CALS experts offer help to a former prison farm that feeds the needy
Wondering what’s fueling the success of UW athletes? Look no further than Red Whey, a recovery drink composed of tart red cherry juice and whey protein. The beverage was developed as a collaboration between the UW–Madison Athletic Department, CALS’ Center for Dairy Research and industry partners including Country Ovens-Cherry De-Lite. You can buy the drink at Metcalfe’s in Madison’s Hilldale Mall or order it from Country Ovens at (920) 856-6767, www.countryovens.com. It will soon be more widely available, producers say.
A program with deep roots at CALS helps school districts around Wisconsin serve fruits, vegetables and other goods from local farmers—and introduces children to the joys and benefits of healthy eating.
1. There are 113 species of fruit flies. Why worry about this one? While most other fruit flies attack only overripe or damaged fruit, the female spotted wing drosophila can cut a slit and lay eggs in healthy fruit. Typically this insect will strike just as the fruit begins to color. It prefers such soft-skinned [...]
Geiss Meat Service in Merrill, Wisconsin, has been butchering livestock for farmers in Lincoln County and surrounding areas since 1956, cutting about 6,000 pounds of beef a day—that’s an average of eight to 10 beef cattle—into fresh steaks, chops, loins and roasts. But when third-generation owner Andrew Geiss took over the company in 2005, he was ready to try something new.
“I wanted to figure out a way to build up a retail business by expanding our sausage line,” he says. “I thought there was more money to be made by diversifying our products.” He added a smokehouse and started taking basic meat science classes at CALS—and soon discovered a satisfaction in crafting his own specialty meats that meat cutting alone couldn’t provide.
“There’s a lot of pride and art that goes into it. For instance, getting that perfectly round shape and uniformity in color when making a ham,” says Geiss. “You can’t imagine how much one thing in the smokehouse—for example, the humidity levels—changes everything, and how much work is involved.”
But the business side wasn’t going as well as he had hoped. “Honestly, I was at a point where we needed to make some serious changes with the consistency of our products in order to please customers and expand sales,” he says.
He found exactly the help he needed in 2010, when he was accepted into the inaugural class of the Master Meat Crafter training program at CALS. He and his classmates—16 men and one woman from small meat operations all around the state—traveled to Madison regularly over the course of two years for rigorous, hands-on instruction in meat science and processing, covering such areas as fresh meats, fermented and cured meats, cooked and emulsified sausage and meat microbiology and food safety.
That training earned Geiss the right to use the formal designation of Master Meat Crafter. But even more than the title, the program gave him the skills he needed to improve the quality, yields and markup on his products. “Now we’re doing a ton of different kinds of sausages, and everything is turning out just perfectly,” he reports. “And I don’t have to second-guess anything. I know that everything is exactly the way that I want it to be, and it turns out the same every time.”
The industry already has taken note of his improvements. Last summer Geiss Meat Service entered products for the first time in the American Cured Meat Championships and won awards in four categories, including first place in cooked ring bologna.
But even seasoned meat crafters see the value of the master course. The debut class included Louis E. Muench, a third-generation sausage maker who was inducted into the Wisconsin Meat Industry Hall of Fame in 2009. Since 1970, Louie’s Finer Meats in Cumberland has been crafting ham, bacon, bologna, breakfast links, salami, summer sausage and dozens of other products—and winning more than 300 state, national and international awards for their quality. Its creative staff also designs an extraordinary assortment of bratwurst, including applewurst, bacon cheeseburger, blueberry, pumpkin pie and wild rice and mushroom.
Why would someone with that level of expertise be interested in going back to school? “There’s so much technology that changes every day,” Muench says. As examples he cites new antimicrobials developed to combat foodborne pathogens and new government food safety, labeling and operations-related regulations, including changes that will for the first time allow Wisconsin’s state-inspected small processors to sell across state borders. “For our business to succeed in the long run, we need to keep current on everything and try to pass on as much knowledge as we can to keep the quality and the food safety up,” says Muench.
Within a year of completing the program, Muench had encouraged his son Louis and his brother William to sign up with the next group of students.
That’s the kind of success that the Master Meat Crafter program’s key partners—CALS, UW-Extension, the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors (WAMP)—envisioned when they determined that state-of-the-art training was needed to take the state’s specialty meat production to an even higher level.
