By now, news has probably reached your corner of the nation. Whether you're in the Northeast or the Southwest, or living outside the contiguous United States altogether, you've gotten word: People in Wisconsin know how to eat, and they know how to drink. Basically, this state is awesome, and it's in part because of their long rich history of food and beer.
Let's start with the most obvious.
We're Master Cheesemakers. No, literally.
Forty-seven of Wisconsin's 54 current Master Cheesemakers. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Inc.
Wisconsin has a Master Cheesemaker program, and it's the only program of its kind outside of Europe. Unlike other states, in order to officially become a Master Cheesemaker in Wisconsin, you have to meet an extensive list of qualifications, set by the non-profit Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
- Be active, licensed Wisconsin cheesemakers with at least 10 years experience working at a plant which participates in the Quality Assurance Program.
- Have made the cheese variety for which they seek certification for at least five years.
- Complete required courses in cheese technology, artisanship, grading and quality assurance
- Complete elective courses that range from applied dairy chemistry, to water and waste management, to whey and whey utilization
- Participate in a three-year apprenticeship during which time he or she must submit samples of cheese for evaluation of quality and consistency
- Pass a rigorous final written examination
And they need to fulfill these requirements for EACH KIND OF CHEESE.
Our Wisconsin cheesemakers also dominate worldwide.
At the 2014 World Championship Cheese Contest, Wisconsin took home about 39 percent of the total awards given out -- that's 106 out of 273. And this isn't some bush-league contest. Wisconsin cheesemakers are competing against countries famous for their cheesemaking, like France, Germany, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
ERMAHGERD CHERSE CURDS!
Wisconsinites know all too well that when you venture out of the state and tell people where you're from, they inevitably burst out, "CHEESE CURDS!" And that's okay, because cheese curds are delicious. They're also not complicated, despite the public's general unfamiliarity with exactly what they are.
In short, cheese curds are the first solid cheese formations when milk sours, before it's been aged or other things have been added. Fresh curds are warm and have a characteristic squeaking sound as you bite them due to the rubbery texture. Curds can also be deep fried, because why the hell not?
And in case you were wondering, yes, there are cheese curds deep fried in beer batter.
Wisconsinites "grow" pizza on farms.
Not quite like this, but we can dream, can't we?
Pizza farms are a generally new phenomenon, and they seem to be concentrated in the Midwest, perhaps because of the dairy element. These are farms that have turned their operation into makeshift pizza parlors, where everything is essentially made from scratch, using only ingredients from the host farm or neighboring farms. These aren't just pizza places that use farm-grown ingredients -- these are actual farms.
There are five pizza farms in all listed on Wisconsin's official tourist website, and all seem to host "pizza nights" during the week once spring starts. AtoZ Produce and Bakery, out of Stockholm, Wisconsin, has been putting on pizza nights since 1998.
So, in response to the longstanding debate of which pizza is better, Chicago style or New York style? The answer is: Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is also the headquarters for all things kringle.
Kringle in the U.S. is a buttery, flakey, layered Danish pastry filled with fruit, nuts, cream cheese or anything else you want, and usually topped with a glaze. As one of the centers of Danish-American culture in the U.S., Wisconsin naturally named the kringle its official state pastry in 2013. Well, and also because they're so good at making them -- a process which actually takes about three days.
Located in Racine, Wisconsin, O&H Danish Bakery is probably the most famous kringle bakery in the country. They've been doing it since 1949 and are thought of as the number one name in the kringle-making game. O&H told HuffPost they ship kringle all over the world, many to military personnel over seas, but say the most interesting place they've ever shipped to was Antarctica. That's hardcore kringle love. Their baked goods are also completely kosher for the Danish-Jewish out there. Kosher, delicious, available worldwide -- you have no excuse.
Here's President Obama in Wisconsin eating kringle at O&H back in 2010. Because the president knows what's up.
O&H specifically makes a "Wisconsin" kringle filled with ingredients from the state, including cream cheese from the farms, cranberries from local bogs and Door County cherries. Because...
Wisconsin cherries are actually a big deal.
Wisconsin, specifically the Door County area, is big on cherries and has been since the 1800s. Back in the mid-1900s, Wisconsin was actually the largest U.S. producer of tart cherries, generating 50 million pounds of cherries every year, all picked by hand! Nowadays, it's more like 8 to 10 million pounds of cherries that grow on about 2,000 acres of cherry orchards.
We love our brats and sausages.
