This cheese is the result of the collaboration between old friends Jeff Wideman, known as Jeff W, and Jeff Jirik, aka Jeff J. Jeff W is a master cheese maker and the president of Maple Leaf Cheese in Wisconsin. He grew up on the dairy farm cooperative that his parents were members of and he was trained by the two Swiss cheesemakers at the cooperative. In 1981, Jeff W. took over the operation of Maple Leaf Cheese. He has certifications in the production of Monterey Jack and Cheddar.
The Caves of Faribault (formerly known as Faribault Dairy) was founded by Jeff Jirik in 2001, when he reopened the caves that had lain dormant for eight years. Jeff J, a native of Rice County, MN, started his cheese career in 1979 as a “Cheese Scraper” at the Faribault plant under its former ownership. He is a licensed Wisconsin cheesemaker and is on the board of the American Cheese Society.
The inspiration for Jeffs’ Select Gouda came from Jeff W’s travels to the Netherlands, where he fell in love with Gouda. He built a special production and brine room addition at his Wisconsin plant in 2009 and started making a few vats. Jeff J, also a lover of Gouda, offered Jeff W his sandstone caves in Minnesota for aging. This is therefore a cheese without borders made by “cheesemakers without borders.”
The Caves of Faribault feature natural St. Peter’s sandstone, originally formed in the last glacial age. First used to store beer beginning in 1856, the caves were purchased by Felix Frederiksen in 1936 to cave-age blue cheese under the name Treasure Cave, Inc. It was America’s first blue cheese plant and was run under the Treasure Cave, Inc. brand until the early 1990’s when it closed.
Jeffs’ Select Gouda was an experiment in aging. Unlike typical American Goudas, which are aged in cold temperature controlled facilities, Jeffs’ Select is aged in the warm, high humidity sandstone caves. Also, this Gouda is allowed to develop its own rind, a very different tactic than most other Goudas, which are covered in wax or plastic during aging. The two Jeffs found that a nine-month affinage was the perfect amount of time in the caves to fully develop its flavor. During that time, the wheels are turned by hand.