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How Do You Become a Cheesemaker?

January 20, 2017

While dreams of cheesemaking may conjure up thoughts of blissful wine tastings and elegant cheeseboards, there’s a great deal of art – and science – that goes into each wheel of cheese long before it’s ever served. And the people at the wheel are not hobbyists. They’re experienced, trained and sometimes even licensed.

Just how do people get involved in cheesemaking? We connected with the experts to find out:

Some people are simply born into cheesemaking.

For more than 100 years, John Jaeggi’s family has been making Swiss cheese in Wisconsin. It all started in the early 1900s thanks to his grandfather who emigrated from Switzerland. Today Jaeggi, a licensed cheesemaker, works for the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and judges cheese contests.

Others may become cheesemakers unexpectedly. For example, they may get a job at a cheesemaking plant and take the craft to heart, in time making their own cheese.

And still others pursue it head-on. That’s how Dean Sommer, cheese and food technologist for the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, got into cheesemaking. After pursuing a Master’s in Food Science, Sommer decided to turn his attention to cheesemaking by accepting an offer from a major cheese manufacturer, which helped him learn the ins and outs of the science of cheesemaking. Today in his role at the Center for Dairy Research, he serves as a consultant and educator to cheesemakers.

It’s also common for those interested in cheesemaking to look for mentors or an apprenticeship to help them learn the craft. While this can be tricky – as the mentor is potentially training future competition – it does provide hands-on experience for those without a family cheese pedigree.

Depending on where you live, other qualifications may be necessary. For example, Wisconsin requires all cheesemakers to be licensed.

Interested in learning more? The American Cheese Society offers a list of dozens of cheese educators, who can help start your education. 

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