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Made in the Midwest: Award-Winning Cheeses Made in Caves

Updated: 07/24/2013 7:52 AM
Created: 07/24/2013 7:49 AM KSTP.com
By: Ellery McCardle

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- There are a lot of historic buildings in downtown Faribault. A block or two away, there's something that's likely been around longer than the shops and restaurants.

It's a system of caves. There, well-known brands of cheese are made at the Caves of Faribault.

From the outside it looks like a giant hill. But don't be mistaken, there's caves there and inside sits stacks of cheese.

"There's a lot of folks out there who do know who we are. There's a lot of folks who don't," said Elvin Uhlenhopp, plant manager.

He gave us a tour inside.

The cave was discovered in the mid-1800's by two brothers. They used it to brew and chill alcohol. Then the prohibition hit and the humid walls sat empty.

It was re-discovered in 1933 and that's where the cheese chapter of the story begins.

Cheese curds are the only kind made here that don't age in the cave. But gorgonzola, gouda and its well-known AmaBlu cheese do.  

"There's a lot of science when you're making cheese," said Uhlenhopp.

Milk gets shipped in. About seven semi loads a week. Once the cheese is made, it's hand-salted. A special kind of salt we're told.

Then it's pierced by a machine, cured for a few weeks and then aged for at least 60 days in the cave. In that time the mold develops.

What makes these caves so unique is its made of St. Peter sandstone which is very rare. But its breathes well which is good for making cheese.

Once it's done, the crumbles of cheese are packaged, sent out to stores across the country and just down the street to the Cheese Cave.

"That I'm aware of, there's no one out there producing the amount of blue cheese that we do and doing it in a natural cave," said Uhlenhopp.

There's no mistaking this landscape, this formation of Minnesota history isn't going anywhere, literally.

"We're not the least expensive cheese on the market, we probably won't be the least expensive cheese. Our goal is to be the best blue cheese on the market," said Uhlenhopp.

Caves of Faribault has won numerous national awards over the years.

Part of the cave sits directly beneath the chapel at Shattuck-St. Mary's.