Book Review: Wisconsin Cheese by Martin Hintz and Pam Percy

One of the reasons I started this website was to explore the food producers in the state and try and get people to learn the story behind the food. One of the foods I wanted to explore was Wisconsin’s most famous export, cheese. I guess I can scratch that off my list because the book “Wisconsin Cheese: A Cookbook and Guide to the Cheeses of Wisconsin” by husband and wife team Pam Percy and Martin Hintz, accomplished far more than I could even imagine.  (Also I might add there is a wonderful Cheese Blog called Cheese Underground done by a Jeanne Carpenter from Madison which does a great job of going even more in-depth than this book. It has been around for a while but I only recently discovered it.)

The book is a fairly easy read, I plowed through a majority of it on a recent sunny afternoon while sipping beer on my deck, though I am a pretty fast reader.  I should warn you that after about 4 pages you will suddenly have a taste for cheese. Thankfully I had some in the fridge. If the book were merely a history of cheese and a compendium of all of the Wisconsin cheese producers it would be great but maybe a one-time read. Thankfully this book goes goes beyond that and has recommended pairings for the different cheeses and a significant number of recipes, all incorporating Wisconsin cheese.

The multifaceted approach to cheese contained in this book makes it something you are likely to reference frequently. If you are looking to have a wine and cheese party, let this book be your guide.    If you want to incorporate Wisconsin cheese into your cooking, there are over 100 recipes from things as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich to more complex recipes including Blueberry Ricotta Coffee Cake and Morels and Eggs ‘En Cocotte’ with Parmesan Cheese.  There are recipes from a lot of notable Wisconsin chefs including James Beard Award Winning Sanford D’Amato (Of Sanford, Coquette Cafe, and Harlequin Bakery) and Adam Seigel (of Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro and Bacchus) as well as chefs from around the country.

Almost all of the cheeses in the book can be found in the Milwaukee area at Sendiks, The West Allis Cheese Company, Woodman’s Food Market, Brennan’s or the Milwaukee Public Market (at the West Allis Cheese Co. stand) or better yet use this book as a tour guide and take a cheese-themed road trip visiting the cheese makers discussed in the book and collecting the cheeses along the way. The book has an appendix that lists most (if not all) of the cheese makers featured in the book including their address, types of cheese produced, and most importantly their web addresses to help you plan your journey.

I really like the organization of the book.  The book is split up into different types of cheese (artisan & farmstead, blue, Swiss, goat and sheep, etc) and Hintz and Percy do a good job of detailing the cheese types, the history of the cheese makers, recipes, fun facts, quotes, and pairings.  Interjected through the book are sections on awards won by Wisconsin cheese makers.

This is one of the best Wisconsin food books I have read to date.  To often books like this don’t go as in-depth as Hintz and Percy and seem more like glorified tourism brochures.   That is not the case here. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in Wisconsin’s numerous award winning cheeses and the people who make them.  With all of this new emphasis on eating locally, this book is a must-read for those who want to eat things that are produced close to where they live.

You can order the book from Amazon or find it at just about any book store.

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