Scott Erickson continues to master cheeseIf just talking to Scott Erickson about making cheese doesn’t convince you that he’s a master at the craft, just look at his wall of trophies, medals, plaques and certificates.
By: Gretta Stark, New Richmond News
If just talking to Scott Erickson about making cheese doesn’t convince you that he’s a master at the craft, just look at his wall of trophies, medals, plaques and certificates.
Erickson, who owns Bass Lake Cheese Factory in Somerset with his wife Julie, has added juustoleipa to the cheeses for which he’s certified as a Master.
Erickson previously graduated from the Wisconsin program in 1998, 2001 and 2004 and holds Master’s certification for cheddar, colby, monterey jack, muenster and chevre, in addition to juustoleipa. Erickson is the first cheese maker to attain master’s certification in this variety.
“Basically it’s an un-ripened baked cheese, so it has a high PH and all the sugars are still in the milk. It’s a sweet cheese and it also has a very squeaky texture,” Erickson explained.
He said it’s a great cheese for frying or deep frying, since it won’t melt and dissipate, adding that it’s a great cheese to bake inside a croissant after cinnamon and sugar are added.
The Bass Lake Cheese Factory sells a regular juustoleipa and a juustoleipa with jalapeño peppers.
“The hotness of the jalapeño and the sweetness of the cheese really make an awesome product. You can make a sandwich with it, you can put it on your hamburger, or you can just eat it as a snacking cheese. There are a lot of things you can do with it,” Erickson said about his juustoleipa varieties.
Erickson says making cheese is a way he can express himself.
“It’s an art,” he said.
Erickson has been in the cheese-making industry since 1984 and he purchased the cheese factory in 1991.
“Once Julie and I bought the plant, we wholeheartedly went into specialty cheeses. We went back to the old style of making cheeses instead of the highly automated systems that are present now,” he said.
It takes years to earn the title of master of a particular cheese.
“You go through the process of becoming certified as a master cheesemaker in particular cheeses. You can only do two cheeses at a time and you have to have been making that cheese for about 10 years. There are criteria you go through. Judges will come up here and get samples of product and they test it analytically and also for taste,” Erickson explained.
After passing the judge’s tests, written and oral tests and plant inspections must be completed before certification is granted.
Erickson says the Master program is a way to show people that the state is very serious about the dairy industry.
“We’re basically here to provide good, high-quality products. We’re not just all about mass production and how many pounds of cheese we can make. It’s more about the quality of the product,” he said.
Erickson says he’s very proud of the juustoleipa he produces.
Erickson said he created traditional juustoleipa.
“There are a number of people now that are starting to make the juustoleipa, but they’re not making it quite the same. I wanted to try to preserve the traditional way of making the juustoleipa. I figured one way to try to seal that in stone is by being the first to Master in it ... so now they’ll have to follow my footsteps,” he said with a laugh.
Erickson said he might try to master gouda cheese next.
The Bass Lake Cheese Factory offers about 20 different types of cheese on a regular basis, but Erickson has made between 60 and 65 cheeses in his career.
“I’m always trying to develop new things; which you have to do when you’re a small company. You can’t make commodity-style cheeses and compete with the big guys. It’s literally impossible,” Erickson said. “We try to be specialty and we try to be different from everybody else.”
In addition to selling cheese, the Bass Lake Cheese Factory has a liquor license and a full-service kitchen.
For more information about juustoleipa, how to prepare it or how to buy it, call 715-247-5586, go to www.blcheese.com/ or visit the store at 598 Valley View Trail, Somerset.
The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program is the most formalized, advanced training program in the nation. Patterned after European programs, it is administered by the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research and funded by Wisconsin dairy producers, through WMMB. Applicants to the program must be active, licensed Wisconsin cheesemakers with at least 10 years of experience. Cheesemakers can earn certification in up to two cheese varieties each time they enroll in the three-year program and must have been making those varieties as a licensed cheesemaker for a minimum of five years prior to entering the program. Once certified, they’re entitled to use the distinctive Master’s Mark on their product labels and in other marketing materials.