I discovered the cheeses last week, after meeting with Stuart Hilderman, the company’s regional sales manager. We met to catch up on what Blaser’s is doing these days. Blaser’s cheese factory is located in northern Wisconsin, west of Rice Lake in Barron County. It was originally the Comstock Cooperative Creamery and now produces muenster, brick, havarti and about 35 different flavors of natural cheeses.
The newest addition to its lineup are Kammerude Gouda cheeses, made from whole cow’s milk. Sold in 8-ounce round mini wheels, sliced from Longhorns and individually packaged, the cheese is a good quality Gouda. It may not fall into the artisan cheese category, but it’s pretty competitively priced and is a good everyday cheese.
The thing I really enjoy though, is the packaging. Each flavor – and there are eight – sports a different painting by Wisconsin folk artist and farmer Lavern Kammerude. The label provides a comprehensive history and description of each painting and is available to read by peeling back the front label. The Fennel Gouda, for example, depicts Kammerude’s “County Fair” painting.
A little history: Lavern Kammerude, the oldest of Pete and Mary Kammerude’s three children, was born in 1915 on the family farm south of Blanchardville, about 30 miles from where I grew up in Lafayette County. His father was of Norwegian and Irish descent, while his mother was of Austrian descent. As a boy working alongside his father, Lavern grew up loving the land and his rural lifestyle.
From the time Lavern was 10 years old, he, like many other farm boys, was milking, plowing, planting, harvesting and taking on the other responsibilities of the everyday chores on the farm. His schooling never went beyond the eighth grade. By his early teens, Lavern was doing a man’s work on the home farm and working with neighbors for seasonal tasks like threshing, silo filling and wood cutting.
Lavern met his wife at a dance in Argyle, got married, and continued farming part-time and doing other jobs. In his mid 50s, Lavern began painting scenes of everyday life in America’s rural Midwest during the first half of the 20th century. For 20 years, he painted oil-on-masonite, and his paintings today provide a valuable historical record of the bygone era.
His paintings gained local popularity with farmers and small businesses and later could be seen in corporate offices of large agriculture-related companies. A Kammerude painting even graced the walls of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture’s office. In 1986, Lavern was awarded the Wisconsin “Governor’s Heritage Award” for his renderings of old-time rural life. He passed away in 1989.
I think it’s wonderful that Blaser’s has chosen to highlight the work of this local Wisconsin artist by featuring it on a high quality artisan cheese. To see more of Lavern’s artwork, visit this website.