattle. Cattle are often exported to developing countries looking to add to their herds, or sometimes to developed countries for genetic reasons. But most often, we export only the “genetics” – that is their embryos and semen – to continue crossing good animals and make more and more low-cost and high benefit cattle.
Alas, the story here is that 20 such ships, likely with thousands of animals on each, are in the Suez backup. Now these ships have means to handle any situation for some time with storms and other at-sea catastrophes, and several veterinarians and dozens of staff on board to care for the animals. However, we’re hopeful the stuck ship is freed tonight and the cows can be on their way.
Animal trade can be very tricky as the fear of foreign animal disease, trade disputes and weather can all cause unexpected delays.
Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/26/at-least-20-livestock-ships-caught-in-suez-canal-logjam
Continued Question of the Week: Who started the first Minnesota Creamery?
Answer, part 3: Bringing European style (artisan cheeses) west.
It is not an accident the way things develop. There are reasons that we have a small amount, relatively, of artisan cheeses in America while we import many from Europe. It comes down to economics, and taste.
Think about the people who left Europe and came to what is now North America. Generally speaking they were not uprooting their families and leaving because they had comfortable lives and everything was great. These were people hungry for opportunity, willing to take risks and thus, very likely, not award-winning centuries-old cheesemakers at the time.
The people coming here were scrappy, and of course the Native Americans already living here did not domesticate any animals (Bison likely their only opportunity… and good luck) to be milked on a regular basis in effort to make fermented dairy products. Meanwhile, the Europeans and Asians had access to three smaller milk-making mammals in cows, goats and sheep. Read Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel to learn about how these opportunities helped create the world as we know it today.
So, those native Europeans traveling across North America were taking what they knew – the cheap kitchen version of butter and cheesemaking – and attempting to keep their families fed.
Thus, commodity cheese and butter was the answer. There were few people and product needed to be shipped a long way to use up the excess from the farms. Milk as butter (and livestock as beef) traveled to Minneapolis (South St. Paul for cattle) and onto Chicago by train to be with the people who consumed it.
Being a commodity, and one produced every single day, milk has a very interesting cycle. As a dairy farmer, you’re in it for the long haul. So if prices are low, the best thing you can do is make as much milk as possible to hang on. This creates lower prices. If prices are high, the best thing you can do is make as much milk as possible to take advantage. This creates lower prices. As you can see, the every-few-years milk price crashes you hear about our bound to happen (although with better risk management tools in the past five years, dairy farmers now have more protection than ever in forms of insurance, finally).
Alas, in the 1970s the University of Minnesota noticed that we didn’t have much of a farmstead cheese industry in the region and especially in the state. So they developed what is known as the University of Minnesota Farm House European Style Cheese Pilot.
We weren’t able to track down the original documents in short fashion as we hoped, but here’s what we know:
In 1976 the University of Minnesota contracted 6 dairy farms (likely all fewer than 50 cows at the time) to be part of this pilot project. The farms were able to learn cheesemaking in places like Europe, and had their buildings and other benefits financed by the U through the project.
One of those farms was just northwest of where Redhead Creamery is today. The plant never launched, but our mechanic now uses the shell of that building has his auto repair business.
Two plants, to our knowledge, continued on – one of which, Eichten’s Artisan Cheese and Specialty Foods, is still making today in Center City, MN. You can find their products on our site along with other cheeses from the region, here: https://bit.ly/2P5dFtn Another plant, from Lake City, made cheese under contract for our knowledge. They went out of the cheese business in the early 2000s. We don’t know anything about the rest of the plants, or at least thought we didn’t, but we did find in a last ditch effort last night that Smith’s Country Cheese of Massachusetts appears to also have been part of the project. We also visited this farm several times on our way to Boston when Lucas and Alise lived in Brattleboro, Vt.
The Eichten’s (and likely others due to the 2 or 3 out of 6 success rate) found it very difficult to develop a market quickly due to the taste (or lack thereof!) preferences of Midwestern mouths. They all needed to work hard to keep rolling. The Eichtens sent their 10 children into area grocery stores to try to get the word out about their Gouda cheese.
In conclusion – if the question was “Who is the first artisan cheesemaker in Minnesota?” We’d have to answer our friends at Eichten’s. Building on their success, they gave us a personal tour and some sound advice back in 2011, years before we opened our own operation.
However, we'd be skipping the famous Treasure Caves and Caves of Faribault, which began in 1965. They are in their own category making blue cheese... more on that in the next couple weeks. You can learn more about Caves of Faribault with their cheesemonger Erin Clancy and our own Alise this Good Friday via Facebook Live and Zoom at 3 p.m. watch their Facebook page for more -https://www.facebook.com/CavesOfFaribault
First: Azro P. McKinstry – Minnesota’s first creameryman
Previous: Land O'Lakes set the standard
This: The UMN Gouda Project of the 1970s
Fourth: Minnesota Artisan Cheese: a new renaissance
Fifth: How Minnesota made America’s blues!
If you’ve got the full story on this process, corrections to our story or know any of the other locations – we would love to know! We’re going to try to track down the full project findings through the U, without bothering any of the continuing farmers. We are hoping to compile Minnesota cheese history as we’ve been sharing into a little blog.
Lucas, Linda, Jerry and Alise