Sweet Dreams Are Made Of Cheese
Words by Megan Poehler / Photos by Becca Dilley & Rolf Hagberg / Featured in Make It Minnesota's Summer 2015 issue.
In high school, Alise Sjostrom had a dream. A dream that one day, she would open her own creamery and devote her life to making cheese. Now, that dream has come true thanks to her talent, family, a little luck, and love of cheese.
Alise visited Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese company in high school for a 4-H leadership conference. "It was one of the ‘aha’ moments for me and I came home completely inspired. My studies and free time was since dedicated to cheese." She went the to University of Minnesota Twin Cities to study Agricultural Industries and Marketing with a dairy food quality emphasis. After graduating, she worked as a food broker, then moved to Vermont with her husband, Lucas. There, she work for Grafton Village Cheese and learned more about making artisan cheese. They then moved to Wisconsin, where she worked for the company she visited in high school, Crave Brothers. When their daughter was born in 2012, they moved back home to Minnesota and put their plan for a creamery to work.
They did this by using Kickstarter to get startup cash. "I still remember sitting in our Vermont apartment when my husband Lucas was reading about Kickstarter on the internet." It was a way to get their brand name out there while raising money. They made a video and launched at the Minnesota State Fair and Minnesota Cheese Festival. Almost 500 backers signed up. Although it was a lot of money, it was only a small percentage of what they needed for the creamery. The rest was covered by loans and grants from the state. After making some practice batches of cheese at the University of Minnesota, Redhead Creamery officially became public in the fall of 2013.
Redhead Creamery is an addition to the Jer-Lindy Dairy Farm, owned by Alise’s parents. "It was a way for the farm to grow without adding more cows," she says. "We are able to provide a one-of-a-kind experience of land to cow to milk to cheese that we love sharing." She also wanted to share with her daughter, Lucy. "There is nothing that can substitute growing up on a farm." She likes working with her parents, who are very supportive. "They’re not only part-owners, but fully involved in the day-to-day process of the company. They were thrilled that one of their four daughters was interested in coming back home to the dairy farm." Alise loves living in Minnesota, with the friendliness of the Midwest. "I think it’s the best place to raise dairy cows and a family."
For their cheese, the only use their own cows’ milk. They have a pipeline and tunnel that connects the milking parlor to the cheese plants. This helps them achieve best possible freshness while saving a lot of energy, which is different from other creameries that have more pumping and multiple heating and cooling steps. "The aging rooms are tucked underground and provide a unique environment for our cheese." The wheels of cheese are aged for a minimum of six months before selling.
Alise’s favorite cheese to make is the Lucky Linda Farmhouse aged cheddar. Since their creamery is new, this is the oldest cheese she has. "It’s just starting to develop the flavors that I’m shooting for. I’m really looking forward to trying it at one year." This cheese has a more savory and earthy flavor than the sweet and sharp cheddar we usually see. At the moment, she is working on a new brie cheese called Little Lucy and a semi-soft bourbon washed cheese, using bourbon from the local Panther Distillery.
For the future of the creamery, Alise plans to expand the kitchen to make more products, like breads, butter, and apple pie for the holidays. She wants people to come to the creamery and experience the products freshly made. This summer, they will start serving beer and wine to guests to taste with the cheese while they relax. She also plans to host cheese tastings, cooking classes, and dinners. The creamery offers a full guided walk through of the dairy farm, cheese-making, and cheese sampling. "It’s a great way for people to see cows and baby calves and to make the connection from cow to milk to cheese." Tour and event information can be found on their Facebook page and website, www.redheadcreamery.com.
Redhead Creamery’s products can be found at their location in Brooten, as well as Kowalski’s Food Markets and food co-ops in the Metro area, and on their website. "We’re so excited to be part of the artisan cheese boom that’s happening in Minnesota right now. Having the ability to invite people to our farm and cheese plant is something that we thoroughly enjoy and look forward to in the years to come."