Cream of the Farmers' Market Crop
When it comes to cheese in the Midwest, Illinois is often overshadowed by its Dairy State neighbor. With only a handful of cheese makers in Illinois, it's an understandable oversight, but still an unfair one, with artisan cheese makers out there like Ludwig Farmstead Creamery. Located in Fithian, Illinois, Ludwig is a relatively new creamery, but they're already doing their state proud. They've been distributing cheeses to Chicago, but still not many people are aware of them. They're seeking to broaden their scope this year by debuting at Green City Market, as the farmers' market prepares for its outdoor season on May 4.
Ludwig is a fifth generation farm, but a new creamery. The farm originated in the 1860's, when the founders brought over a couple Holstein cows from Pennsylvania. Over the subsequent generations, the farm has prided itself on caring for cows, breeding pristine animals, and showing them. They're high value cows due to their lineage and breeding. Until 2010, this was the focus of the farm. But Jake Ludwig had grander ambitions.
(Photo: Ludwig Farmstead Creamery)
Jake's vision was to add something else to the farm, and widen Ludwig's appeal. All their high quality breeding makes for exceptional milk, so the natural next step was to start making cheese with this liquid gold. Jake followed his dream for the farm by constructing a creamery and preparing to make cheese. Tragically, he died in a car accident the night before the creamery was set to make its first cheese. But this was not the end of his dream. The farm kept his spirit alive by continuing to make cheese and fulfilling his hopes.
Ludwig launched its first line of cheeses in 2011. The focal point is European-style raw milk cheese, crafted with the help of a cheese maker named Fons Smits from the Netherlands, who has been doing it for decades. Ludwig currently offers five raw milk cheeses, including a Havarti-style cheese called "Jake's Wheel," a triple cream blue cheese, and Gouda. All cheeses are made from day fresh milk at the creamery, meaning they only make cheese with whatever is milked that day, ensuring the utmost freshness. Milk comes from 25 cows, resulting in roughly 15 wheels of cheese a day. Everything is done diligently by hand, day in and day out.
(Triple cream blue cheese. Photo: Ludwig Farmstead Creamery)
Any new cheese products are sold at farmers' markets first, meaning shoppers at Green City Market this season will get to sample the creamery's popular cheeses as well as any of their new wares. What drew Ludwig to Green City Market is the creamery's love of the market, its location, and its clientele. As Ludwig Sales and Marketing Manager Laura Davenport explains, they love the great connections Green City Market has to the city and its restaurants. While not many Chicagoans currently know of Ludwig, they will soon enough once they start slinging their dairy at the city's largest farmers' market.