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Food science instructor, students create new cheese

March 13, 2008

After two years of planning, UW-River Falls professor Ranee May and her students have created a new cheese: Cobblestone Red.

This is a wine-infused cheese that has gotten attention in several publications in the Twin Cities area including the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

May has been at UWRF since 1982 working as a food science instructor as well as the plant manager for Falcon Foods. She has a bachelor’s degree in food science from the University of Nebraska as well as a master’s degree in food science from the University of Minnesota.

May has been making cheese since 1973 around the world, including Paraguay and China.

May and her family moved to River Falls in 1982 when her husband got a job here in agricultural business. When a professor became ill and couldn’t teach, the food science department called May her in for an interview, and she hasn’t left since.

She started as the plant manager and later became an instructor for a few food science courses.

It was in the second semester of a dairy manufacturing class that she challenged the students to come up with a new kind of cheese.

After much deliberation, May and her students came up with the idea of a wine-infused cheese.

The idea for this kind of cheese just came out of the blue, May said.

“Wine and cheese parties are big, so why not combine the two,” she said.

Cobblestone Red is not like a typical cheese.

“It’s more like a desert cheese,” May said. “You would eat more after dinner instead of with hors d’oeuvres.”

According to the Falcon Foods Web site, Cobblestone Red is described as a semi-soft sweet cheese that picks up hints of berries, black cherries and vanilla from the wine.

The food science department has partnered with the Chateau St. Croix, a local winery, to provide all the wine necessary for the product.

“The wine doesn’t overpower the cheese, but you can still see and taste the wine,” said Josh Burgan, a student who is in his second year working for Falcon Foods.

Now that Cobblestone Red has been made, May is looking into getting it trademarked.

“There are two reasons as to why I am looking into getting it trademarked,” May said. “One is so nobody else can copy it, and the second reason is that this creation is something that River Falls could be known for.”

May also said that they are hoping to create a line of flavor-induced cheeses.

“One we’re working on is a cheese that would have special herbs and spices from the Wisconsin area.”

Cobblestone Red is currently available at Falcon Foods for $12 per pound which, according to May, is right in line with the current market.