Wisconsin may have a reputation for cheese, but Minnesota has its own bragging rights that few seem to know about. Let me share a cheesy secret with you…
Legend holds that the first blue cheese was born in the natural caves of France where ideal humidity and temperature conditions allowed native blue green molds to flourish. That tradition lives on at Caves of Faribault on the site where America’s first blue cheese was made, and where cheese is aged in sandstone caves carved from the river bluffs. Faribault, MN is on nearly the same line of latitude as Roquefort, France. The atmosphere within the caves is ideal for the curing and aging of blue cheese.
At face value, the sandstone bluffs in Faribault are nothing more than a wall of rock towering over the city as I drive to work. Yet formation of St. Peter Sandstone goes back to the last glacial age. Found only in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and northern Missouri, this sandstone is geologically rare. It is uniquely qualified for aging cheese and lagering beer. The caves began serving this purpose in 1854 when Gottfried and Ernst Fleckenstein used the caves to brew and age their beer. They had to close down that operation due to The Prohibition in 1919.
In December 1936, Mr. Felix Frederiksen purchased the caves and set up shop for the first blue cheese to be made in the United States. The Caves of Faribault produce both AmaBlu and AmaGorg cheese brands at the very same location today. The caves amass nearly an acre of land inside the sandstone bluff.
Inside the plant, employees work the milk into curd, separate it and form it into a wheel. Each wheel is then salted twice and pierced with 72 holes, to allow the blue veining within the cheese, for the final stage of the initial preparation. From there, the production process utilizes the natural surroundings. Faribault’s sandstone bluffs open into a web of twelve caves creating ideal conditions for aging cheese. For three weeks, the wheels sit untouched to work in tandem with nature to create truly delicious cheeses.
Nowhere else in the U.S. is cheese aged in sandstone caves like it is here today. I found this very interesting. Sadly, due to Federal Regulations The Caves of Faribault isn’t open for public tours but there’s a virtual tour online here: https://vimeo.com/36248940
I think I need to go. I’m hungry for some cheese.