One of the ways Wisconsin celebrates its rich dairy tradition is with the Alice in Dairyland program. Each year, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection chooses a public relations professional to travel the state promoting Wisconsin’s diverse agriculture industry to various audiences. Crystal Siemers-Peterman is Wisconsin’s 70th Alice in Dairyland and is the sixth generation on her family’s dairy and crop farm in Cleveland, Wisconsin.
We sat down with Crystal to chat about our favorite topics at Wisconsin Cheese: Mac and cheese. Crystal’s Grandma Siemers makes a fantastic Creamy Macaroni and Cheese Bake, and we all get hungry every time we look at these pictures. Crystal fit right into our cheese-loving culture, and we couldn’t ask for a better ambassador to share the story of Wisconsin Cheese.
What makes Grandma Siemers’ Creamy Mac and Cheese Bake such a special recipe? Was it a part of any special memories you have from childhood?
One of my favorite pastimes growing up was showing my family’s registered Holsteins at local, state, and national shows. These shows take a lot of preparation and require teamwork. Each and every person has their own responsibilities and we take a lot of pride in our animals.
My grandma has the very important job of keeping “Team Siemers” well fed at the shows with her delicious recipes. Her Creamy Mac and Cheese Bake is filled with Wisconsin cheddar and parmesan cheese in every bite. It’s the ultimate comfort food that reminds me of my family, friends, and the many memories of growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm.
Tell us about the cheeses featured in this dish. It seems like everyone has their own special blend of cheeses for their perfect mac and cheese, and what is your Grandma Siemers secret to the perfect cheese sauce?
Cheddar cheese is firm, rich, and smooth, making it perfect for mac and cheese. It teams up well with salty Parmesan. The nutty, fruity notes of Parmesan, and its grittier texture, pair perfectly with smooth, creamy cheddar.
We all know that Wisconsin is known for its cheese. What do you think makes cheeses from Wisconsin so exceptional?
In Wisconsin, 96% of the dairy farms are family-owned and I’m proud to be a part of that statistic. I’m also proud that our family’s milk goes into making award winning cheese. With the help of passionate dairy farmers, award-winning cheesemakers and the utmost pride, Wisconsin cheese stands out from the rest.
The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program is the only program of its kind in the United States. The program prides itself around providing additional education for already experienced Wisconsin cheesemakers. This special program continues to advance our impressive Wisconsin cheese industry while continuing a tradition of excellence and innovation.
Besides the ones featured in this recipe, what are some of your favorite Wisconsin cheeses?
With over 600 varieties, types and styles of Wisconsin cheeses, it’s hard to pick a favorite! As of right now I’m a big fan of Deer Creek “The Stag,” Henning’s Blueberry Cobbler Heritage Cheddar, and Crave Brothers Farmstead Marinated Fresh Mozzarella.
We know it’s a pretty controversial topic, but we have to ask: Do you eat mac and cheese with a fork or a spoon?