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Ziege Zacke Blue

Two of the fastest rising star cheesemakers – one specializing in goat’s milk cheeses, the other in signature cheddar blues – jointly released a new cheese this week that’s about to shake up the Wisconsin artisan cheese community.

Photo by Uriah Carpenter

Christened Ziege Zacke Blue (say zeegy zacky) by a group of Chicago chefs that enjoyed it so much, one night they started singing old German folk tunes while eating it, (Ziege means “goat” in German, Zacke means “wave” — thus a “Goat Cheese with a Wave of Blue”) the cheese is patterned after a Dry Jack, is part cow’s milk, part goat’s milk, and is cave-aged.

Wonderfully creamy, with a slight tang at the front and a sweetness on the finish, it boasts some extraordinarily rich earthy and bluesy notes I have never before tasted.

It’s almost as if Cheesemakers Chris Roelli of Roelli Cheese and Katie Hedrich of LaClare Farms thought of all the current cool buzzwords in the cheese industry and then created a cheese to encompass them all.

The amazing part? They succeeded.

Ziege Zacke Blue, with its crazy catchy name, is made twice a month at Roelli Cheese in Shullsburg. Hedrich hauls her family’s goat milk to the plant, and she and Chris spend a day crafting the original cheese by hand. Chris then ages it in his caves, and Katie markets it under the LaClare Farms Specialties label. Well, at least she will, as soon as there’s enough to sell. The cheese is just now aging out to perfection, and with limited quantities to start with, will likely only ever be for sale in select retail stores in Wisconsin.

While I had heard rumors the cheesemaking pair were working on a collaborative cheese, I didn’t know it was actually finished until I stopped by Fromagination yesterday to pick up cheese for my 2012 Wisconsin Artisan Cheese Series. There, sitting in all its glory on top of the cheese counter was a cheese called “Blue Jack,” described as creamy with a subtle blue taste, made by Chris Roelli and Katie Hedrich.

I bought a pound and then sent both cheesemakers an email with a big question mark. In typical humble Wisconsin form, Chris answered: “Katie would be the best to talk about the zz. It was kinda her idea, I just developed it and made it.” Yeah, that’s all, just developed and made it, you know, no biggee.

Luckily, Katie also answered, and elaborated with more detail. She said the combination actually came about at the 2011 Wisconsin Cheese Originals festival in Madison last November. 

“Chris asked me when I was going to start making a goat milk blue. I responded: ‘whenever Chris Roelli wants to’. Needless to say, I took a load of milk down to him on Dec. 9th and we made our first batch. We are now making one to two batches a month and having a blast with it.”

So will everyone who is lucky enough to try it. Welcome, Ziege Zacke Blue to the Wisconsin artisan cheese community. Here’s hoping you never leave.

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