Cheesemaking

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Meet the makers.

Here, our cheesemakers refine traditional recipes handed down through the centuries. They add their own creativity, their expert touch and their love of the land, the milk and the cellar. They create, they age, they nurture each batch to create a taste, texture and flavor that reflects the land and the craft. Here’s how it all happens.

Welcoming the local milk.

Everyday milk trucks pull into our creamery from local farms, most within a 60-mile radius. After careful quality measures, the milk flows into our silos and through our separators to skim off a portion of the cream.

Out for a spin.

Before we begin cheesemaking, all our milk goes through our clarifier centrifuge—the only one of its kind in the U.S. Think of it as a merry-go-round for milk. Spinning at high speed removes material that can cause defects in the cheese during processing. Next, the milk flows through our pasteurizer where it’s briefly heated then cooled. Pasteurization not needed for a few of our cheeses that start with raw milk.

Getting some culture.

The milk is transferred to huge copper vats and cultures are added. For cheese, getting some culture means figuring out what they want to be when they grow up. In fact, adding cultures is one of the keys to determining the flavor of each cheese and each variety of cheese.

The set up.

A lesser known part of cheesemaking is adding rennet. This is essentially a coagulant that thickens, or “sets” the vat and transforms milk into a something that looks like yogurt.

Who cuts the curd.

Once the cheese is set, our cheesemakers cut the curd. The size of curd makes a big difference in the texture. A smaller curd gives us a tight-bodied, lower-moisture cheese. Larger curds result in a softer, open-bodied cheese, higher in moisture.

Start the presses.

The curd is pumped either to the presses for pressed curd cheeses such as our Grand Cru®. Or it’s pumped to curd tables to begin the process of un-pressed cheeses such as Havarti.

Can we get a hoop, hoop.

Next begins the age-old tradition of hooping. It’s not some cheesemakers in a room playing hoops. It’s when we fill cheese forms with the curd. Hooping and pressing makes a big difference in different cheeses. For our dense, firm-bodied cheeses, presses apply force to separate the curd and whey. For un-pressed, softer cheeses, we let the cheese take shape by the force of gravity alone.

Just getting warmed up.

On our finishing carts, the cheese is covered to keep it warm, cozy and allow the curd to knit together. But we can’t leave well enough alone. We flip the cheeses several times for uniform shape and texture. We also test the pH levels to see whether the cheese cultures are doing their job in the fermentation.

A swim in the brine.

Once the pH has dropped and the curd is knitted together, the cheese is submerged in large, saltwater tanks. Brining not only flavors the cheese with all-important salt, it also removes excess moisture and creates the protective rind you so often see on artisan cheeses.

To the cellar for a smear.

Our finest wheels are hand-picked and brought down to our deep and cool cellars. During what’s called “affinage”, cheesemakers laboriously flip each wheel for uniform taste and aging. Many are also hand-smeared. While it sounds rather odd, smearing is an age-old cheesemaking tradition where our cellarmasters smear each wheel with a solution that contains yeast. This helps create a strong, distinctly mature flavor.

Age matters.

The longer a cheese is aged, the more it’s taste and texture changes. Depending on the variety, our cellar-aged cheeses will wait anywhere from 6 weeks to a full 12 months to develop optimal flavor and texture before they’re presented to the world. Like a great wine, the longer the aging, the better the cheese. It’s why we say “we will sell no cheese before it’s time”.