Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Another world award for Caves of Faribault cheese March 21, 2022

Felix, Caves of Faribault’s latest award-winning blue cheese. (Photo source: Caves of Faribault Facebook page)

THERE SEEMS TO BE no middle of the road here, no riding the fence. Either you like it or you don’t. And I, for one, love blue cheese. I cannot think of a cheese I don’t love, although processed cheeses rate lower than others on my taste buds.

I live in a community where world class cheese is produced. This year the Caves of Faribault team brought home the bronze in the Blue Veined Cheeses with Exterior Molding category of the World Championship Cheese Contest held recently in Madison, Wisconsin. That award was given to Felix blue cheese, named after Caves founder, Felix Frederiksen.

Award-winning Amablu Gorgonzola from Caves of Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2010)

The number of awards won by Caves of Faribault cheesemakers in the past dozen years in numerous competitions is lengthy and impressive. (See the awards list here; you’ll scroll and scroll.)

Surprisingly, I have not yet tasted Felix blue cheese. Described as having a “dense, fudgy texture,” it’s aged for 60 days minimum in caves carved in the 1850s into sandstone bluffs along the Straight River. Originally, those caves were used by local beer-makers. The process for crafting Felix allows the sandstone caves to “create a natural rind that picks up on the different microflora that inhabit the caves,” according to the Caves website. That’s the basic scientific explanation. I mostly just care that the blue cheese tastes good.

Once my primary source of local cheese, The Cheese Cave closed several years ago. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

My go-to Caves cheeses have been their long-standing Amablu®, Amagorg® (Gorgonzola) and St. Pete’s Select® (blue cheese). With the closing of the Caves downtown Faribault retail store and restaurant a number of years ago, finding our Caves cheese locally has dropped to one source, HyVee grocery store. Note that it’s available in many other places throughout Minnesota and in all other 49 states and internationally. Illinois-based Prairie Farms Dairy Inc now owns Caves of Faribault. Ownership changes often result in changes away from local focus.

Sliced strawberries, cucumbers and Amablu Gorgonzola cheese added to Romaine lettuce make a perfect salad, topped with lemon poppyseed dressing. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2011)

Cheesemaking has a history in Faribault tracing back to 1936 and that first cheesemaker, Felix Frederiksen. Faribault, according to the Caves website, is the home of America’s first blue cheese. And now, 86 years later, local cheesemakers continue to craft award-winning blue cheese in sandstone caves along the river. Cheese that I, for one, love.

Big Woods Blue from Shepherd’s Way Farms, rural Nerstrand, by the Big Woods (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

FYI: There are other award-winning cheesemakers in this region of southern Minnesota, including Shepherd’s Way Farms, rural Nerstrand, and CannonBelles Cheese, Cannon Falls. Both are part of the Cannon Valley Farmers’ Market producers group. That locally-sourced/grown/raised/crafted market held its last inside winter market recently, but restarts in the warm season at its outdoor location under the carport at the Rice County Fairgrounds in Faribault. The first outdoor market is from noon – 3 pm Saturday, April 16. The next follows from 10 am – 2 pm on Saturday, May 14.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photo credit: Caves of Faribault Facebook page