Program director Jeff Sindelar, a CALS professor of animal sciences and UW-Extension meat specialist, designed it to be like an academic postgraduate program that would benefit even the most skilled and experienced artisans. In both structure and intent, the new program mirrors the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program run by the Center for Dairy Research at CALS, which was a key player in turning Wisconsin’s specialty cheese business into a globally acclaimed leader that today accounts for more than 20 percent of Wisconsin’s total cheese production, up from a mere 4 percent in the 1990s.
The Master Meat Crafter program’s success will be measured over the long haul, says Sindelar: “It’s which of these plants will grow, add on, which plants are going to pass along the business, whether to family members or to other people who can continue the name. It’s really about longevity and viability of the industry.
BS’91 Food Science
Quark (pronounced “kwark”), is a fresh cheese that is very common in Europe, where it mostly is eaten as a spread on bread–much the way we use cream cheese–or mixed with fruit or herbs and eaten like yogurt. Master cheesemaker Bob Wills, an alumnus of the CALS Center for Dairy Research (CDR) and owner of Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain, may be credited with bringing quark to our state. He’s producing it at Clock Shadow Creamery, his new cheese plant in Milwaukee. You can buy quark there or in a number of supermarkets under the Cedar Grove label–or you can be bold and try making your own. It’s easier to make than yogurt and requires no special equipment. You’ll need three cups to make the scrumptious German cheesecake recipe we provide below. Here’s a quark recipe from Mike Molitor, CDR process pilot plant manager.
Makes 1 1/3 cups of quark
4 cups whole milk
3 Tablespoons buttermilk with live cultures
Use a large pan with a lid. Heat milk to about 170°F for at least 30 seconds. It’s fine if a skin forms on it, but avoid scalding the milk to prevent a cooked or burnt flavor.
Remove from heat, put on the lid and let milk cool to room temperature. Then whisk buttermilk into the milk. Replace the lid and let the milk sit undisturbed at room temperature for 12 to 14 hours or until it’s the consistency of yogurt.
Once the milk has curdled, strain it by layering a sieve with cheesecloth, pouring the milk into the sieve and allowing it to drain overnight in the refrigerator. What’s left in the sieve is quark. You may need to stir the quark a few times to get it to drain thoroughly.
Even Easier, Buttermilk Only
Instead of adding buttermilk to plain milk—a process that essentially means you are “making” buttermilk—you can simply purchase a gallon of buttermilk (typically 1 percent butterfat) and strain it in the refrigerator as directed in the last paragraph above to obtain the quark.
Courtesy of Clock Shadow Creamery
Kasekuchen (German Cheesecake with Quark)
¼ cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup wheat flour (can substitute white flour)
¼ cup white refined sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3 cups quark
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup white refined sugar
½ cup dry milk powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
Powdered sugar for dusting cake
To make dough:
Mix eggs and sugar thoroughly. Combine wheat flour and baking powder. Cut butter (in small pieces) into flour mixture. Add egg/sugar mixture. Knead all into combined homogenous dough ball. Take 2/3 of dough and roll flat ¼ inch thick. Place in bottom of spring form pan. Take the 1/3 and make a long roll (like a snake), place around the outer edge and press into place (create a little rim).
To make filling:
Combine cornstarch, sugar, dry milk powder, and salt. Combine with quark. Separate egg. Mix egg yolks and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly with quark mixture. Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks, and fold gently into the quark mixture. Spread the filling onto the dough in the spring form pan.
Bake at 325 F for 45-55 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Dust with powdered sugar and place in fridge for 30 minutes.
Where to find quark from Clock Shadow Creamery:
Shelbi Jentz knew that CALS would open her eyes to new ideas, but she didn’t think a whole new way of eating would be one of them.
BS’05 Genetics, Plant Pathology
LAST FALL I spent an afternoon near Baraboo sitting in a tree stand across from a woman with a rifle. Perched in another crook was our hunting mentor, Karl Malcolm MS’08 PHD’11, then a CALS doctoral student in forest and wildlife ecology. Malcolm was the organizer of that weekend’s Learn to Hunt program, which was the reason I ignored my fear of heights and climbed 15 feet in the air. The woman with the rifle was Kristen Cyffka, a UW–Madison grad student in statistics with an interest in sustainable food. That day would be our chance to shoot a deer—if we saw one. The temperature was unseasonably hot, the deer scarce.
