Monroe County Fair cheese curds set to return this year

Nordic Creamery will once again be producing fresh cheese curds and aged cheddar cheese from milk collected from exhibitors at the Monroe County Fair. Pictured, from left, is MCAS Board President Chris Schreier, Al and Sarah Bekkum of Nordic Creamery, MCAS board members Simon Wells and Paul Dwyer. Herald photos by Nicole Vik.

Just like the fair itself, the Fair Cheese Curds will be back again this year and who in Wisconsin doesn’t enjoy a fresh, squeaky cheese curd?

In 2018, Monroe County Fair became one of the first fairs in Wisconsin to have its fair milk made into the squeaking bits of deliciousness. In 2019, the Monroe County Agricultural Society (MCAS) discovered that larger milk processing plants had no interest in dealing with the smaller amount of milk that is collected from exhibitors while at their local fairs.

With that in mind, MCAS board Member Simon Wells contacted Al Bekkum, owner and head cheese maker at Nordic Creamery in Westby, about buying the fair milk after losing the previous buyer in 2018. Bekkum agreed to buy the milk and turn it into cheese curds, which will be sold during the fair again this year.

Dwyer Milk Transport of Tomah will deliver the milk, which is collected during the week from dairy cows being shown at the fair, to Nordic Creamery.

Once at Nordic Creamery, the milk will be processed into fresh cheese curds and packaged with labels designed by local 4-H members. The curds will then be available for purchase at the fair office on Saturday.

Milk that is collected at the fair on Saturday and Sunday will again be made into cheddar cheese, which will be aged and sold at a later date.

The cheddar will be divided up amongst all of the Monroe County 4-H clubs who will sell the cheese. All of the profits from the sales will go directly back to the clubs.

In 2018, Nordic Creamery produced roughly 1,000 pounds of both curds and one-pound blocks of cheddar cheese. In 2019, roughly 600 bags of cheese curds were sold.

For more information on this year’s Monroe County Fair, see the fair insert in today’s edition of the Herald.

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