One of the best things about mongering cheese is the opportunity to visit producers like Connie and Stuart Veldhuizen. Last week, we started the day by helping to cheddar and finish a vat of cheese. It was a real treat to taste freshly cut curd and to taste the curd again after it was salted. We stuffed forms full of curd and placed the wheels on the press (lower right).
After a guided tasting of all of the cheeses that are made on the farm, we went on a tour of their 3 aging caves. These temperature and humidity controlled vaults contain hundreds of wheels that are making the slow progression toward aged perfection. When thinking of cheesemaking, understanding the work that goes into production is evident, but visiting a cheese cave emphasizes that the work continues. Wheels have to be flipped, washed, and brushed once or twice a week!
After lunch, we hopped in the back of Stuart’s pickup truck for a quick ride out to the pasture and the herd. I’m not sure how many times someone thinks to themselves that a cow is beautiful, but this group of ladies looked as fine and healthy as any I have seen. Stuart explained that he has had some of these cows for 12 years or more! We chatted about the different breeds, the type of milk they produce and the effect on the final cheese. I also found the discussion about the plants in the pasture fascinating. Oats planted next to a form of snap pea- one plant putting into the soil, what the other is taking out- both contributing to the rich, golden color of the milk.
Seeing the full circle of what it means to make cheese on a farmstead, was informative and tasty. You may not be able to visit Veldhuizen this weekend, but we have a selection of their cheeses at both locations, so come by and taste!