As the sun began to set, the air cooled and the golden light dimmed over the thickets and fields. In the silence, the occasional rustle took on thrilling clarity. This, whispered Malcolm, is the magic hour.
But Cyffka had woken up before 3 a.m. for an earlier hunt, and as the woods grew tranquil, the breeze gentle, I saw her head begin to droop. The rifle remained propped on the armrest of her tree stand. My first instinct was to nudge her with my foot, but then I decided to rouse her in the least startling way I could and instead whispered her name in a soothing murmur. I was learning that you rethink a lot of things when you’re out in the woods in the presence of a loaded gun.
Karl Malcolm has been an avid hunter and angler since his teens, and when he enrolled in the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, he assumed he’d be among fellow hunters.
“I thought I’d meet lots of people with the same feeling I had,” says Malcolm, who is now based in New Mexico as a Presidential Management Fellow with the USDA Forest Service. But when he started talking about his love of hunting and fishing, the other students thought hunting was “barbaric and disrespectful to animals, and that it was all about bloodlust,” he says. “It didn’t at all jibe with my personal experience.” As he began to evaluate and articulate his hunting experiences for others, Malcolm found the initial seed for his interest in teaching others to hunt.
Wisconsin’s Learn to Hunt (LTH) programs have been around since 1997, inspired by the Wisconsin Student Hunter Program, which CALS forest and wildlife ecology professors Don Rusch and Scott Craven had launched in 1993 to ensure that the department’s students gained hands-on experience in hunting and understood its history and role in conservation. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) adapted that into LTH programs designed to recruit new hunters, initially focusing on turkey and pheasant before expanding into deer. The LTH program introduces novices to hunting in a controlled manner by pairing them with mentors on a one-to-one basis. After at least four hours of classroom and field instruction in topics like gun safety, ethical shooting and finding and setting up a hunting site, participants and mentors go out into the fields to experience the hunt firsthand.
Most organizers charge nothing for the course. Mentors must have at least five years’ experience hunting the chosen animal; they also may apply to serve as organizers of an LTH program. Learners must be at least 10 years old and never have received a hunting license for the species being hunted. On paper, Malcolm has organized his programs as an individual, but in practice help comes not only from the DNR but also from the CALS Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, thanks to such hunting mentors as professors Mike Samuel and Tim Van Deelen and engaged students and alumni like Steve Grodsky MS’10, Dan Storm PhD’11 and Mike Watt BS’07 MS’12.
“Other folks who are interested in putting together similar programs should know they can do it and the DNR will be there to back them up,” explains Malcolm.
Now prospective hunters have additional and quite significant support thanks to the Hunters Network of Wisconsin, a joint project between CALS, the DNR and UW–Extension that is dedicated to recruiting more hunters. The effort began with a survey of hunting and conservation organizations conducted by CALS/UW Extension life sciences communication professor Bret Shaw and research associate Beth Ryan, funded with a DNR grant. The survey, which would then inform strategic outreach to mentors and interested non-hunters, identified resources the organizations already used or would like to use more, from assistance in finding interested participants to funds to sponsor LTH events and volunteer education and training.
But perhaps even more significant was the survey’s focus on hunters’ motivations for taking part in the sport. The top reasons people named for hunting were spending time outdoors, being close to nature, using and sharing skills and knowledge, and camaraderie with friends and family. The Hunters Network hopes to use this insight to make mentoring new hunters more appealing.
There’s a compelling reason for all of this outreach. Hunting is an important part of Wisconsin’s history and culture. It also has a $1.4 billion impact on the state’s economy and supports some 26,000 jobs, according to the DNR.
Yet Wisconsin has experienced an ongoing decline in hunting in recent years. A study from February 2011 by the DNR and the UW-based Applied Population Laboratory found that the number of gun deer hunting licenses sold to the state’s residents dropped 6.5 percent, from 644,991 in 2000 to 602,791 in 2010. The report predicts that by 2030, the number of male gun deer hunters (who make up the bulk of hunters, though the number of female hunters is expected to rise) could drop to 400,000.
Tired of ice cream? Not a chance. But if you’re looking for a cold, milk-based coffee drink, consider Babcock Hall’s latest creation. Buckyccino, available at the Babcock Hall Dairy Store and other campus outlets, comes in coffee and mocha—and in taste tests, UW students, faculty and staff preferred it 9 to 1 over Starbucks’ Frappuccino.
What makes Babcock ice cream so good to eat—and so good for science, students and industry?