The big cheese of micro-creameries

Cosmic Wheel delivers small batches with big flavors

Rama Hoffpauir in aging room
Rama Hoffpauir, one of the owners of Turnip Rock Farm, stands in Cosmic Wheel Creamery's cheese-aging room. Submitted photos

Most of us live within a few miles of several microbreweries and can list dozens of our favorite craft beers. But can you name your favorite micro-creamery?

Located in Clear Lake, Wisconsin, Cosmic Wheel Creamery is keeping the tradition of farmstead small-batch cheese making alive — a craft that shares not only the science of fermentation with brewing but also the art of combining local ingredients for one-of-a-kind taste.

Farmers market shoppers and CSA enthusiasts might recognize Cosmic Wheel Creamery as the cheese-making entity of Turnip Rock Farm. Farm owners Rama Hoffpauir and Josh Bryceson cultivate 25 acres of certified-organic vegetables on their 80-acre farm about an hour east of Minneapolis, where they also raise pigs, chicken and cattle.

In addition to being one of a shrinking few on-farm cheesemakers, Hoffpauir sets her work apart by focusing on raw-milk aged cheeses, meaning the milk is not pasteurized unlike most dairy products available in the United States. Rather than pasteurizing (cooking) the milk before cheesemaking, Rama ages her raw-milk cheeses for at least 60 days to protect us cheese lovers from any potentially harmful pathogens. Raw milk and raw-milk cheeses contain many healthful “good bacteria” and add “terroir” or regional flavor from the area where they were made.

Cosmic Wheel
Cosmic Wheel focuses on raw-milk aged cheeses.

The milk used by Cosmic Wheel Creamery comes from their small herd of 100% grass-fed Jersey breed cows, bringing truly unique flavors to the cheeses. You can actually taste the difference between the “Moonshadow” alpine-style cheese made when the cows are eating hay in early spring and the “Moonglow” alpine-style cheese made when the cows are eating fresh pasture in the summer.

On top of flavor and quality, sustainability is also at the core of Cosmic Wheel’s mission.

“We are trying to create a whole farm ecosystem in which fertility for our pastures and vegetables is provided by composted manure and bedding from our cows,” Hoffpauir said. “We feed whey from the cheese-making to our pigs, and we practice multi-species rotational grazing. We are working to improve the land and surrounding environment, grow healthy food and care for the well-being of our animals.”

Hoffpauir makes Manchego-style, English-style, Gruyere-style and creamy natural rind-aged cheeses as well as a seasonal selection of fresh cheeses. Her cheeses are excellent on their own for desserts or cheese boards or for a decadent fall grilled cheese sandwich like the recipe at right.

You can find Cosmic Wheel Creamery at the Mill City Farmers Market (704 S. 2nd St.) every other Saturday, including Sept. 21, Oct. 5 and Oct. 19, and at the indoor winter markets starting in November. Learn more at millcityfarmersmarket.org.


Cosmic Wheel Creamery Indoor Winter Market NW

Grilled cheese sandwiches

Recipe courtesy of the Mill City Farmers Market • Makes 4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 2–3 medium beets, scrubbed and thinly sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Butter
  • Sweet mustard
  • 8 slices whole grain bread, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces of any aged cheese, thinly sliced
  • 2–3 medium heirloom apples, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces arugula or other seasonal greens

Method

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Coat beet slices with olive oil and salt and roast in the oven until tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside. Lightly dress greens with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt. Set aside. Butter one side of each slice of bread and spread the other side with sweet mustard. Layer sandwiches with cheese on both slices, apples, roasted beets and arugula or other greens. Grill or fry sandwiches until nicely browned on each side.

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