Making Cheddar Cheese

By Doug Strand. Submitted by Connie Schield, Stone Lake Area Historical Society.

I started working at the Stone Lake Dairy in 1953. I was working as an apprentice to learn cheese making. I worked for two years, then took my test and passed. I was twenty-four years old. We made American Cheddar cheese. Every Thursday Wesley Neu, the owner, would take a load of cheese to a warehouse in Boyd, Wisconsin and take the sweet cream to Grassland Dairy.

We had two milk routes: I had one that went from Stone Lake to Earl. The other went to the Hayward area. The local farmers would bring their own milk into the factory. After all the milk was delivered, it was made into cheese.

Wesley would take care of the local farmers who brought their milk in and he would also get the vats ready to make cheese. The other route man would help me in the factory. I worked with 37 men in nine years.

HOW TO MAKE CHEDDAR CHEESE

First, 100 lbs. of milk makes 10 lbs. of cheese. The vats held 10,000 lbs. of milk, but we never put that much in them.  We put about 9,000 lbs. in, so that the agitators wouldn’t spill the milk.

There is a starter or culture which was put into the vat as soon as possible. It tasted and looked like buttermilk. 9,000 lbs. of milk makes about 10 gallons of starter. The starter is the most important thing to a cheese maker. We always made two ten gallon cans a day. One quart of the starter was put into the refrigerator and was called the “mother starter.” We took special care of it because without the starter, you don’t make cheese.

Checks have to be made on the level of acidity and when it is right, you add a chemical called rennet. This was mixed 16 oz. to 12 qts. of water and then added to the milk. At this point the mixture was stirred and the paddles removed. After about 20 minutes, the milk is like custard. I would now cut the custard with the wire knives and turn the steam on. Put the paddles back in and heat to the right temperature. The curd, the 14 inch squares would be firming up.  When right, drain the whey off the curd. All that is left in the vat is the cheese. The cheese was matted by piling it up to work the air and whey out. When right, mill into curd, add salt, and put in the press overnight. We did make Mozzarella cheese for a little while, but it was too time-consuming.

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