Bruce Workman, Master Cheesemaker Edelweiss Creamery

"Edelweiss Emmentaler is made with love, not for commodity…" Each 180 lbs. wheel is worked on (wash and flipped) twice per week for 6 months.

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For a small cheesemaker, Bruce Workman has big dreams. But they're not about fame or fortune; they're about cheese-180-pound wheels of it. Bruce, a veteran Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker with 9 master cheesemaker licenses under his belt, is on a mission to reintroduce to Wisconsin's Green County, the lost art of classic big-wheel Swiss Emmentaler production. Bruce makes about 100 wheels of 180 lbs wheels each year and worked under mentors Bob Duritus and Fritz Mender starting in 1971.

In 2003, Bruce he left his long-time lead cheesemaker position at Roth Käse USA, where he had perfected the production of Gruyere Surchoix and other award-winning specialties, to buy his own cheese plant in nearby Monticello. Some said he was crazy: The little factory, built in 1916, was seriously run down and had been vacant for 16 years.

In between the time that Bruce bought the facility and made their first vat of cheese, they replaced all the floors, the drains, the electric and plumbing, steam lines, every piece of equipment, tiles-everything. Bruce says, "We had to put on a silo vestibule area so I could store milk and whey. And because my primary goal is make this wonderful old-world Emmentaler, I imported an entire Swiss cheese plant, including a traditional copper-lined vat, from Switzerland."

In order to make these massive 180lb. wheels of Emmentaler, Workman collaborates closely with the Edelweiss Graziers co-op for his milk supply, and the milk used for production is entirely grass-fed and sourced from local farms. Each vat of milk produces four wheels of cheese. According to Bruce, the copper is a critical component for the production of Emmentaler, since the milk and curds that are stirred in the vat create a reaction that leads to the desired rich, nutty flavor of the cheese.

As the milk and curds are stirred around in the vat, miniscule particles of the copper enter the cheese, causing a reaction that ultimately results in the desired rich, nutty flavor. Once the curds are pressed and removed from the giant round forms, Bruce and his staff hand-wash them and turn them twice each week with a salt-water solution for two months. During this time, the rind develops and the characteristic interior eyes begin to form.  The eyes on traditional copper-kettle Emmentaler are big and should be about the size of a quarter.  The texture of Emmentaler is very fine and dense with the interior cheese a pale, carmel color which becomes darker towards the rind.  The flavors are mild, yet complex, with notes of grass and flowers - especially with the cheese made from summer milk that gives a butterscotch, fruit and savory herbaceous notes.

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Video

Bruce shared his knowledge at the Savory Spoon Meet the Cheesemaker Nights

Bringing back the art of Emmentaler