How We Do It
Bringin’ in the Milk
Our cheese starts with fresh local cow’s milk from the beautiful Colorado Front Range. We pick up the milk with our truck, Chuck, in the early morning from a dairy farm 11 miles away, 2-4 times per week.
To make sure that we get good quality milk on a daily basis, a variety of tests are performed. We are interested in the composition of milk, such as protein and fat levels, as they can affect the consistency of our cheese. In addition, tests are performed to determine total milk cleanliness as well as a check to ensure it is free of antibiotics.
The milk is then pasteurized to the Colorado State Health Department standards using our honky-dory HTST (High Temperature Short Time) pasteurizer. This pasteurization step kills all the pathogenic bacteria and is required by the health department to make the milk safe for consumption or cheese making. So, that makes it dandy, but the system also recovers much of the heat that is required to run it, making it even more swell while being 70% more efficient than a vat pasteurizer.
Then a rest…everyone needs a break… even milk. (or that last paragraph..) so…we hold the milk until the next day to help it “mellow”.
…The following day…
Cheese Making Begins
The milk is warmed to about body temperature and culture is added. The bacterial culture feeds on the milk sugars (lactose) to create acids, aromas and flavor compounds. We use several different types, with varying characteristics, to make our different cheeses.
After a short amount of time an enzyme is added to the milk. We use a 100% natural veal rennet.
Rennet is used in minute amounts during the cheese making process (~ 0.0000375 g/cheese) to change the milk into one solid mass, this process is called curding, or setting. The mass is called curd.
It takes about an hour for the curd to set up to the correct consistency before we move on to the next step of cutting it into smaller bits.
The curd is cut into dice-sized cubes which allows water, actually whey, to drain out of the curd. Over the next half an hour the curd contracts and squeezes out more whey. While whey consists mostly of water it also contains protein, some minerals, and leftover carbohydrates.
Once the cheese forms are set up to receive the creation, the cheese maker stirs the curds and whey one more time and the whole kit and caboodle is tipped out of our fancy KBA (which means tipping vessel in German) into block forms. In the form, the curds grow back together and take the shape of the cheese and continue to drain whey until they reach the appropriate size. Each form holds 45 of our charming cheeses and we fill 8 of these forms with each tip of the KBA.
For even draining, the forms are flipped a few times.
The next morning, the cheese is salted to help slow down the acidification process and aid in balancing the flavor of the cheese. Salting also helps establish the edible cheese rind. Afterwards, the cheeses are transferred to stainless steel racks for ripening.
The racks are moved to a ripening room. For the next few weeks the ripening process is carefully monitored for humidity and temperature. During this time a surface flora of white mold grows on the outside of the cheese. It serves to protect the cheese, flavor the cheese, and start the aging process. Once the surface is grown over, it’s time for packaging.
Our cheese is wrapped is a special cheese paper imported from Memmingen, Germany, Birgit’s home town. The paper allows the surface cultures on the cheese to breathe oxygen in and exhale CO2 in order to stay alive.This living, breathing process, allows the cultures in the cheese to continue to work and break down the protein structure softening the cheese over the next few months.