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The craft of cheese aged on wood – Audio

Marianne Smukowski, Outreach Program Manager

Center for Dairy Research

UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences


2:53 – Total Time

0:23 – Why cheese is aged on wood

0:39 – How wood affects cheese aging

0:56 – What cheeses are aged on wood

1:11 – How much cheese aged on boards

1:24 – Sanitation is key

1:59 – Centuries old practice

2:19  Role at the Center for Dairy Research

2:43 – Lead out



Sevie Kenyon: Marianne welcome to our microphone. Start out by giving us an idea why cheese is aged on wood.

Marianne Smukowski: One of the reasons is there’s an age requirement for some cheeses that you have to do for sixty days, and depending on what cheese variety you’re aging out, that’s what they have been always stored on, is wood.

Sevie Kenyon: Well how does the wood affect the aging process?

Marianne Smukowski: They rotate the cheese to help with the aging process. And wood seems to be a very good vehicle to use for that purpose to age the cheese properly on wood boards.

Sevie Kenyon: And what cheese varieties is this typically done with?

Marianne Smukowski: This is like, Limburgers a really good example, where they’re aged on wood boards. We have some other squared ripened cheeses; self ripened cheeses that could be aged out on wood boards.

Sevie Kenyon: Marianne do you have a sense of how much cheese in the state is aged on boards?

Marianne Smukowski: Well the numbers I saw were up to thirty three million pounds of cheese were stored on wood boards currently, and it could be more.

Sevie Kenyon: Marianne could you briefly describe what the requirements are for aging cheese on wood?

Marianne Smukowski: Well if you want to age cheese on wood, there’s a protocol you have to have in place for cleaning and sanitation. And you have to have it approved by a processing authority, which is recognized by the Department of Agriculture. And once that happens, they say it’s okay to age the cheese on wood boards. Depending on how long they age the cheese on these wood boards…and after it’s done aging they have to go through this cleaning and sanitation protocol, and it could be months, or it could be several years depending on the variety of cheese.

Sevie Kenyon: How long have people been using wood boards to store and age and turn these cheeses?

Marianne Smukowski: I’ve read some quotes that have said up to a century. So it’s been going on for a very long time. And you know it’s worked, we really haven’t had an issue. You just really need to make sure you have a really good cleaning and sanitation program in your facility.

Sevie Kenyon: And maybe a little bit about you. Marianne, what do you do here at the Center for Dairy Research?

Marianne Smukowski: I coordinate the Master Cheese Maker Program, the Wisconsin Master Cheese Maker Program here, which we now have over fifty masters who are certified as a Master. I also do safety quality. That’s my big area of expertise, that’s the safety quality area. So any time somebody would have a question, concern, quality issue, or safety issue, I get the phone call and help them with their situation.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Marianne Smukowski, Center for Dairy Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and I am Sevie Kenyon.