Wisconsin – Day 2 – The Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheeses
May 1, 2009
After lunch, we had a three hour bus ride (and got lost again despite that GPS…) and ended our factory tours at the Crave Brothers in Waterloo.
The Crave Brothers transitioned from a dairy farm to a Farmstead Cheese company in 2001. The dairy farm in on one side of the road and the cheese facilities are on the other side of the road. After milking the cheese is piped under the road, 320 feet, and into the vats where the cheesemaking process begins.
George Crave, the licensed cheesemaker of the family greeted us when we arrived. It was late afternoon and cheese making was finished. The cheese rooms were being cleaned and again as immaculate as you could want. In the wrapping room, a few employees were finishing the mozzarella vac packs of the day. Today they made about 7500 pounds of cheese from 95,000 pounds of milk from the farm exactly 320 feet away and across the road. The herd has grown and they are now milking about 950 Holstein cows with plans to increase milking to 1000 cows with another 200 in “dry dock”…cows that are near giving birth and are not producing milk.
We learned all about AI…where Spaulding Gray comes from that means Artificial Intelligence…in Wisconsin it means Artificial Insemination…or as George likes to call it “Bull in a bottle”.
After learning that cows no longer enjoy one of the finer activities in life, we were taken to the basement where the George’s niece had prepared a wonderful spread of cheeses they sell. The cheese plate included Les Freres which means “The Brothers” in French and Petite Frere which means “Little Brother”. These are their washed-rind signature cheeses. We also tasted the Fresh Mozzarella and the Rope Mozzarella.
We sampled the Mascarpone which was served with berries. This is the best Mascarpone I have ever tasted. The niece had also taken the Mascarpone and made a Mascarpone pie with dark chocolate and hazelnut Kahlua…it was to die for…
The brothers treated us to a video telling the history of the farm and how they grew from just being dairy farmers to being award-winning cheesemakers in just 5 years. NBC has even featured them on their Evening News with Brian Williams.
After the appetizers and the video, we traveled across the road to the dairy farm and tasted the fresh, raw milk. I love almost everything made with milk but as soon as I tasted the raw milk I remembered, she don’t like drinking milk and even though the claim is that once you taste raw milk, you’ll never go back…nope, I’ll be staying away from the liquid moo juice.
We rode (on the motor coach) through one of the barns where the cows live and were allowed to visit with some of the newborn calves.
Charlie Crave, another of the brothers, and I had a conversation about turning the sh*t into shinola…it’s quite impressive. Pretty much they use everything and nothing is wasted from the waste. The solid stuff leftover even becomes bedding for the cows and is cleaner and softer than the ground. They sell the electricity they don’t use to the power company which uploads it to the grid and sells it to its customers. Neither the Crave brothers nor the customers are getting a break from the power company…what a surprise…but it’s a start…and they are running a carbon negative factory. The only down side I see is with that AI concept they seem to have embraced…cows just want to have fun…
After that we traveled to New Glarus for the night and a dinner hosted by Roth Kase. New glarus is called “The Little Switzerland of America”. However, it was dark when we arrived and dark when we departed so I can not swear that the moniker is true. However, I did see a lot of businesses that used the word “haus” in their names…
Up next, Day Three – Roth Kase and Cheesemaking 101