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Rare Baked Cheese Brings In Business
K&K Cheese, in Cashton, Wis. is one of only a few cheese plants in North America that make Juusto (oo-stoe) cheese. The baked cheese slabs that originated in Finland are drawing attention to their Pasture Pride cheese brand that also includes more traditional cheeses.
"We make all the regular cheeses like cheddar, Colby and even some pepper jacks, but when we go to wine and food shows, we focus on the Juusto," says Kim Everhart. "No one else has it."
Kim and her husband Kevin process 120,000 pounds of milk every day from 250 area Amish farmers. A small, but growing share of that milk is used to make about 1,000 lbs. of Juusto a week. The couple contract with the Amish, who own the building and land, while the Everharts own the cheese-making equipment. Traditional cheeses are made for the Pasture Pride label and for other companies. In addition to the cheese plant where the Juusto and other cheeses are processed, the couple also operates a store. "Kevin was at the University of Wisconsin for a cheese makers class when he saw some shelf life experiments with Juusto," says Kim. "He thought it was unique and learned to make it."
The full name of this very special cheese is Juustoleipa (oo-stah-lee-pah), which means cheese in Finnish. In Scandinavian countries, it is known as bread cheese and served warm with jam or honey and even dipped in coffee. Other ways to eat it include with all sorts of salsa, spreads and other sauces, as well as any way other cheeses are used.
Once the cheese has been made in 40-lb. blocks, Kevin cuts it into slabs like thick slices of bread. It is baked for 6 to 7 minutes at 500. Before eating, slices can be reheated in a microwave oven, in a pan on the stove, or over a grill. The lightly browned slices may look a little like French toast, but they taste more like a caramelized mozzarella with a buttery flavor.
"A lot of work goes into it," says Everhart, who admits the specialty cheese doesn't sell itself. "The hardest part is getting people to try it, but once they do, they find out they like it."
Everhart loves taking it to food and wine shows and watching people try it. She says people go nuts about it, and that's good for the rest of their cheese business.
"There are shows or stores where I go back after a year, and people come back or send their friends to try it," she says. "Once they order the Juusto and like it, they want to get our other products in their stores."
They also market their cheese from their website with prices ranging from under $4/lb. for most of their common cheeses to $2.65 for a 6 oz. package of Juusto.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, K&K Cheese, LLC, S510 County Hwy. D, Cashton, Wis. 54619 (ph 608 654-5580; fax 608 654-5493; KKcheese2001@yahoo.com; Pasturepridecheese.com).

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2006 - Volume #30, Issue #4