June is Dairy Month! To celebrate the occasion, we are featuring Carr Valley Cheese, as they are a leader in the world of American artisan cheese and are one of our beloved local cheese makers.
Carr Valley Cheese is owned and operated by Sid Cook. Sid is a fourth generation Master Cheesemaker who has been a licensed cheesemaker since he was 16 years old. The Cook family has been making cheese since 1883. Sid grew up in Plain, WI, with a cheese factory attached to the house he grew up in – this was called the Irish Valley Factory. Sid is the youngest of four siblings, all of whom grew up making cheese as well. Sid is Master certified in Fontina, Cheddar, Mobay, and Gran Canaria.
Carr Valley is also home to another Master Cheesemaker, Bob Koenig. Bob has been working for Carr Valley Cheese since he was 14 years old. Bob at one time held the title as the world’s youngest Master Cheesemaker. He is Master certified in Fontina and Gouda. He is also a licensed buttermaker.
Carr Valley Cheese beginnings
Sid purchased the original Carr Valley Cheese factory in 1986, located in
La Valle, WI. This plant started in 1902 and is now known for its artisanal cheddars still being made the old-fashioned way. As Carr Valley grew, he expanded by purchasing plants in Mauston, Portage, Fennimore, and Linden, WI. Carr Valley now employs nearly 150 people company-wide.
Carr Valley Cheese varieties
Carr Valley is known for producing high-quality traditional varieties of cheese such as Cheddar, Gouda, and Fontina, along with many of Sid’s creations. Carr Valley produces over 100 different varieties of cheese including cow, goat, sheep and mixed-milk products, along with four varieties of butter – keeping our cheesemakers very busy all year round!
Sid Cook was the first American Cheesemaker to produce a mixed-milk cheese, containing cow, sheep, and goat milk. His first attempt at it was called “Sid’s Dairy World,” a Colby style cheese. Carr Valley no longer makes that product, but VFC customers may be familiar with Menage – our best-selling mixed milk cheese (you should try this!).
Supporting Carr Valley Cheese means supporting local farmers
Sid Cook puts a strong emphasis on supporting the small local farmer. Carr Valley Cheese picks up cow milk from 30 dairy farms local to the La Valle, WI area. Carr Valley purchases milk at a premium price to ensure that these small farms stay in business. They also purchase goat milk from a goat farm within one mile of the La Valle plant and sheep milk from a local co-op in northern Wisconsin.
From rural to international
The company has grown from one small plant in rural Wisconsin to having a world-wide presence. Sid has grown Carr Valley Cheese to become the most award-winning cheese company in the world, with over 850 national and international awards!
The best part
Bob says, “Cheesemaking is the perfect marriage of art and science. It’s positively amazing how complex and diverse cheese can be using only four simple, wholesome ingredients. Milk, cultures, rennet, salt. That’s it!”
“Uniquely Carr Valley”
Carr Valley continues to work hard to keep the tradition of cheesemaking an important part of Wisconsin heritage. Sid may continue to release new, creative products but will always find it important to produce the highest quality traditional varieties as well.
Top three favorite cheeses & favorite pairings
The Carr Valley team has a hard time choosing just a few favorite products!
One of Sid’s favorite pairings is a slice of 6 Year Cheddar on a piece of warm apple pie.
The Carr Valley Team love the Penta Crème Blue with honey or a chocolate stout.
They also think a perfect Wisconsin pairing is Apple Smoked Cheddar with a Brandy Old-Fashioned Sweet.