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Wisconsin cheese factory celebrates 100 years

  • Article by: SARAH KLOEPPING
  • Associated Press
  • July 7, 2014 - 12:05 AM

KIEL, Wis. — Kerry Henning knows it's cheesy, but he says the reason his family has been in business for 100 years is their focus on quality.

Henning's Wisconsin Cheese in Kiel was established in 1914 and now is operated by the family's third and fourth generations.

"There's definitely a lot of passion that goes into it, because your name is going on a lot of this cheese," said Henning, master cheesemaker and president of Henning's. "There is a lot of pride."

The factory began by making 500 to 1,000 pounds of cheese a day, and today Henning's produces about 16,000 pounds daily with help from 30 to 40 employees and larger equipment.

"The equipment has changed only in that we can process more cheese at a given time," Henning told HTR Media (http://htrne.ws/1vo7IRn). "It still takes us just as long to make a pound of cheese today as it did my grandpa. You can't rush cheese making."

And the Hennings' concentration has never been on growth.

"We always focus on tradition and quality of cheese," Henning said. "We like to say, 'we stayed backwards so long, we're in vogue again.'"

Henning's makes four types of cheeses: cheddar, colby, Monterey Jack and mozzarella. Sizes of cheese can range from 13-ounce blocks to wheels weighing as much as 12,000 pounds.

"We're the last company in the country that really makes those wheels that are 300 pounds and bigger," Henning said of the cheeses that are sold nationwide. "And that makes us a little bit unique in that way."

But one notable change within the last decade was the addition of dozens of cheese flavors ranging from blueberry cobbler and mango fire, to garlic and dill, and hatch pepper.

"Just like we see a lot of different flavors in wine . we've experienced the same thing in the cheese business, where consumers are wanting to try different things," Henning said. "Right now it's the flavors that are really driving our business. Most of our flavors come from ideas and inspirations from other people."

Henning says that as a cheesemaker, you have to expect ups and downs throughout the years. So what makes it all worth it?

"When someone says 'Wow, that's some really good cheese,'" he said.

An AP Member Exchange Feature shared by HTR Media

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