We are not moo-staken… June is National Dairy Month! To celebrate, we talked with Alise Sjostrom from Redhead Creamery, LLC. After Alise spent time learning the trade in Vermont and Wisconsin, she and her husband Lucas moved back home to Minnesota, joining her parents to launch Redhead Creamery. In 2013/2014, the family built a cheese plant on their dairy farm in Brooten and the business continued to grow. Today, Redhead Creamery sells cheese in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, and will soon be selling in Illinois. Check out their full interview below.
Minnesota Grown: How long have you been making cheese?
Redhead Creamery: Our dairy farm has been in the family for over thirty years. We have been making cheese for four years. Prior to Redhead Creamery, I worked at other companies perfecting cheese making. For full history, check out the Redhead Creamery website history page.
MG: Where does the milk come from?
RC: We have 180 milking cows on-site. We use our own milk for our cheese. The remainder of the milk goes to Bongards’ Creameries in Norwood Young America.
MG: How do you make the cheese?
RC: There are four basic ingredients in cheese: milk, rennet, culture, and salt. We add the cultures depending on the variety of cheese because it ripens the milk and provides the flavor profile. Rennet coagulates the milk, giving it a pudding consistency. Next, we cut the curd, which separates it from the whey. For cheese curds, you cut the curd, drain the whey, go through a cheddaring process, stack the slabs of curd on top of each other, mill the curd, and add salt. For an aged cheddar, we place the cut curd in a round mold and press it overnight. Our Lucky Linda Aged Cheddar must age for at least six months. For Brie, the process is very different from cheddar in that you mould the curd with the whey, which helps control the texture of the cheese. Cheeses are flipped upside down and upright several times during its four weeks of aging. We make cheese two times per week, totaling 800 pounds per week.
MG: What flavors of cheese do you offer?
RC: We make cheddar, Lucky Linda (a cave-aged clothbound cheddar), fresh cheese curds, Little Lucy (a Brie), cloth bound cheddar, cave-aged garlic cheddar, St. Anthony (a Redhead Creamery original), Red Temper (a chipotle honey cheddar), North Fork Whiskey Washed Munster and a few seasonal cheeses.
MG: Do you host any events throughout the year?
RC: On June 15, we will partner with Usborne Books and host a book fair at the farm that features agricultural education books for kids and a small petting farm. We also have an open house on June 24 with food, drinks, and live music. Throughout the year, we host beer and cheese tastings, wine and cheese pairing parties, and a holiday open house.
MG: How do you celebrate National Dairy Month?
RC: The easiest answer would be making cheese. However, we do so much more. Every Saturday at 12:30, we have tours of the farm. We talk about the history of the farm and the cows themselves. We emphasize the life of a cow, what we feed her, how we take care of her, and why the cow is important to us. We focus on the farm-to-fork aspect of agriculture for an estimated 8,000 visitors over the past three years.
MG: How do you practice sustainability on your dairy farm?
RC: Highlights include reducing our farm’s energy use by 20% by utilizing an energy efficiency program, not using any commercial fertilizer on any of our 258 acres, and feeding whey byproduct generated while making artisan cheese at our on-site cheese processing operation back to our cows. Our farm has also achieved Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification, improving water quality of the nearby Crow River for local residents and wildlife.
MG: Why should consumers buy local products?
RC: Local foods build a community around your food and makes life a little more enjoyable. We try to integrate other local foods in our shop. We offer Minnesota honey, maple syrup, jam, apples, and mustard for sale.
Thank you Redhead Creamery for talking with us about dairy cows and cheese. As Minnesotans, we love nutritious dairy products! The Midwest Dairy Association and the United States Department of Agriculture recommend having three servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt every day! For more dairy resources, nutrition information, farm facts, and recipes, visit the Midwest Dairy Association website, or find a dairy farmer near you. The Minnesota Grown Directory lists 15 local farmers who sell dairy products directly to consumers.