an explorer's club of Wisconsin foods and recipes

Happy Dairy Month! Start Celebrating With Breakfast!

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Yes, as we all know, June is Dairy Month.  But I don’t know if even proud Wisconsinites have a handle on just how much the dairy industry means to Wisconsin and their lives.  So I looked to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board for both fast facts and dairy celebration activities.

Dairy wears the crown of Wisconsin agriculture, representing the largest economic portion of the state ag pie.  There are more than 12,100 dairy farms in the state, which makes it seem like cows are ubiquitous when driving through Wisconsin.  Well, they’re iconic, but not quite ubiquitous.   Then again, there are about 1,265,000 cows here — that’s more than the amount of people who live in Rhode Island.

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And it’s not just the cows who are working, according to the UW Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics, the dairy industry accounts for nearly 40% of all Wisconsin agriculture jobs, employing more than 146,000 people.

Wisconsin is second in dairy production in the U.S. — which is saying a lot, if you look at total the total 200.3 billion pounds of U.S. milk production.

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But don’t let second make you feel badly, as when it comes to dairy products – Wisconsinites aren’t called “cheeseheads” for nothing.  Wisconsin has led cheesemaking in the U.S. since 1910, making 24.9%.  Total cheese production:  2,637,348,000 pounds.  Now that’s hefty enough to make Wisconsin rank 4th among the top cheese-producing countries around the world!  [Behind U.S. (without WI inclusion), Germany and France.]

There are 1,188 licensed cheesemakers in Wisconsin who produce more than 600 varieties, types and styles of cheese, according to the WMMB.  Wisconsin accounts for 46% of total specialty cheese in the U.S.  And it’s not just quantity that is impressive; it’s the quality.

Wisconsin won 57 awards at the 2011 American Cheese Society Contest, a whopping 30.8% of the awards.  California was the second state with 10.3%  And they have taken on the world, as well.  Wisconsin won 95 awards (37.8%) at the 2012 World Championship Cheese Contest.  The only country even close to Wisconsin was Switzerland, who won 7.6% of the awards.

And, of course, there’s more dairy in Wisconsin with 10 butter and 9 yogurt plants in the state.

So there’s a lot to celebrate this month.  Try out some of the Dairy Days of Summer activities, starting on June 6.  Or head to one of the many farm breakfasts starting June 8 and continuing throughout the month to celebrate.

If you don’t make it a dairy farm, Wisconsin Bites will feature three different dairy farms this month — starting June 12 — to give you an idea of where your milk, cheese and butter come from.

In the meantime, in the spirit of the farm breakfasts, here’s a different twist on your breakfast pancakes — including more dairy products — for you to try!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Time:  15 minutes

Serves:  4

Ingredients

4 cups buttermilk pancake mix, your brand choice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

Dash or two of salt

Directions

Mix milk, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice together and let sit for 10 minutes.  The activity of the ingredients will bubble a little and make lighter, fluffier pancakes.

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After 10 minutes, mix pancake mix, vanilla, eggs, salt and ricotta cheese into the milk-vinegar mixture.

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Then pour onto hot griddle…

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Watch pancakes closely as they tend to bubble and brown pretty fast.

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Serve with lemon zest and your favorite syrup;  add raspberries and enjoy!

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