Stanley (WQOW) – The cheese inside a deep-fried curd can make or break your favorite Wisconsin appetizer. So, News 18 clocked in with a cheesemaker to see why his cheddar became the cheese of choice for a successful Culver’s curd.
“My grandpa purchased the plant in 1960 and my dad took over, now my brother and I are taking over,” said Ryan LaGrander. “So, we’ve been around this my whole life.”
About 65% of LaGrander Hillside Dairy’s creations come in the form of curds.
“They are squeaky, they are salty and they are addicting,” said LaGrander.
Culver’s agrees. The fast food chain features the LaGrander curds on their deep-fried menu.
“They are awesome about supporting Wisconsin, the Wisconsin dairy industry,” said LaGrander. “We’ve worked with them for over 15 years. They are a great customer of ours.”
So what makes these cheese curds tick? Or rather, squeak? LaGrander said you don’t have to go too far to find out.
“All of our milk is sourced locally,” said LaGrander. “We take a lot of pride in that as well. Being able to support the local farmers, finding the markets for the cheese, so that we can continue to buy the milk.”
The plan processes around 1 million pounds of milk per day. LaGrander said the plant receives milk from 140 people within a 50-mile radius.
“So, the farmers should take a lot of pride in the fact that they are supplying us with a quality product, so we can make a quality product at the end of the day,” said LaGrander.
Once the milk is received and tested for quality, the milk is pasteurized for the cheesemaking process. Then, that milk is pumped into large vats and combined with certain cultures to create a mixture of whey and cheese.
“We have a drain belt, that’s where the cheese and whey are separated,” said LaGrander. “The whey is drained off the cheese. The cheese is matted, put on the belt, slabbed, and then we mill it into cheese curds, where it’s actually blown onto the tables.”
Once the cheese is in curd form, they’re rinsed and salted. Then, they are frozen, packaged and ready for transport.
“Wisconsin is the Dairy State,” said LaGrander. “Cheesemaking is very important to us, our family and the state in general. So, we take a lot of pride in the fact that we are able to be a part of the dairy industry in Wisconsin.”
They are doing their part, producing nearly 100,000 pounds of cheese per day.
For more information on what products LaGrander’s Hillside Dairy has to offer, check out their website.