When the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative was formed in the 1990s, sheep’s milk cheesemaking in America was a young and struggling industry in which small startups often fizzled out. When the cheese plant Montchevre in WI decided to start using sheep's milk, they decided to do it only if they could work with a single source that handled all of the licensing, inspections, inventory and payment. So local sheep farmers responded by forming the WSDC to organize sheep dairying into a more reliable, standardized profession. When the co-op ended up with a surplus of milk, members decided to start making their own cheese.
Milk is sourced from mostly East Friesian and Laucane Breed ewes of member farmers. During spring and summer, the sheep graze freely on pasture and are fed a limited amount of natural grain while being milked.
Duchess is an Edam-style cheese with a reduced fat content. It’s made with 100% sheep’s milk and aged for at least six months. Its texture is light and feathery, and its flavor is salty, sharp and slightly tangy.
Pair it with a Riesling or a Pinot Noir. For beer pairings, try an American Pale Ale or a Witbier.