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Meet Our New Friend: Hook’s Cheese Company

When Zuercher looks to form a partnership with a cheesemaker, we seek out one whom shares our belief that consistency and dependability are of utmost importance. Such is the case with Hook’s Cheese Company. Since 1976, they have been producing quality cheeses in “America’s Dairyland,” and currently produce out of Mineral Point, Wisconsin.

The husband and wife team of Tony and Julie Hook, who began as college sweethearts, shared a passion for cheesemaking. Both delved into learning their craft during the 1970’s, apprenticing and working for local cheesemakers, while obtaining producer licenses. Later, they took the plunge and purchased a factory of their own.

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One of the secrets to their consistently fantastic cheeses has to do with the milk they use. The company has been purchasing milk from the same small-production local dairies in Wisconsin for over 30 years. Because of the long-standing relationship with these farmers, there is an understanding of what type of milk is essential for their recipes. In turn, a premium price is paid for the high-quality milk.

It is no secret that American customers love yellow cheddar. As a former retailer, this writer can confirm numerous conversations with customers who automatically equate the annatto-enhanced version to “sharper” or “better” flavor. Nonetheless, as distributors, it isn’t often we come by a distinctive aged yellow cheddar. High-quality cheddars are the backbone of Hook’s Cheese, and Zuercher has chosen two for our inaugural offering:  1-Year Cheddar and 3-Year Cheddar. It is even more difficult to find a superior cheddar at a price point that doesn’t send people running. These cheddars hit that mark.

Hook’s 1 Yr. Cheddar has a slightly sharp flavor, but is not overwhelming to the average cheddar lover. This cheese has a smooth texture and fantastic meltability on sandwiches and burgers or in macaroni dishes.

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Hook’s 3 Yr. Cheddar has a pronounced tanginess and pleasant bite. The texture of Hook’s 3 Year Cheddar is a bit more friable than the younger 1-Year Cheddar. However, due to the techniques used by Hook’s to age the cheese, the mouthfeel remains smooth and creamy.

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Hook’s cheeses are aged in curing caves at specific temperatures and humidity, enabling a slow curing process. Every few months, batches are tasted and evaluated. Certain batches are selected to age longer, depending on the developing flavor profile. The Hooks are masters of aging without producing a bitter and acidic final product, and Tony and Julie Hook are continually experimenting with aging time. Word on the street is that they are holding on to a 20-Year Aged Cheddar to be released in 2015, akin to a fine wine or single-malt Scotch.

Then, in 1997, Hook’s Cheese began producing blue cheeses as a result of numerous customer requests. There are three caves at the Mineral Point facility. The cave used to “cure their blues” is kept at a higher temperature and a very high humidity to allow the blue mold to develop. In 2004, Blue Paradise was born, and today, Zuercher is excited to foster it in our Chicagoland home.

Blue Paradise won 2nd place at the 2012 American Cheese Society competition. It is a double-cream blue with a very fudgy, creamy texture. The blue flavor is quite mild, and a bit nutty, which makes it a perfect introduction to the more timid taster. Want to trick these scaredy-cats into liking blues even more? Try drizzling a little honey over this heavenly gem. 

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If you are currently familiar with Hook’s Cheese Company, then please welcome their cheeses into your homes and your customers’ backyard barbecues and parties. If you haven’t yet met these friends, allow us to introduce you personally. We look forward to hearing your feedback in the coming months.