A Complete Vintage Cheese Crock Guide
For generations, homemakers have used stoneware crocks to store and preserve food, including butter, pickles, fruit, and sauerkraut. The density of the clay and its high firing temperature produce sturdy, non-absorbent containers.
In this vintage cheese crock guide, we’ll look at the available historical evidence, examine several examples, and consider their values.
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Cheese Crock History
Cheese historians tell us that in 1933 Hubert Fassbender invented “cold pack” cheese under the brand name “Kaukauna Klub.” He sold it in gray stoneware crocks stamped with the company name and the logo: Kaukauna Klub, Spreads like butter.
Mixing the cheese with a few additional ingredients made it easily spreadable. Bars and hotels began offering it to their patrons and it became known as “club” or “crock” cheese. You could find it flavored with port wine, beer, almonds, and horseradish, among other add-ins.
Other cheese spread manufacturers, like WisPride (see below) quickly followed suit.
For a relatively small window of time, from the 1930’s to 1970’s, stoneware served as the material of choice for cold pack cheese products. Plastic would eventually take its place.
As to the manufacturers of these crocks, almost nothing is known about them, though we’ll take a look at two possibilities (Pearsons and Hall) below.
Cold Pack Cheese vs. Pasteurized Cheese Spread
The primary difference between cold pack cheese and pasteurized cheese spread relates to the method of production. Cold pack, as the name implies, is made by grating and mixing without heat, while cheese spreads involve heat.
Heat alters the sharpness and flavor of the end product, with cold pack being considered a superior type of cheese.
In addition, cold pack has no additional water added, while cheese spreads do. This, of course, contributes to the lack of flavor some attribute to the spread.
Calumet Cheese Co., which we now know as WisPride, began producing their version of cold pack just one year after KauKauna (Edible Milwaukee), in 1934.
So far as I’ve been able to discover, they used plain brown crocks–like the one above–with paper labels, to hold their cheese products.
Not to be confusing, but I should note that other cold pack makers used similar brown crocks.
The history of Win Schuler restaurant begins in 1909 when Albert Schuler opened the first, now iconic, Michigan restaurant.
His son Win took over in 1934 and began offering cold pack cheese as a free appetizer to their customers in 1943 (Mlive), likely in small crocks like the one above (2 1/4″). Somewhere along the line it lost it’s small lid.
It became known as “Bar Scheeze” and as its popularity grew they began making it available for sale in larger crocks with metal bails, like the one above (5 1/4″).
Homestead Cheese, another Wisconsin-based company, also produced their version of cold pack cheese and delivered it to their customers in gray crocks stamped with their logo.
The company dates to 1912 (HomesteadCheese.com), but little is known about when they began offering the product in crocks. I’d date the one you see here to the 1970’s or 80’s.
I unearthed almost nothing about this navy blue speckled crock (4 1/2″) except that it is similar in appearance to those issued by a cheese company called “Holly Crest,” also located in Wisconsin.
It appears to be out of business; however, I found a similar speckled crock still in production for a cheese company called Pine River.
Yet another Wisconsin cheese company, Old Tavern Food Products, produced delicious cold pack cheese and used crocks, like this sweet light blue one (3 3/4″), to contain it.
Mine is missing its lid and bail. I’d date it to the 1950’s or 60’s. The company shut down in 2017.
Other Old Tavern crocks, including a 40 oz. cobalt blue jar and a gray jar stamped with an eagle and “Spirit of ’76” on the front are lurking out in the wild (CBS58).
Cropwell Bishop Creamery
I’ve included this Cropwell Bishop Creamery jar (3 1/4″), which would have contained blue cheese crumbles, as an example of a crock that’s still in production. New and filled with cheese, this jar would cost about £12.50 or $15.
Made of a porcelain type ceramic, it has quite a different look from the stoneware crocks we’ve already considered.
This little yellowware crock with brown Albany slip measures just 2″ high. Its exactly the right size to hold toothpicks in my workroom.