With its European, and specifically German, ancestry, it only makes sense that Wisconsin would be home of some amazing sausage. Bratwurst, Polish sausage, Italian sausage, Italian soppressata, Mexican chorizo, Belgian tripe and even venison sausage -- that's just a taste of all the meats Wisconsin makes. Bratwurst is obviously the state's most popular offering. Cooked in beer, paired with sauerkraut, slathered in mustard... oh yeah.
We're so good at making sausages that Europe is now scared of us. According to a trade deal with the Department of Agriculture, the European Union wants to trademark bratwurst. "As we understand it ... any American-made brat would have to be referred to as a 'bratwurst-like sausage' under these proposed restrictions," says Johnsonville Sausage LLC owner Ralph Stayer. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson have urged the U.S. to reject the deal on behalf of their Wisconsin constituents.
Maybe European sausage makers should begin specializing in... chicken.
Not sure if you heard, but Wisconsinites love beer.
You may have heard a thing or two about the drinking prowess of people from Wisconsin. Well, it's all true. Wisconsinites can drink you under the table. But no worries, they'll help you up, because we're also super nice people. Plus, the table itself is probably full of various food items decorated with cheese that you can fill up on. So, it's a win-win.
Wisconsin may no longer be the beer capital of the nation (though it still accounts for 3.90 percent of the state's GDP -- third among all states), but the beer making traditions are very much alive and well. Wisconsin not only ranks in the top ten for craft breweries (there are 90 of them), it's also ranked in the top three places to drink by Time magazine.
Wisconsin comes in third in the number of bars and bars per capita, but looking closer at the data reveals some interesting facts. With a population of 5,664,893, Wisconsin has only 57 fewer drinking places (3,043) than California (3,100), a state with a population of 39,969,200. New York has 3,458 bars, but its population is almost four times that of Wisconsin. And when calculated by county, Iron County, Wisconsin actually leads the nation in bars per capita, with a bar for every 240 residents.
A few weeks back, a report released by Flowing Data showed that Wisconsin had nearly three times more bars than grocery stores.
But who needs grocery stores when...
Our restaurants and chefs are really good at what they do.
This year's Midwest James Beard award winner was Justin Aprahamian from Sanford restaurant in Milwaukee. Wisconsin has had dozens of James Beard award nominees and a handful of winners over the last few years.
We might not have invented the cream puff, but we have perfected it.
The Wisconsin cream puff -- also called The Original Cream Puff -- started back at the 1924 State Fair. What began as a small-scale operation that served a few thousand cream puffs has grown to serve more than 350,000 cream puffs each year at the State Fair. If you doubt our mastery of the cream puff, Wisconsin actually set the Guinness record for the world's largest cream puff back in 2011. The final product was 125 pounds, 7.5 inches high and 38 inches wide.
Even our sports teams are beer and food themed.
Wisconsinites can't hide their love and mastery of beer and food, which is why we decided our sports teams should all be named for food and beer. The Green Bay Packers were named for the company that originally funded them, the Indian Packing Company, a meat packer which had a factory in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Earl "Curly" Lambeau -- the namesake for the legendary Lambeau Field -- corralled his employer to invest the money and the team was founded.
Some might be asking, "What about the Milwaukee Bucks? They're not food related." Au contraire. To say deer hunting is incredibly popular in the state is a gross understatement. And venison is actually quite delicious if you've never tried it.
The Milwaukee Brewers are not only named for the Cream City's beer-making tradition; they also feature their famous sausage race during home games. The Polish sausage, chorizo sausage, the hot dog, the Italian sausage and bratwurst race from the third base side down around home plate and then over to the first base side before the bottom of every sixth inning.
People love the Brewers' sausage racers so much, they kidnapped one to party with it.
Back in 2013, the Italian sausage racing outfit was stolen during a off-season event. The culprits took the costume out to the bars for the weekend, because... well, of course they did.
The thieves eventually returned the costume anonymously to a random bar with a brilliant note:
Sorry I'm such a sauced weenie. You probably think I'm the wurst. I started feeling the heat as the police began to ketchup by connecting the links. I know it was a greasy move so here I am. Donate the mustard and drink the beer. Take me back to the Land of the Brew… Much Love, ur Cedarburg Crew.
"Are there pictures?" you ask. BUT OF COURSE!
Tailgating at stadiums is a way of life for us.
And in case you weren't completely convinced that Wisconsinites are masters of food and drink, here's sausage shaped like beer.
UPDATE: Whoops -- looks like we overlooked an important Wisconsin food that often gets overlooked by the rest of the country: cranberries! Wisconsin currently produces half the world's cranberries. That's 3,400 local jobs and an extra $300 million to the state's economy each year. Sorry, cranberry lovers!