Thursday, September 12, 2013

Heber Valley Artisan Cheese Field Trip

Heber Valley Artisan Cheese is an awesome place to tour, not so much because of what you get to see (although that was pretty cool; but it's only a couple rooms) but because the owner is a fascinating person to listen to. He was on the National Dairy Board for years and years, and is a third-generation dairy farmer, so he has tons of knowledge about the subject. He went to college and got his degree in Mechanical Engineering and then decided to come back to the family farm because he wanted that life for his family. His family started making cheese just a few years ago as a way to adapt and stay profitable at a time when a lot of small dairy farms are going out of business.

One of the coolest things he told us about on our tour was just how experimental and creative the cheesemaking process can be. He and his family will try all kinds of flavors in their cheese (either mixed in, or rubbed on the outside) and then just see what happens over time. Some of their more interesting flavors have been a chili verde cheese (really yummy), an Oreo cheese that we didn't get to taste, but he says some people love it, and a dark chocolate-rubbed cheese which we tried and which was awesome. It's cheese-flavored, and then suddenly after you taste the sourness of the cheese, you get hit with the chocolate taste right in the back of your throat. Fascinating. The chocolate one was hard to get right, he said, because the bacteria in the cheese eat the sugars in the chocolate and leave mostly the bitter taste behind, so you have to get the right combination of flavors with that intense chocolate taste.

Another really interesting thing was that he said the flavors of the cheese are really variable and evolve-able(?)---they go through a lot of change over time. So you have to keep tasting the cheeses to see what happens to the flavor. Sometimes a cheese will be really good at six months but at twelve months it isn't good anymore, but then maybe at 18 months it's good again. For example, he said his son had wanted to try an alfredo-sauce flavor in one of the cheeses, and at six months they tasted it and everyone agreed that it was totally disgusting. But they left it to age for another six months just to see what would happen, and at a year, they tasted it again and couldn't even believe it was the same cheese because it was so good.

They have cheese tastings at their store once a month where you can go and taste something like forty of their experimental flavors of cheese, and rate the ones you like, etc. It sounds really fun and we want to go sometime (I think it costs $5).

Another fun part of this tour was tasting the fresh cheese curds right out of the tank---he went over and dipped some out for us and let us taste them right then and there. They were totally amazing. Yum!
Showing us some of the curds undergoing "cheddaring" (which is a process where you press, stack,  and flip the curds repeatedly to create a drier cheese).

Fresh curds

Whey draining from the curd tank

Machine that presses the curds once they're in the hoops. The boys really liked this machine.

Cheese cave (it was chilly in there)

This was a great field trip and we learned a lot! We also bought some raw milk (we've never tried raw milk before!) and it was delicious. We will definitely drop by here again next time we're up in Heber or Midway!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...