Cheddar – PART ONE: From Milk to Muscle

 

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Hi, my name is Marlies and I am here to tell you that the best way to work a hairnet is with some unruly eyebrows and a sarcastic look on your face at all times. It’s awesome because then no one wants to talk to you. People, it is impossible to take someone seriously when they look like a cupcake. But apparently, we are into “hygiene” and “food safety”, so I endure this every day for you. You’re welcome.

Since I can hardly get myself to work on time when I am scheduled at 7am, the probability of me getting up two hours earlier to document the earliest steps in the Cheddar-making process was slim at best. You didn’t miss much, I promise. I was like, “I could get up and get them a picture of milk sitting there doing nothing, or I get two more hours of sleep.” So this is what happened when (hopefully) all of us were in dreamland: a) Pasteurization of 1250 liters of milk. b) Starter (a low-key word for good cheesemaking bacteria) is added to the milk and that starts getting all happy. c) The milk is pumped over to the vat. d) A vegetable rennet is added to the milk and it is stirred like mad for about two minutes, then pretty chill for about 20 seconds. This sits for half an hour and turns into weird milk jello. Then there are two rotating knife paddles that swing around and cut all that jello into little squares. It takes about 10 minutes for the curd to be cut to the right size. Then it’s time to get toasty. We heat it by running blazing hot water through the “jacket” of the vat. The water runs through the lining within the stainless steel tub to heat it, and then it stirs for about an hour and fifteen minutes.

*Enter Marlies* (About 15 minutes late, with a 24 oz drip coffee and my hair tied on the top of my head which looks unbelievably ridiculous in a hairnet). I totally forgot today was the cheddar day so I went about my business, boxing up the paneer with my bud Yuvani. When I realized what day it was, I took Yuvani’s phone and hauled my tush back to the Gouda room and saw the curd in the middle of its toasty hottub time of getting cooked. It’s pretty mesmerizing. Happy little milk pillows bouncing around getting smaller with each bump.

If you are like most of us, you are a fan of the cheddar. Cheddar is classic, cheddar is life. But man, cheddar is work. It also takes patience. Okay it is really not SO hard, it’s just kind of annoying. We usually corral the curds up like awesome cheese-cowboys using the strength of the actual vat, but with cheddar, we get no help. It’s just us and the curd. Real hands-on stuff. We drain off the whey by sliding a stainless steel mesh screen against the side and push that little stubborn thing as hard as we can away from the drain to push the curd towards the center of the vat. We push so hard while bending over, which is pretty much the worst. I always end up all red in the face because I am weak and have no endurance. Whatevs. We hand scoop all the curd away from the mesh screen so that the whey can float out the drain.

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We are left with a bunch of little curds strewn all over the bottom of the vat. We then pick up our handy-dandy  SUPER special cheese-making tools (shovels. they are white plastic shovels.) and pile all the lil’ curds on one side of the vat. It sits there for an hour while we go sit on our bums and wait (JUST KIDDING we go do a million other things while we wait). After that hour is up, we cut it and flip it, and a half hour after that, we cut it again and stack it on top itself.

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Guys, this part is magic. So the curds, back when it was first drained, were little oblong circles. Think cottage cheese curds – quite similar. Through the process of stacking the cheese higher and higher upon itself incrementally every half hour, the curd begins to stretch. It is almost like it is melting in slow motion!

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So at first when you tear it, you see little craters of breakage. But after a few flips, you tear it, and you see these beautiful long strips of curds, fusing together as it stretches and it looks almost like muscle tissue. This makes it stronger, and creates a really awesome elasticity in the final product.

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Next week we will go through the rest of the process, which includes things like milling, some colorful sciency stuff that I absolutely do not understand, salting, guessing how much garlic and dill to put in and getting it wrong EVERY TIME, and a profile of the two awesome products: cheese curds, and cheddar.But for now, I’m out. I gotta go shower because I smell like cheese.

