Audrey KorteChippewa Herald
From law enforcement to cheese quality enforcement, Jeff Soppeland’s career has taken some interesting turns.
But there’s nothing corny about businessman Cadott’s work ethic. Soppeland devotes himself to the day-to-day of cheese making at the small factory he manages – Yellowstone Cheese – which requires him to oversee both retail and dairy operations.
“I am retired after 26 years of law enforcement,” he said. “I knew the previous owners who asked me to come and manage their store. It was new. It was like they built it, but will people come? »
Knowing the family made the decision easier, and he said it sounded like a fun job. He’s been doing it for about 12 years and he’s still going strong.
The management of the operation is a heavy responsibility. But the facility is loved and cared for; it shows as soon as you enter. It’s about keeping customers happy and coming back.
“The best part of my job is watching customers come in and seeing fresh cheese on the counter. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Soppeland said. “They know it’s cheese. into fresh beans and they love that squeak.”
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Yellowstone Cheese is located on County Highway MM in Cadott. It was built in November 2007, he said.
The operation is small compared to some, Soppeland said. Last year, he passed about 2 million gallons of milk through the facility and made about 200,000 pounds of cheese. To compare this operation to larger ones in the area, AMPI in Jim Falls produces in a day what Yellowstone Cheese does in a year.
But Soppeland likes the size of the operation. The company is growing but not at a pace that threatens its quality. And he is able to have cheese made and delivered locally the same day, before noon. Other operations are not capable of doing this, he said.
Yellowstone Cheese makes fresh cheese curds five days a week. They also make Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Colby cheese.
“Fridays were always Colby’s day. Then on Saturday morning you get a fresh Colby,” he said. “It’s hand-wrapped, unrefrigerated, straight off the press, sold. It is our signature cheese. Customers love it. »
If the cheese sits unrefrigerated for 24 hours, state guidelines require you to discard it.
“But in the first hours we are allowed to leave it out. That’s when it’s best,” he said. “We have customers who come on a Tuesday and say, ‘Did you make fresh curd?’ And we say, ‘We have some left over from yesterday.’ No. They don’t want them refrigerated. They want them unrefrigerated with this impeccable cleanliness.
And the curd really squeaks when you eat it. Sometimes they have samples at the counter for customers to try before they buy.
Soppeland said the cheese was meant to be served at room temperature. If you can’t buy it fresh, you can take it out of the fridge and let it warm up a bit before serving it, he said.
“It brings out the taste. You know, the cheese that comes out of the fridge is cold, of course. But if you heat it up, that’s kind of what brings out the flavor,” he said. “There’s just more flavor at room temperature.”
Cheese making isn’t something most consumers think about when browsing the grocery store aisles. But it’s a pretty cool process.
“Everything will start, obviously, with milk. We picked up some milk a short time ago at the nearby farm. We’re getting it from three different places right now,” he said. “Now it will go through the pipeline and through pasteurization – it is heated to kill bacteria. Then we cool it and add bacteria or cultures to it.”
Then it begins to thicken.
“I always use the term jello. As the jelly sets, we all know it gets firm on top. That’s kind of what cheese does,” he said.
At this time, it turns into curd. Curd and whey are the terms given to curdled milk, which separates into pieces of cheese called curds and the liquid called whey. The curdling of milk is done through a few different processes to create cheese.
“We empty the whey while the curd settles at the bottom of the tank. Now we have cheese, we have curd,” he said. “Now we have two choices – leave it in this form where we make Monterey Jacks or Colbys or we mate it. And if we mate it, we pile them on top of each other. They will widen, lengthen and thin. This product goes through a milling machine which cuts it into pieces the size of your thumb.
Soppeland said Yellowstone Cheese stands out among a packed crowd of cheese makers.
“There are many other cheeses. I just think our quality is top notch,” he said. “We are proud of fresh and mild cheeses. We really emphasize not just freshness, but freshness and your counters at other retailers that morning. That’s what we’re looking for. It’s kind of our claim to fame here.
IN PHOTOS: A visit to Yellowstone Cheese in Cadott