We previously talked about the rise of female brewers, chefs and vintners making names for themselves in industries generally dominated by men, so it didn’t come as much of a surprise to us when we heard that women have also made their move into the cheesemaking arena, and that more and more women are taking their turn crafting these artisan products.
According to the National Historical Cheesemaking Center, the role of women in cheesemaking goes back to the 17th century when it was almost always the woman’s job to make cheese. Milking the cows, hauling the milk, churning the butter and the processing of the cheese were all a part of the duties performed by women on the farm in early America. It wasn’t until the inception of the “cheese factory” did we start to see a significant decrease in the role women played in cheesemaking. Women were pushed out and making cheese started to become big business.
Well, times have clearly changed, and slowly, but surely women are working their way back into the role they founded. Of the over 1,200 active licensed cheesemakers in Wisconsin, the only state in the nation to require cheesemakers to be licensed, three percent are women. Although that doesn’t sound like a lot, in the past several years, that number has continued to increase, and there is a definite trend developing of more women starting their own cheesmaking businesses and becoming cheesemakers.
The strong heritage of quality and craftsmanship of cheesemaking, along with the allure and exponential growth of the artisan food industry are some of the things attracting women to this craft once again. These new American cheesemakers are creating a wide variety of innovative artisan cheeses that are gaining fast attention of foodies everywhere. Here are a few notable and pioneering women cheesemakers you should know.
Julie Hook, Hook’s Cheese, WI. Julie is the first and only woman cheesemaker to earn the title of World Championship Cheese in 1982. Best known for their Colby, which was judged the Finest Cheese in the World.
Allison Hooper, Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, VT. Artisan cheeses from farm to table. They produce an award-winning creme fraiche and much talked about Bonne Bouche (ash-ripened goat cheese).
Judy Shad, Capriole Farm, IN. Make fresh, ripened, and aged chevres by hand, using the milk from their own herd. The food blog Eatocracy named their O’Bannon cheese as the number one cheese you have to try now!
Mary Keehn, Cypress Grove, CA. Produces fresh, ripened and creamline cheeses. The Truffle Tremor combines the earthy flavor of truffles with the creaminess of ripened goat cheese.
Paula Lambert, Mozzarella Co., TX. Making cheeses that are handmade following century-old recipes. Their Queso Blanco, Goat’s Milk Ricotta and Hoja Santa Goat Cheese are among their many award-winning cheeses.
As connoisseurs of all things delicious, cheese is one of our favorite indulgences. Here are some of our go-to cheese blogs by women: