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Agriculture / Food / Wisconsin


The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin
James Norton and Becca Dilley

Meet the Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin!

This book—beautifully photographed and engagingly written—introduces hardworking, resourceful men and women who represent an artisanal craft that has roots in Europe but has been a Wisconsin tradition since the 1850s. Wisconsin produces more than six hundred varieties of cheese, from massive wheels of cheddar and swiss to bricks of brick and limburger to such specialties as crescenza-stracchino and juustoleipa. These masters combine tradition, technology, artistry, and years of dedicated learning—in a profession that depends on fickle, living ingredients—to create the rich tastes and beautiful presentation of their skillfully crafted products.

Certification as a Master Cheesemaker typically takes almost fifteen years. An applicant must hold a cheesemaking license for at least ten years, create one or two chosen varieties of cheese for at least five years, take more than two years of university courses, consent to constant testing of their cheese and evaluation of their plant, and pass grueling oral and written exams to be awarded the prestigious title.

James Norton and Becca Dilley interviewed these dairy artisans, listened to their stories, tasted their cheeses, and explored the plants where they work. They offer here profiles of forty-three active Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin, as well as a glossary of cheesemaking terms, suggestions of operations that welcome visitors for tours, tasting notes and suggested food pairings, and tasty nuggets (shall we say curds?) of information on everything to do with cheese.

"At five in the morning, most Americans are asleep. They are snoozing soundly, tucked into a layer cake of warm sheets and blankets in a climate-controlled bedroom. Work—probably at an office—is still safely three to four hours in the future.

"At five in the morning on any given weekday, Bruce Workman is, quite possibly, wrestling a milk line six inches in diameter, kinking the hose precisely in order to facilitate the flow of liquid within. Seconds later, he's clambering up to the top of the bulk truck, firing a hose into the truck's interior to flush out the last, valuable bits of milk solids still clinging to the tank. And then, with little warning, he has practically jogged back into the humidity of the Edelweiss Creamery to check on a European-made copper vat containing what will soon be some of Green County's finest swiss cheese."—excerpt from The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin

James Norton is a weekly columnist for Chow magazine and editor of, a food magazine for the Upper Midwest. He is also author of Saving General Washington. Becca Dilley has photographed food for numerous publications and works as an independent photojournalist. Their blog is at

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A cheesemaker inspects a vat of cheese in this photo on the cover of Norton and Diley's book.

November 2009

LC: 2009009422 SF
232 pp.   9 1/2 x 9
62 b/w and 52 color photos, 5 maps

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Paper $24.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-23434-8
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ISBN 978-0-299-23433-1
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  Publication of this volume is possible, in part, through support from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Inc. and the dairy farm families of Wisconsin.

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Updated March 5, 2010

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