West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shoppe

Even The Jolly Green Giant Couldn’t Have Worn A Cheese Head This Big!

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11/14/2014

It’s the 50th anniversary of Wisconsin’s “Big Cheese,” star of the 1965 World’s Fair!

It was 1965 and Wisconsin Cheesemakers wanted to make a big impression at the New York World’s Fair. The result was the biggest block of cheese the world had ever seen. It still holds every record.

It was produced for the non-profit Wisconsin Cheese Foundation, an arm of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. Its job is to promote Wisconsin cheese outside the state. Boy, did they ever! Other groups helped, including the American Dairy Association of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Dairy Industry and a whole bunch of other special groups, organizations and companies.

The Big Cheese was a Big Challenge!

It took 43 1/2 hours of continuous production. Steve Siudzinski, owner of Steve’s Cheese, made the mammoth cheese block at his factory in Denmark, Wisconsin, about 10 miles east of Green Bay. It took a Herculean effort and a lot of preparation. A specially constructed 3,000 lb. wooden hoop was needed with 2" x 12" solid oak planks laid over 12" x 10" fir "skids". One inch cottonwood was laid across the oak plants for flooring. The ends were 2" x 10" planks of fir supported by twelve vertical 6 x 6's. For still more support, the structure was crisscrossed by several 3/4" steel tie-rods.

They needed it all! This cheese ended up weighing 34,591 pounds – over 17 tons! It’s why the cheese had to be a block instead of the traditional round. A circle could be too big for any truck and probably too wide for any highway! Even trains wouldn’t have been able to carry it.

Once the curd (over 1,500 pails!) was poured into the giant hoop (and pressing to eliminate the whey), two new walls were joined to the existing walls. This formed a temporary 14 by 20 refrigerated room to cool the big cheese to 34 degrees. Cooling took 35 days. Then the hoop was removed. The cheese "dried" for a week. The final step was to coat it (paraffined) with transparent wax.

Final dimensions were 6 1/2 feet wide, 5 1/2 feet high and 14 1/2 feet long!

The Big Cheese recipe needed a lot of ingredients!

The big cheese used 367,000 pounds of milk or over 183 TONS! It was 170,000 quarts! This would have been the daily production of 16,000 cows – enough cows to stretch for 20 miles in single file. Entire dairy herds breathed a sigh of relief. Actually, six Wisconsin factories and dairy farms helped. Good thing. It would have taken one cow 43 years to produce so much milk!

Even more was needed. Two-thirds of a ton of salt. Ninety pounds of milk coagulant. Twenty-three pounds of coloring. A crew of 25 men worked in shifts around the clock for 43 hours, including four Wisconsin cheese makers who were World's Champion Cheddar Cheese makers. It was our Cheesemaker all-star team!

The Big Cheese needed to go to The Big Apple!

Now all we had to do was get the thing to New York. Again, an entire team of generous and hard-working members got it going. Motor Company donated a $25,000 specially designed diesel tractor. Highway Trailer Company donated a 35 foot trailer with specially built glass sides. The huge glass sides were fabricated by Louis Hoffmann Co. of Milwaukee. Transicold Corp. gave a heavy duty mobile refrigeration unit to maintain low temperature. Chr. Hansen's Laboratory, Inc. of Milwaukee donated the rennet and starter cultures. Marschall Dairy Laboratory of Madison provided coloring. Diamond Crystal Salt Co. donated all the salt. Kusel Co. of Watertown donated use of its newly-designed "cheddaring vat." Candy & Co., Inc., Chicago donated the wax.

Everything was ready. So in April 14, 1964, the big cheese was loaded onto the special glass sided trailer and carried directly to the World's Fair Wisconsin exhibition area.

Needless to say, "The Big Cheese" was a featured attraction at The New York World’s Fair, situated on the Avenue of United Nations. Who wouldn’t want to see the biggest block of cheese in the entire history of the world? Well, over 12 million people took a look during the fair’s two-year run!

The Big Cheese made a big nationwide farewell!

After the Fair ended, the Cheese-Mobile toured the United States, telling the Wisconsin Cheese story. Eat your heart out, Little Oscar!

It was undoubtedly the biggest marketing success story in the history of the Wisconsin Cheese Industry. A huge number of people had a hand in it (in the promotion, not the actual cheese!). The Borden Company was the major financial sponsor and ultimately purchased the big cheese. The State of Wisconsin appropriated $35,000 from the Departments of Agriculture and Conservation. A whole lot of Wisconsin cheese makers proudly made donations based on a percentage of two months' volume.

The entire promotion was a tremendous success. Wisconsin Cheese makers were the envy of other cheese makers all around the world. Everyone had wanted to see The Big Cheese, including every mouse in the world!

Shop for your BIG Cheddar Cheese right here, just the size to fit in your refrigerator!