About Edelweiss Creamery
For a small cheese factory, Bruce Workman's Edelweiss Creamery has accomplished something remarkable; he has reintroduced to Wisconsin's Green County the lost art of classic big-wheel Swiss Emmentaler production. This cheese plant has been in the same location since 1873. "There use to be over 200 little cheese plants in this county, all producing authentic copper-kettle Swiss," Workman says. "Over the years, as cheesemaking became industrialized and companies worked to reduce their labor costs, it was abandoned. I set out to bring it back."
Edelweiss Creamery currently has a staff of ten, including four Wisconsin Licensed Cheesemakers. This includes Bruce who is a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker. The small artisan cheese factory also produces Havarti, Butterkäse, Muenster, Gouda, Lacy Swiss, and of course Emmentaler, the star attraction. The Emmentaler Wheels average 180 pounds each.
This mighty little plant started as a dream. But dreams don't just happen, they're made. "In between the time we bought the facility and made our first vat of cheese, we replaced all the floors, the drains, the electric and plumbing, steam lines, every piece of equipment - everything," Workman says. "We had to put a silo vestibule area so we could store milk and whey. And because my primary goal is to make this wonderful old world Emmentaler, I imported an entire Swiss cheese plant, including a traditional copper-lined kettle from Switzerland."
The copper, says Workman, is critical for producing real Swiss cheese. "As the milk and curds are stirred in the vat, the copper causes a reaction that ultimately results in the desired rich, nutty flavor of the cheese." Once the curds are pressed and removed from the giant round forms, Workman and his staff hand-wash them and turn them twice each week with a salt water solution for two months. During this time, the rind develops and the characteristic interior eyes begin to form.
"The eyes on traditional copper-kettle Emmentaler are big," Workman says. "They should be about the size of a quarter. What most people know today about Swiss cheese has eyes only about the size of a nickel."
Workman only sources milk from five farms. "As such, I know how the animals are cared for, what they eat, and that all of my milk is rBGH-free. I'm confident that it's the highest quality I can get, and, as such, my Emmentaler is made with raw milk and that's another important factor in it's ultimate flavor and quality. After all, any great cheese has to start with great milk," Workman says.
The Emmentaler equipment was purchased from Switzerland. This included a copper vat, made in 1988, which has the capacity to hold enough milk to produce four Emmentaler Wheels at one time.
The press is quite unique. It was made in 1999. It removes the time involved in returning back to the plant during all hours of the day to turn the cheese. We have the ability to make any changes required during the pressing of the Emmentaler.
Edelweiss Creamery is a state-of-the-art little cheese factory. We have incorporated advanced technologies which enables us to focus on the cheese production. (Computer controlled pasteurization, separation and CIP systems). The majority of the manufacturing equipment was purchased from local cheese factories. As the other factories have grown, the equipment was too small. This helped in reducing the overhead at start-up. "We have two 12,000 lbs. open vats and one 15,000 lbs. open vat along with the copper kettle. With this type of equipment we are able to manufacture small amounts of cheese to meet our customers' needs," Workman says.
In 2006 Workman partnered with three farm families to form a new cooperative, Edelweiss Graziers Cooperative. The co-op and Bruce will combine their talents to craft specialty grass based cheeses from the milk of their rotationally grazed dairy herds. Two additional silos were added to accommodate the extra milk. New cheese forms have been imported from Holland and new presses have been added. "The future is looking brighter everyday." Workman exclaims, "I am excited for the opportunity to expand my skills as a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker."