Monday, May 20, 2024

Interview With Wisconsin Cheesemaker Pam Hodgson of Sartori Cheese

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We have teamed up with Wisconsin Cheese for an interview mini-series known as Meet the Cheesemakers, that includes a sampling of the state’s most interesting makers and their award-winning creations.


I’ve been surrounded by ladies with a knack for cooking for so long as I can keep in mind. My mother is a chef and caterer, and whereas her mom wasn’t precisely a gourmand (she beloved a canned vegetable second), Granbobbie made some actually wonderful dishes in her time, together with her well-known potato salad. On my dad’s facet, I’ve an aunt who’s been answerable for the Thanksgiving candy potatoes since earlier than I used to be born—to be clear, they’re about 50 % candy potato, and the remainder of the recipe is basically butter and sugar. I’m advised my dad’s mother, my Bestemama, may make a imply batch of lefse that she served with butter and jam. These ladies formed me and my sister, and right now we stock on their love for cooking in our personal houses.

Cheesemaker Pam Hodgson of Sartori Cheese additionally grew up surrounded by ladies with a ardour for meals. As a third-generation cheesemaker, her mother and father and grandparents influenced the best way she considered dairy from an early age. Many of the produce the household ate was grown by her mother, in two giant gardens on their farm. With out the matriarchs in her household, it’s doable that this Grasp Cheesemaker may’ve ended up in one other line of labor fully—and the identical could possibly be stated for me. I sat down with Pam to talk about Wisconsin’s cheesemaking neighborhood, Sartori’s unimaginable lineup of cheeses, and the significance of mentorship within the dairy trade.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

MADISON TRAPKIN: Are you able to inform me who you’re, what you do, and the place you’re employed?

PAM HODGSON: I’m Pam Hodgson, and I am a Grasp Cheesemaker at Sartori Cheese in Plymouth, Wisconsin.

MT: What does it imply to be a Wisconsin Cheesemaker?

PH: Right here in Wisconsin, we take dairy very critically—our license plates learn “America’s Dairyland.” As a Wisconsin cheesemaker, I’m each the beneficiary and the service of that custom, and I attempt to at all times carry out the Wisconsin goodness in each pound of cheese that we make. [Dairy is] our largest agricultural pursuit, and we’ve got nice trade assist. Our farms have the perfect giant animal veterinarians. They’ve soil scientists, they’ve nutritionists. The Middle for Dairy Analysis in Madison, Wisc. has nice assist to assist [the farmers] produce the very best high quality milk, and we’ve got nice assist as a way to make the very best high quality cheese. For me, as a cheesemaker, I really feel extremely lucky. After I go to conferences like [the American Cheese Society conference] I get to speak with a variety of actually gifted cheesemakers, however none of them have the assist that we’ve got right here in Wisconsin.

Picture by Sartori Cheese

MT: Did you at all times know that cheese could be your path?

PH: I actually didn’t plan on turning into a cheesemaker, however I really feel very lucky that this path discovered me. After I was rising up, my first profession purpose was to be a dairy farmer like my mother and father. Years later, when my husband and I have been newbie farmers and wanted a bit extra revenue to gasoline the dream, there was a gap at an area cheese plant. I utilized for a high quality assurance place as a result of it was good, trustworthy work. On paper, I won’t have been essentially the most certified candidate, however I used to be provided the job as a result of I believed that the plant supervisor noticed one thing in me. I feel he was proper as a result of as soon as I bought into the plant and bought working there, I simply thrived. I beloved the method. I beloved the individuals. I beloved how there was at all times one thing occurring that may problem me both bodily or intellectually. Cheesemaking actually engages your complete self as a result of, as cheesemakers, we let the milk and the cheese inform us when it is time to go to the following step. It’s a neat course of, and I fell in love with it.

MT: There are solely two feminine Grasp Cheesemakers on the earth and also you’re one among them—what’s that like?

