- Sid Cook and his family have been making cheese for ages and deserve respect for their years of dedication.
- You should always try a cheese first. Of course I want you to try the cheeses I love they're frickin' awesome! but you should be sure to try the cheeses I might not like as well.
- If I haven't stated it before, this blog is purely written based on my opinions. In no way do I represent every cheesemonger, cheesemaker or cheese enthusiast. I have not been in the cheese world for very long, I have a lot of opinions and I have a big mouth.
I'm going to grab a glass of water and get started.
The short answer to the question is no. No, I don't think that Carr Valley Cheese Co. is an artisan producer. Why? Well, it's their products*. Look at the website and see if you can find the several things that make me sad. Or instead of exploring the site you can cheat and look here**. I found this gem while in the section "aged or selected by owner Sid Cook". That means that Sid Cook himself, a Master Cheesemaker has himself selected and makes a processed cheese and cocoa product. That is not an artisan product, nor is it made by an artisan producer. What it is is an abomination. It makes me sad, and looking at it literally turns my stomach.
I know what you're thinking, if Sid Cook is a master cheesemaker, how could he do something so clearly against the standards and principals or artisan products? My answer to you is I don't know. I do know that to me, being a master cheesemaker doesn't mean that much and part of the reason is because of this product. In addition, being a master cheesemaker does NOT mean you're an artisan cheesemaker.
"Today, fourth-generation owner Sid Cook is one of a small handful of certified Master Cheesemakers in the United States. It's a distinction awarded only to veteran Wisconsin craftsmen who complete a rigorous 15-year advanced training and education program."
I do not understand how not living in Wisconsin means you can't be a Certified Master Cheesemaker. It appears to be an award created for the promotion of Wisconsin cheese, by the interested Wisconsin parties, and has very little to do with cheesemakers themselves.***
The culinary world has a designation for chefs called "Certified Master Chef". Anyone in the country is able to take this test, and if they pass they can go back to work with a CMC embroidered on their chef coat. It bothers me that Wisconsin promotes it's cheesemakers with an assignation that no one outside of the state can get or govern. Tricksy.
Back to the subject at hand. Is Carr Valley Cheese Co. an artisan producer? No. Calling a few products artisan in your line of over 70 different cheese does not make you an artisan producer. Making a rolled log of processed American cheese with cocoa and calling it chocolate cheese does not help your cause.
There are a few cheeses**** from Carr Valley that I enjoy, but artisan? No. No. No. NO! That being said, you do not have to be an artisan cheesemaker to make good cheese. There are plenty of commodity/industrial/specialty cheeses that make for a good snacking/cooking/baking experience. I will do my best to start showcasing some of them in the future.
*I really do enjoy the Billy Blue from Carr Valley Cheese Co. There's something about goaty blue sharpness that makes me happy on three levels.
**For a delicious chocolate cheese, look to Indiana. Judy makes a bourbon chocolate torta that I find to be a bit too strong when eaten alone, but is phenomenal in baked goods. I also have a recipe for a cheesecake I made with it.
***One of the sidebars on my blog has a small list of some of the cheesemakers that I love. I have over 50 names on that list. The majority of them will never be Certified Master Cheesemakers, not based on a lack of experience, but because they don't live in Wisconsin.
****I don't want to be snarky, but I have to tell you a little story. This summer at the ACS festival of cheese I was walking around talking into my little recorder to give myself reminders of what I'd tasted. I saw one of CVCCo.'s cheeses sitting there. It was called Sweet Vanilla Cardona. The memo I left myself goes as follows "Sweet Vanilla Cardona from CVCCo. Tastes like it was brined in table sugar and has an addition of artificial vanilla flavoring. Never put this in your mouth again". Even with that being said, I still try every cheese I come across and will probably try that one again. Every wheel is different, maybe the cheesemaker changed the recipe, or my tastes have changed. As a child I hated "stinky cheese" but look at me now!