Martha Davis Kipcak moved to Wisconsin in 1998, she scoured Milwaukee
grocery stores in search of her favorite snack. But her efforts were
to no avail — there was simply no pimento cheese anywhere.
calling home to relatives in Texas, saying ‘There’s no pimento
cheese in the grocery store,’ and my family would say, ‘Oh yes
there is. You’re just kidding,’" Kipcak recalls.
But she wasn’t
kidding. Milwaukee and the others areas of Southeastern Wisconsin
where she looked didn’t carry this Southern staple. Pimento cheese,
which is a blend of shredded cheese, mayonnaise and peppers, is common
in the South, and most Southern grocery stores carry as many brands of
it as you’d find peanut butter. Kipcak, who comes from a family of
good cooks, had to make do with making her own, and she often gave
jars of her special cheese spread to friends in town, who became
addicted to it.
the man who brought her to Wisconsin, Kipcak had to figure out how to
support her three children. "I had a small catering business and
had worked in advocacy about sustainable food issues," she says.
In 2012, she started making Martha’s Pimento Cheese as a side
business. Her creamy cheese spread — made with Clock Shadow white
cheddar, mayo and pimento peppers — hit the market in November 2012.
In 2013, Martha’s
Pimento Cheese took top honors in the pimento cheese category at the
American Cheese Society competition, and Martha’s Pimento with
Jalape-os took second place. "It was like an independent film
winning an Oscar," she says.
people in Wisconsin, and especially Milwaukee, where she makes her
cheese, are familiar with the Southern favorite. She now makes and
sells her cheese full time, and she has three part-time employees.
Kipcak is still
involved in sustainable food issues, and she works with the Milwaukee
Food Council. "Food for me has not only been a tool for
surviving, but thriving," she says. "I really have a passion
for feeding oneself and helping others learn how to do that,
Part of that
education is helping people to use her pimento cheese. In the South,
pimento cheese spread between two pieces of bread is a common
sandwich. "You’ll find it everywhere, from gas stations to
bistros," she says.
Here it can be
used in sandwiches, added to pasta, tossed on top of baked potatoes,
added to mac ’n cheese, and even stuffed into mushrooms or tomatoes
as appetizers. It can be spread on crackers, added to grits and topped
on pizzas. "I’ve been known to eat it straight," Kipcak
expanded her line to include a Martha’s Pimento Cheese with Chile de
Arbol. "So I now have mild (regular), medium (jalape-o) and hot (chile
de árbol)," she says. "Chile de árbol is common in Mexican
food, and it’s more like a cayenne pepper. But it’s not anywhere
near as hot as haba-ero or ghost peppers."
scored big in 2013’s ACS awards, she didn’t participate in 2014
because she was too busy getting ready for her wedding. In fact, her
romance is, well, a bit cheesy. Charles "Bud" Brummit was
"the big brother of a dear friend of mine," and one day, he
called her. "He asked me, ‘Can I help you make your cheese?’"
Kipcak says. Brummit did help her make cheese, and it was love at
first cheese over the vats. "I think that makes for a good
story," she says. "He’s a wonderful man, and I’m super
Her cheese is
sold locally at more than a dozen stores, including Larry’s Market,
Grasch Foods and Metro Market. It’s also available at Clock Shadow
Creamery, where she still makes it, and online at
Since her win in
2013, Martha’s Pimento Cheese is now distributed throughout
Wisconsin and Illinois, and just recently, a chain of specialty
grocery stores in Louisiana started carrying it.
Though you can
often find Kipcak at the creamery or out in stores doing tastings, you
can find her at CheeseTopia on April 12 at the Pritzlaff Building,
where cheese expert Jeanne Carpenter is bringing in 50 Great Lakes
cheese-makers. Learn more at cheeseunderground.blogspot.com/2014/10/cheesetopia-bringing-artisan-cheese-to.html.