I cannot swear to the fact that it’s a cheese crock, but it matches the Win Schuler crock in size and like it, is perfect for an individual serving size.
Pearsons of Chesterfield
In business from 1810 to 1994, Pearsons of Chesterfield, an English pottery, produced all kinds of stoneware: dishes, pitchers, jugs, and yes, cheese crocks.
Somewhat ironically, I purchased this crock (3 3/4″) at a flea market in the town of Chesterfield when we lived in England. This newer mark dates it to the 1970’s, and it would have originally had a flat, cobalt blue lid.
This little charmer, also made by Pearsons, measures just 2 1/4″ high–just enough for an individual serving of cheese spread.
I can’t be certain that these crocks, made by the Hall China Company, served as cold pack containers, but it sure seems like a possibility. Each measures 2 1/2″ high.
Robert Hall founded the company in 1903. His son developed a “single fire” method of producing china that resulted in a super hard finish that strongly resists cracking.
They are well-known for their “Jewel Tea” line, as well as for producing ceramic elements for Longaberger baskets, though they went out of business in 2020.
Uses for Cheese Crocks
Fortunately, cheese crock collections can serve a vital purpose in a household. They are not mere dust collectors as some other vintage and antiques sometimes are, but rather can hold all sorts of small “collections” of items essential to the home.
Here are some possibilities:
- Hold dry foods like almonds
- Contain toiletries like makeup brushes, lipsticks, cotton balls, etc.
- Hold workroom supplies, like paint brushes, screwdrivers, popsicle sticks, etc.
- Display Bakelite or celluloid handled flatware
- Show off antique button hooks
- Hold pens and pencils
- Grow plants
Where to Find Cheese Crocks
Cheese crocks can be found anywhere you might be looking for vintage and antiques, but to find them at prices low enough for resale, look at garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores.
I try to pick them up for a dollar or less, unless unusual or older, in which case, I’ll spend up to two dollars, LOL.
You can also find them in antique shops but expect to pay market value. If you’re looking for a specific type to complete a collection, it may be worth it to pay a bit extra.
Vintage Cheese Crock Values
The crocks you’ve seen in this article vary in value from about $10-20, with the smaller examples falling on the lower end and the larger, more interesting ones falling on the higher end, e.g., the blue speckled crock.
Where to Sell Cheese Crocks
Cheese crocks sell quite well for me from my antique booth. Since I have a policy of not selling items worth less than $20 online (with some exceptions like linens, books, and jewelry), I’ve not tried selling them there.
However, a quick look at both Etsy and eBay reveals hundreds of cheese crocks like the ones in this article offered for sale.
A gander at eBay’s sold listings for cheese crocks reveals that a few hundred have sold in recent months, most for about $10 each with $10 shipping.
Charmingly homey, vintage cheese crocks have proven to be consistent sellers from my antique booth, where I focus on farmhouse style vintage and antiques. If you’re not a booth seller, then eBay and Etsy also offer opportunities for selling them.
I fully recommend cheese crocks as handsome, yet functional collectibles and/or as merchandise for your antique business.
What’s been your experience collecting or selling cheese crocks?
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I love cheese crocks! I live in Wisconsin, not far from Kaukauna, and these crocks turn up everywhere. I can’t sell them for a lot (because they turn up everywhere!), but I plant in them and sell a few. I have aloe and spider plants in my living room in a variety of crocks, including a brown two-tone crock like the one pictured. Thanks for the fun article!
So nice to hear from a Wisconsin resident Daisy! Sounds like your market’s saturated but you’ve found a way to make it work for you. I’m adding “planter” to the list of uses :):)
I don’t think I’ve ever come across cheese crocks to buy in the wild, only seen them in shops. But I’ve had good luck finding and selling a few mustard jars– maybe another article for you!?! I would add container for small floral arrangements–especially if the crock is missing its lid! Touch of country and homey!