on October 30, 2012
Roth Käse USA, Ltd. was founded here in Monroe, Wisconsin in 1991. Their tradition of Swiss cheese making, however can be traced back to 1863 in Switzerland. With Green County known as "Little Switzerland" with its dairies and rich farmland, it was a natural location to bring their cheese production to America. While their production facility has been modernized, they remain true to the traditional European cheese making process with still involves a lot of manual effort from employees.When you arrive at their facility, you will enter through the Alp & Dell Cheese Store which is a nice storefront that offers for sale their cheeses as well as all of the accompaniments you'd want, including meats, wines and condiments. With many refrigerated cases of cheeses, it is hard to decide what to buy. For those like me who are not cheese connoisseurs, they do have a nice cheese sampling area to help you make your choice.Making cheese requires A LOT of fresh, rich milk. The cows in Green County are known to produce some of the best milk, high in the fat content necessary to make great cheese. With a daily production of around 35,000 pounds, It takes 350,000 pounds of milk every day to keep up with the cheese production here at Roth Case. They receive deliveries from farms from a 60 miles radius 24/7 and within 48 hours, the milk received here has been turned into cheese. Considering that it takes 10 pounds of milk to make just a single pound of cheese, you can see why they need as much milk as they do.The production area is in two large buildings, that are connected by a walkway and easily accessible to visitors. Inside each building are viewing areas, with large windows overlooking the manufacturing floor. The first building is there the milk is heated and the curds & whey are separated.. With the cheese curd placed into forming trays, visitors can watch as the crew begins creating what is starting to actually look like cheese.On the day of my visit, they were making Lazy Swiss cheese. They were filling the form trays, and then flipping them over in order to compress the curds into the long rectangular shaped cheese. Later in the process, we could observe them preparing the cheese for the brine tanks, see cheese stacked on racks as the wheels aged and the later, the packaging process.I was impressed by how much of the production was performed by hand. Throughout the viewing areas, I saw in total around 10 employees. For those wanting a bit more information that what can be gleaned from the observation windows plus a couple of video monitors along the way, be sure to plan your visit to arrive before 9:30am when a guided tour is available along the viewing hall. If that is not possible, try to arrive before 1:00pm as they indicate that the height of cheese production happens earlier in the day.For a nice explanation of the cheesemaking process, they provide this detail (with photos) on their website: http://www.rothcheese.com/explore/cheesemaking/ .I really enjoyed watching the production of cheese, as well as the commentary provided by Swiss native Tony Zgraggen, who manages the retail operation. I learned a lot of how cheese is made today, which was a good primer for my subsequent visit to the National Historic Cheesemaking Center later in the day.
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