PH: After I began within the dairy trade in 1991, it was very male dominated. I really interviewed [for my cheese plant job] whereas I used to be pregnant with our first baby. My mother was actually supportive, and I could not have achieved it within the early days with out her. I’d have issues within the plant the place I wanted to remain, and I’d name her and ask her if she may decide up the youngsters, and he or she did. There have been occasions once I wanted to work at night time as a result of I knew one thing wasn’t proper [with the cheese], so the youngsters slept over at Grandma’s. I actually couldn’t have achieved it with out her.

I’m optimistic that the quantity [of female Master Cheesemakers] will quickly develop. I’m basing that on [the fact that] proper now in Wisconsin, there are numerous ladies who’re making excellent cheeses, together with Erin Radtke right here at Sartori. She’ll be eligible to use beginning January 1. She’s an excellent cheesemaker, and I’m excited and searching ahead to the day the place she turns into an authorized grasp.

Picture by Sartori Cheese

MT: I’ve heard that mentorship is a giant a part of the Grasp Cheesemaker program, and it looks like it’s essential to Sartori as effectively. Who’ve your mentors been within the dairy trade?

PH: Yeah. When an individual turns into licensed, they’ve a chance to call their mentors. In 2013, when that chance got here up for me, I actually struggled as a result of arising within the cheese trade, I realized from [a lot of] actually nice individuals, names that everyone within the trade is aware of. However I additionally realized simply as a lot—or extra—from women and men who quietly did their job to the perfect of their means. On the finish of the day, I selected my mother and father, Henry and the late Marilyn Umstead, as my mentors as a result of they taught me to at all times continue learning and to at all times recognize everybody, particularly those that society would possibly look previous.

When it comes to mentoring [at Sartori], I feel it’s essential to do not forget that it’s a two-way [street]. I do know I be taught a complete lot [from the people I mentor], and I hope they be taught one thing, too. I’ve labored very, very arduous within the final 30 years to actually construct my data base, and to do [mentorship] proper, I have to move on that data as a result of that’s a part of the Wisconsin cheesemaker custom. If I do that proper by educating individuals what I do know, then [eventually] they’re going to know greater than I do as a result of they’re going to have their experiences and what they’ve found out on their very own, too. So it’s very humbling, however it’s the way it ought to be achieved.

MT: What makes Sartori cheeses so uniquely Wisconsin?

PH: My hope is that when somebody tries a Sartori cheese, they’ll style Wisconsin and the care that our household farms have put [into it]—not solely by taking good care of their animals, but additionally by taking good care of the land that grew the crops that fed the animals that they milked. We’re very dedicated to creating Wisconsin Originals [here]. Cheesemaking is historical, [going] again 1000’s and 1000’s of years. At Sartori, we’re cheesemakers first. We wish to create new originals that can wow and delight our patrons, [like] our Merlot BellaVitano. We soak that in vats of Merlot wine, then when the cheeses have been in there lengthy sufficient, we pull the wheel out, let it dry in a rack, and when it’s prepared, we bundle it. That cheese has fruity Merlot notes that complement the BellaVitano cheese itself, which is savory with plenty of cooked dairy notes. It’s actually an exquisite cheese.

After I began within the Wisconsin dairy trade within the ‘90s, it appeared so huge, like [there were] all these individuals, and I didn’t know anyone. However then as I bought moving into it, I [realized] that it truly is an in depth neighborhood. We work arduous, however we play more durable. It’s a neat tradition.



What’s your favourite sort of Sartori Cheese? Inform us within the feedback beneath!

Our associates at Wisconsin Cheese are dedicated to showcasing all of the wonderful cheeses the state has to supply—and there is a variety of them. Wisconsin has extra flavors, varieties, and types of cheese than anyplace else on the earth. From Italian classics like Parmesan and ricotta to Wisconsin Originals like colby and muenster, this cheese-obsessed state has a bit one thing for everybody. Discover out extra about Wisconsin Cheese by visiting their web site.

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