If there’s anything we Wisconsinites really, really like, it’s good food. So many of the first things we think about when we think about home are tied to eating and food memories. If you’re unlucky enough to have moved away, there are foods you have your friends and family send you – or they’re the things you taste as soon as you set foot back on Dairy State soil. Memories of meals shared and time helping in the kitchen are full of nostalgia and make us remember life growing up here in Wisconsin. Here are 14 foods that basically define life here. If you’ve not tried them, odds are you’ve not lived here very long:
1. Cheese curds
There could be a whole category and multiple subcategories for cheese, but the one that really defines being here in state are the curds. You might find a nice aged cheddar elsewhere, but you're not going to find fresh, squeaky curds outside our state lines. They're unique and delicious and so indicative of home.
2. Frozen custard
This one might be more tied to the southern part of the state, but there's a reason that a stop at Kopp's was the first thing I did when I flew home from college, on the way home from the airport. I would absolutely have Kopp's Cookies n' Cream custard as the dessert of my final meal on Earth if I got to choose.
Inside Lambeau Field might be the best atmosphere in the state, but there's nothing like the smell of thousands of cooking brats that wafts through the parking lots at Miller Park. It so happens that Miller Park is the only MLB stadium that has something other than hot dogs as it's highest selling item. From the Sheboygan brat fry to the World's Largest Brat Fest in Madison, there is nothing better than a grilled cased German meat here in Wisconsin.
4. Fish fry
From corner bars to Up North supper clubs, the Friday Fish Fry in Wisconsin is sacred. Go on your own or meet up with the whole family to take part in this amazing state tradition that might be more popular during Lent, but happens all across the state on Fridays all year long.
5. Brandy Old Fashioned
It's Wisconsin, so let's not pretend that we don't count drinks as part of our vital food groups. Wisconsin drinks more Brandy than anywhere else in the world and we've been known to drink other cities dry of our favorite quaff. We all know how to make a mean Old Fashioned and we judge how every bartender makes (or tries to make) them.
Wisconsin is the nation’s leading producer of cranberries, harvesting more than 60 percent of the country’s crop. Drive through the central and northern parts of the state and you're bound to see miles and miles of bogs of these delicious little berries just waiting for you to enjoy. Whether it's fresh or in baked goods, you'll love these tart little guys that call Wisconsin home.
This flaky, addictive Danish pastry has a stronghold in Racine, but all of us across the state love the sweet, flat dessert. Of course, we also have it for breakfast with our coffee or as a snack during the day. Kringle slices are like potato chips - you can't eat just one.
When Cornish immigrants came to Wisconsin to work in the mines that were similar to the ones they had learned in at home, they brought with these simple, but delicious little hand pies that have found a home in Mineral Point and places up north. They're a unique and delicious little bit of our state's history that you get to eat.
9. Pickled herring
Not just for New Year's tradition, pickled herring has Norwegian roots, but Ma Baensch's has been canning up this stuff since 1932. A peculiar but familiar part of many family gatherings here in Wisconsin, you have to at least try it.
10. Square cut, thin crust pizza
This so-called pub style comes on a cracker-thin crust that is sometimes known as Milwaukee style. We love a crumbly, crunchy crust dished out in small squares carrying amazing Wisconsin cheese and all kinds of toppings.
The lines at Wisconsin bakeries are out the doors on Fat Tuesday as people queue up to get their yearly paczki. These Polish donuts traditionally come with a prune filling are one of those last big hurrahs to clean out the cupboards before Lent.
12. Fish boil
Though you may find some folks that use trout, these are almost always conducted with Great Lakes Whitefish and are super popular in Door County and along the shores of Lake Superior. First used as a way to feed a large crowd of fisherman or lumberjacks, now they're just a quaint and delicious way to enjoy the local catch.
13. Local beer
Sure, we tend to focus on New Glarus since that's the one that no one outside the state gets to enjoy, but overall, there's a ton of great, local beer being made in cities and towns across Wisconsin. If you're not out there sampling the goods and working towards finding your absolute favorite, you've definitely not fully settled in as a Wisconsinite.
14. Door County cherries
Door County's unique location on a peninsula out into Lake Michigan as well as along the NIagara Escarpment makes it the perfect place to grow delicious, bountiful cherries. The cool Spring growing months and the unique soil was home to some of the earliest and biggest fruit orchards in the country and they've flourished. The cherries are sweet and delicious and oh-so-worth waiting for.
What other foods do you consider iconic to Wisconsin? Let us know in the comments!