Roth Käse

2 09 2009

By Emily Larson

The countryside of Green County, Wisconsin is dotted with examples of Swiss heritage. Swiss-style chalets, restaurants serving traditional Alpine foods like Fondue and Raclette, yodeling farmers and the Swiss flag in the Monroe, WI crest are just some instances of the proud Swiss culture in “Little Switzerland.” It seems only natural, then, that Green County would produce the first Alpine-style Gruyère cheese in the United States.

The Roth Käse Ltd. cheese company began in Switzerland in 1863, and is now run in part by the 5th generation of the Roth family. In 1991, Fermo Jaeckle, a cousin of the Roth family, began Roth Käse USA Ltd, with the goal of producing fine European-style cheeses in the American dairyland. And so Roth Käse found a home in Monroe, WI in a beautiful Swiss chalet built in the traditional style with the cheesemaker’s residence above the factory, and began making exceptional cheese. Their first mission: crafting and curing Gruyère.

Gruyère cheese, named for a town in Switzerland, is crafted in copper vats and cured on wooden boards;DSC_8981 these elements, along with fresh milk, starter culture, and enzymes, are vital in creating the classic flavor and texture of this washed-rind cheese.

Since its founding in 1991, Roth Käse has been making exceptional, internationally renowned specialty cheeses in the heart of Green County. They routinely win awards at the World Championship Cheese Contest, World Cheese Awards, American Cheese Society and the US Championship Cheese Contest for cheeses like their GranQueso, Buttermilk Blue and Grand Cru Gruyère cheeses. But despite these international accolades and connections, Roth Käse remains rooted in Green County.

One of Roth Käse’s core values is to “share the success of our business with our employees, shareholders, customers, vendors, and the local community.” Because of this value, Roth Käse cannot be separated from Green County. All the milk that becomes fine cheese comes from within a 40 to 60 mile radius, and usually from small farmers with 40 to 80 heads of cattle. They routinely donate cheese to charity events, and give all their proceeds from Cheese Days, the biennial Monroe celebration, back to Green County. They’ve also helped members of Green County start their own artisan cheese productions. The many cheese producers in Monroe are all friends, and connect over their mutual love of cheesemaking– “we all depend and rely upon each other,” said Director of Marketing Kirsten Jaeckle. Many of their employees have gone through the Green County Leadership program, which connects young professionals and encourages them to stay and strengthen Green County. “We’re committed to helping develop Green County,” Kirsten said.

DSC_8972In addition to fostering community in Green County, Roth Käse creates a strong community among their employees. Kirsten said they seek to treat all their employees like family, and since many of them are, that isn’t very difficult. The Jaeckle and Roth families are committed to producing outstanding top quality cheese and encourage this dedication in their employees, both as a work ethic and in the love of cheese.

Preparing a fondue for guests in the Roth Käse Culinary Education Centre, an employee discussed how working at Roth Käse has increased her appreciation for different types of cheese. Before she worked at Roth Käse, she ate standard Wisconsin cheddar and mozzarella; now she speaks lovingly of the delicious taste of GranQueso, but acknowledges the unique flavor did take some getting used to. Even her nine year old son doesn’t like grilled cheese sandwiches with Velveeta anymore, she said with a laugh. The love of cheese and pride in the cheesemaking culture of Green County is so palpable that the phrase “eat cheese or die” doesn’t seem too far off the mark.

To view more photos of Roth Käse, please see the Flickr slideshow.

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