September 12, 2005
Wisconsin Cheese Tour: Gile Cheese/Carr Cheese Factory
Posted by Gordon Smith

Grandpa_gile

In my entry on Brunkow Cheese Cooperative yesterday, I mentioned visiting two cheese factories on my way home from Iowa. The second was Carr Cheese Factory, home of Gile (pronounced just like "guile") Cheese in Cuba City, Wisconsin, Pop. 2074.* The factory is named for the family that donated the land, but the cheese is named after the family that makes the cheese. Cletus Gile bought the factory in 1946. That photo shows Cletus' father, who worked at the factory from its founding in 1921. One of Cletus' sons, Tim, was manning the retail store when I dropped in for some aged cheddar, and he described the history of his business, of which he is rightly proud. You can read more about that here, on their company website.

According to Tim, two cheeses are their most popular (and award winning): Baby Swiss and Colby. I bought some of both, and while I was there, I purchased some eight-year-old cheddar, too. Baby Swiss is very mild, usually a bit too mild for my taste. I will write more about that in a future post. Colby Cheese is also very mild. It was developed in Colby, Wisconsin, and I will hold off writing more about that until I visit the source. For this entry, I will focus on aged cheddar.

In "The Cheese Shop," Monty Python observes that Cheddar is "the single most popular cheese in the world." That may be true, but mozzarella has surpassed cheddar as the most popular cheese in the U.S. Still, cheddar is a wonderfully flexible cheese, and it is very popular in Wisconsin. Of course, it is named for a village in England, where it has been manufactured for at least 800 years. It's taste can range from very mild to very sharp, with aging being the primary driver of sharpness. Also, as the cheese ages, its texture turns from creamy to crumbly.

If you are accustomed to purchasing cheddar in a grocery store, you are familiar with the designations "mild," "medium," "sharp," and "extra sharp." To give you some sense of the aging, Tillamook ages its cheddars as follows: medium cheddar (60 days), sharp cheddar (minimum of 9 months), extra sharp cheddar (minimum of 15 months). Tillamook doesn't sell a mild, but you can assume that mild cheddars are aged from a couple of weeks to a few months.

When you are buying aged cheddar, you are buying "sharp" or "extra sharp" cheese, and these descriptions lose their value in distinguishing among the various forms of aged cheddar. In this market, the main descriptor is the number of years the cheese is aged. The most popular aged cheddars are no more than five years old. Unless you have developed a keen taste for aged cheddar, going beyond five-year-old cheese could be a shock to your taste buds.

The eight-year-old cheddar from Gile Cheese was outstanding. Sharp and crumbly, but not dry. Cheese of that age contains calcium lactate crystals, which occur naturally during aging. Both calcium and lactose are found in cow’s milk, and during the production process, the lactose ferments, becoming lactic acid, which associates with the calcium to form a salt crystal. In addition to enhancing the sharpness of the cheese, the crystals make aged cheddar crunchy.

* According to Tim Gile, Cuba City was first called "Yuba," but when the city's founders discovered that "Yuba" had already been taken by a small town to the north, they searched for a new name by beginning at the top of the alphabet and rhyming with Yuba. "Auba"? No. "Buba"? Definitely not. "Cuba"? Cuba!

"City" was added to the end of the town's name by the person who made the sign for the railroad station. He wrote "Cuba City," and it stuck. Apparently, they get visitors now and then from Havana, who want to buy t-shirts.

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Comments (4)

1. Posted by Nathan on September 12, 2005 @ 11:49 | Permalink

So whenever someone exclaims that "Cheese rocks!" they must be eating aged cheddar?


2. Posted by HOUSTON GILE on September 14, 2006 @ 14:00 | Permalink

HEY IM 19 YEARS OLD AND JUST SEARCHING THE WEB I LIVE IN A SMALL TOWN OF 3000 IN CHENEY KANSAS AND RAN INTO THIS SEARCHING FOR FAMILY HISTORY I WOUNDER IF WE ARE RELATED IN ANY WAY? VERY INTERESTING


3. Posted by Riphich on September 20, 2006 @ 11:41 | Permalink

My personal fave from Gile is the mild brick cheese. Excellent, a little salty, not too creamy and perfect texture and taste. I love their cheddars too.


4. Posted by Rigo Keller-Colás on August 25, 2008 @ 0:38 | Permalink

I came across this looking for History on the building I am living in. I live in an old cheese factory in Paoli, WI between Belleville and Verona. I know it was built in 1909 and ran into the 20's. The cheese making equipment is all gone except some wooden molds for shaping the cheese I guess.
It is still pretty much the way it was when in was in use though, with a couple new walls separating it into sections. The main floor which I guess is where cheese that was shipped was stored as its the biggest section of the building. A bedroom was built in one corner and a wall separates the room to make a living room and kitchen. most of the walls are concrete or tile along with tile windows.
If anyone knows anything about it or how to find out let me know my email is fishprod@gmail.com

I have searched local history books and can't find anything about this building and very little about others in this area as there are many.
Thanks!

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