Cheese curds being made at the Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese Company in Rudolph. (Image via Shutterstock)
Cheese curds being made at the Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese Company in Rudolph. (Image via Shutterstock)

This story is free of almonds, oats, soy, coconut, rice, cashews, and anything else not udderly created in America’s Dairyland.

It’s in the way the cheese starts to get browned and bubbly on a pizza or a pan of nachos. It’s the first sip that quickly gives way to chugs of chocolate milk. The squeak of a fresh curd. The winter comfort in a grilled cheese sandwich dipped in tomato soup. The way cinnamon raisin toast tastes after getting a healthy slather of butter.

We make no apologies in Wisconsin for our love affair with dairy. We’re frankly a little surprised the state flag doesn’t have a cow and a state motto of America’s Dairyland rather than Forward. But dairy actually wasn’t a big part of Wisconsin agriculture when we entered the Union as the 32nd state. Wheat farming, logging, lead mining, and Great Lakes shipping all took root before the state’s farmers took up and embraced dairying in such a big… whey.

We asked you to brag a bit about some of your favorite Wisconsin dairy products. We sprinkled some of them in our email newsletters throughout the month. And now we want to share some of our own choices before the cows come home and June gives way to July.

Kevin Mahalko is surrounded by some of the cows on the dairy farm he and his father Ken operate in rural Gilman. The Mahalkos and other Wisconsin dairy farmers are struggling in the wake of the shutdown of restaurants, schools and food service operations because of concerns about COVID-19. (Photo by Danielle Endvick)

Jonathon Sadowski: It has to be Kopp’s or Leon’s frozen custard—and I really can’t pick between the two. Kopp’s has greater variety, but Leon’s has a superior custard. So… both! Honorable mentions: Adrian’s in Burlington, Uncle Harry’s in Waterford, and Old Dutch in Racine (rest in peace). For a more substantive meal that involves gooey, melty dairy, you can never go wrong with a butter burger, which I previously called Wisconsin’s “most grotesque act of cattle appreciation.”

Kristin Brey: For nostalgic reasons, Michael’s Frozen Custard. I don’t claim that it is objectively better custard than Culver’s or Kopps, but eating it unlocks the most memories. 

Pat Kreitlow: Picking a favorite Wisconsin dairy product? Who comes up with questions like that? Oh wait, I did. Okay, in no particular order: Deep fried cheese curds at Connell’s Supper Club in Chippewa Falls. Squeaky fresh cheese curds from Nasonville Dairy in the little yellow building on Hwy. 29 between Curtiss and Abbotsford. Marieke Gouda in Thorp—but not just any gouda, the stuff that’s aged 9-12 months. (Trust me. And you’re welcome!) And since I married a farm girl from Manitowoc County who milked 72 cows before and after school every day, I have to include a big cold glass of milk whenever my wife makes chocolate chip cookies or banana chocolate chip muffins.

Olivia Stern: On the way home from getting our family Christmas tree, it’s a family tradition to stop at the Cedar Valley Cheese Store in Belgium. The cheddar cheese curds are the best, and sometimes we get the ones with garlic and dill on them too.

Christina Lieffring: I have lived in Wisconsin for 3 ½ years and do not have a favorite Wisconsin dairy product–yet. These things take time and require thorough research, which is well underway. I can highly recommend the Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Company in Madison. My friends and I went after we’d been swimming, it was a scorching hot day, the ice cream was cold, creamy and delicious and life doesn’t get much better than that.

Sassy Cow creamery features at least six kinds of ice cream, sold by the scoop all the way up to three-gallon tubs. (Photo by Mary Bergin)

Julian Emerson: Choosing a favorite dairy product in the state best known for producing them is a daunting task to say the least. There are the countless flavors of ice creams I enjoy on hot summer days, frozen custards and yogurts I have an affinity for, even milk itself. But it’s the taste of cheese I covet most, from the bite of a sharp cheddar, to smooth, savory gouda, to the wide flavor palate offered by too many varieties to name. How to pick a favorite among them? Impossible. Those Wisconsin dairy products and others are served up at one of my favorite places to enjoy them each dairy month, at the dairy breakfasts that occur at farms in the state’s 72 counties. Consuming some of our favorite foods while visiting with friends and supporting the very farms where those foods originate seems like a proper homage to the state’s dairy sector. And a tasty way to enjoy each June.