On Friday morning we met Father T., as well as his visiting sister and her family, at a local creamery (before continuing on to the chocolate factory) for a field trip!
Even though they were not making cheeses (at least not on the other side of the viewing window) at the time, the plant manager/head cheesemaker came out and gave us all an excellent presentation. He explained the whole process in which they create their Worldwide Award Winning Handcrafted Artisan Cheeses!
First he explained how the milk comes from a local farm that the creamery works with exclusively. The cows are fed a grass-based diet, so that the flavors of their milk reflect such freshness. This is the first (and very important) step in their handcrafted process with has been resulting in both nationally and internationally recognized cheeses. He then went on to tell us all about the actual process of making cheese, once the milk arrives at the creamery:
CUTTING :: The vat is filled with fresh raw grass-based milk, cultures and mold. Then it is stirred by hand. Vegetable enzymes are added to coagulate it. After setting, it is cut with a cheese harp to make curds.
STIRRING :: The curds are then hand-racked, shoveled and turned. This strengthens the individual curds and gives them integrity.
SALTING :: Salt is added to the vat by hand.
DIPPING :: A stainless steel bucket with holes is used to hand-draw the curds and pour them into hoops. The hoops are placed on drain tables and turned (by hand!) every 15 minutes until the curds have knitted into a wheel.
PERFORATING :: The wheels are placed in our caves and turned (by hand!) every day like champagne. After a period of time, the wheels are perforated. This allows mold to grow inside the wheel.
AGING :: The wheels are places into one of our four aging caves and turned (by hand!) daily.
WAXING :: The wheels are pulled out of the cave after a period of time, then cleaned and waxed. The wheels are them put back into our caves and aged up to two years.
WRAPPING :: The wheel is pulled from our caves when it has achieved the perfect level of mold and taste. The wax is stripped from the wheel and the cheese is wrapped (by hand!) in foil and cheese paper for the customer.
The Creamery's handcrafted blue cheeses have won numerous awards, including the prestigious World Cheese Award for best blue and first place in the American Cheese Society Competition.
After the presentation, my children all enjoyed tasting some of the cheeses. Despite all the awards, they just didn't want to taste the
We were all so impressed that this little local creamery has become one of the finest artisan cheese operations in the world today. Their cheese is served on Air Force One, at the White House Inaugurations, and even to the Queen of England! I think we might just have to stop by again one day soon to
It really was a great field trip, but I have promised my children that our next one will not involve "Moldy Cheese or Spicy Chocolate!"