Robert Wadzinski: Transcript

Head Cheesemaker, Maytag Dairy Farms, Newton
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Maytag SignIf all the technology broke down, I could still make cheese.

My name is Robert Wadzinski. I live in Newton, Iowa. I’m head cheese maker, plant manager at Maytag Dairy Farms here in Newton. I’m a third-generation cheese maker. Originally our family started making cheese in Central Wisconsin. My grandfather, Ray Wadzinski, began making cheese in 1917 in Central Wisconsin. He later taught my father to make cheese, and my father passed it on to me.He taught me how to make cheese one summer when I was 12 years old. I mentioned something about being bored. And he made sure I wasn’t going to be bored, so he put me to work. And he needed help in his little cheese factory, so he taught me how to run the equipment, making the cheese. I would add the starter cultures, the rennet enzyme, I would I cut the fat, stir the curds and whey, drain it, mill it, hoop it, and put it to the press.

The way my grandfather got into making cheese was his dad was a farmer. And he’d gone into the bank. My grandfather was, I believe, 17 at the time, working at this cheese factory. And the banker happened to ask my great-grandfather, “How does Ray like working at the cheese factory?” And great-grandfather says, “Well, he likes it pretty well.”

He says, “Well, how would you like to buy the cheese factory?”  Grandfather Ray said, “Yeah, I’d like it there.”  He says, “Well, would you like to buy it?”  And he says, “Well, it depends. How much is it for sale for?”  And the banker said, “$3,000.” And I think my grandfather says, “I’ll pay 2,500.” And the banker says, “I’ll take it.”

Maytag CheesesMy grandfather was working in a cheese plant at that time as a helper when he had the opportunity to buy the factory. What started out as a job turned into a family tradition. Father and his brother LeRoy and his four sisters were all in the cheese industry at one time. It also spread into some of the other relatives, cousins and uncles and aunts getting involved in the cheese industry at one time or another.Cheese making is both an art and a science. For different things I’ve learned from my father through the years and also here, after I got to Maytag Dairy Farms, are a few things. For some cheeses, like for mozzarella, if our test equipment or pH meter was not functioning properly, I could take a cheese curd and do what’s called the hot iron test. I could take a piece of cheese curd, touch it to a steam pipe and pull it away. And if I got the little stringy fibers coming from a cheese curd, it was ready to go to the mixer/molder to get molded into the mozzarella cheese.

Now for blue cheese it’s a little bit different. Some of the things you look for from the artesian standpoint are: you peel the curds and you smell the curds and whey as they are stirring. And just kind of the aroma and feel of those curds just kind of tell you how it is progressing.They also use the scientific approach by testing the acidity that the cheese cultures are developing in the milk and in the whey. So the scientific way, the pH and acidities, are a good test, and we rely on them. But we also rely on that feel.

I got into blue cheese making back in 2001. Difference between the blue cheese and other types of cheeses is blue cheese is a blue veined cheese that has many openings in the cheese for blue mold development, where the American types of cheese, like cheddar cheese, is a close tight-knit cheese where you don’t want any mold.

If all the technology broke down, I could still make cheese.