Photography & Story - Stephen Hamilton, Artisan - Inga Witscher, Food Stylists - Celeste Hamilton & Lynn Gagne, Design - Judith Mara
My “Images For Artisans” series is all about what inspires me as a culinary photographer. I’m surrounded by beautiful food every day but am always searching for a new perspective and a food story I can tell with my camera. In a conversation with one particular cheese maker, I realized that simple, honest artisan food is my true inspiration and that I can help small artisan producers with my photography. In the story below, I’ll share my inspiration to create this series. --Steve Hamilton
My wife Celeste has a dear cousin, Inga Witscher. Inga is a fourth-generation organic dairy farmer and the host of the popular PBS TV program, Around The Farm Table. On the show, she introduces us to the best small farmers and farming practices, then shares how to use them in her own recipes.
Her farm, St. Isidore’s Dairy, is tucked in the rolling hills near Osseo, Wisconsin. Close to four years ago, Inga’s dairy barn and almost finished creamery burned to the ground. It was devastating.
The barn was eventually rebuilt along with a new creamery. Inga’s renewed childhood passion for cheese making finally became a reality in 2020.
Inga had the vision of making a raw-milk, British-style aged cheddar cheese.
At her farmstead, she feeds her 10 Jersey cows native Wisconsin grasses which produce milk of the highest quality. Because of that, the flavor takes on different characteristics of the seasons, yet retains a consistent creamy texture.
The cheddar is buttery in flavor and embedded with the tiny little crystals that cheese connoisseurs crave.
The cloth bandaged cheese is made by hand and aged for a minimum of 60 days. The result is enchantingly beautiful but Inga needed images of the cheese for her marketing. She came to me and asked if I could help.
This is a cheese that’s meant to be the megastar of a charcuterie platter.
It's lovely paired with pork; be it smoked ham or pork tenderloin.
Honestly, I couldn’t wait to photograph this rustic, yet elegant, tower of cheddar from every angle. So we collaborated and came up with ways that would showcase the cheese and all its beauty.
St. Isidore’s cheddar cheese also has a casual side that makes an ordinary salad or mac n’ cheese sing like an angel.
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