The Laws of Cheese

There are a few universal laws every cheese lover should know. From the caring of cheese to serving it properly, here are a few points to keep in mind next time you bring some delicious cheeses home to enjoy!

  1. Don’t put unwrapped cheese in the fridge. It will dry out faster than our squeaky cheese gets snatched off the shelves. Instead wrap it in cheese paper or baking paper so it can breathe but still retain the correct texture.
  2. Don’t serve it cold! Cheese is always better at room temperature! The flavors in the cheese will be much fuller if you give the cheese time to warm up from being in the fridge.goudawheels
  3. If you have a cheese plate featuring a variety, use a different tool to cut each one or wash your knife between uses. This is to prevent the transferring of flavors, something like a blue cheese would definitely over power a milder Gouda if the flavors were mixed.
  4. Don’t freeze fresh cheese. Cheeses like Mozzarella and our Paneer will lose its soft texture and become dried out and rubbery.cheeseboard

“Fake Cheese”

Squeeze Cheese

In our family, the words “processed” and “cheese” paired together will result in a wrinkled nose and furrowed eyebrows. The thought of taking perfectly good cheese, melting it down, and adding more things like whey, emulsifiers, milk, salts, preservatives, and food coloring is something we would never consider. It’s just wrong. Processed cheese is often called “fake cheese” in our house, though a few of us may have some hidden in the back of the refrigerator… *cough* kraft singles *cough*.

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Much of the literature on processed cheese has been hidden away in the past, either protected by patents since expired, or held as trade secrets. Modern cheese making has taken a renewed interest in this type of cheese because of the customization opportunities. Its versatility has made processed cheese one of the most popular varieties in the world. Processed cheese can be packaged into everything from a block, to a slice, to a can! I mean, you can spray cheddar out of a can. Who doesn’t want to draw little smiley faces with cheese??

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Technically, this type of cheese cannot be sold as “cheese”, it has it be called a “cheese food”. The FDA bases how a cheese product is labeled on their milk fat, moisture content, and their cheese content. Cheese content is measured by these three categories.

Pasteurized process cheese – contains 100% cheese
Pasteurized process cheese food – contains at least 51% cheese.
Pasteurized process cheese product – contains less than 51% cheeseSqueeze Cheese (40 of 89)

If you are interested in making your own processed cheese (this way you know exactly what goes into it), click HERE for Aunt Ruth’s recipe and directions! She also had some pretty cute kids over to play with the stuff so you can see what kind of fun you can have with your family!

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Basically what she did is mix milk, cheese, and gelatin creating a simple and much more wholesome version of this versatile cheese! Fun fact! While this Aunt Ruth’s version used only 3 ingredients, the ingredient list for a Kraft single looks more like this…

  • Cheddar cheese (milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes)
  • Whey
  • Water
  • Protein concentrate
  • Milk
  • Sodium citrate
  • Calcium phosphate
  • Milkfat
  • Gelatin
  • Salt
  • Sodium phosphate
  • Lactic acid as a preservative
  • Annatto and paprika extract (color)
  • Enzymes
  • Vitamin A palmitate
  • Cheese culture
  • Vitamin D3

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We like Aunt Ruth’s version better 😉

Do you Dahi?

Well do you?

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Dahi (the Hindi word for yogurt) is a thick, creamy, yogurt traditionally made in India. However, we also produce it here! Yogurt days are considered “fun days” back in the plant. It’s a process that takes up a couple tanks, so usually we only produce yogurt making it a relatively light day. For the most part we just fill containers and buckets with a thick milky substance, chat, and try to make sure the cup filling machine (that thing has a personality all its own!) behaves itself.

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After the containers are filled they are then transferred to a warm room where the yogurt begins to set up. This is how we achieve that thick substance. There are no gelatins or preservatives in this type of yogurt, it’s just milk and a yogurt culture. They sit in the warm room for the afternoon, then are transferred to the cooler where they await to be packed up and shipped out.

When describing our yogurt to a customer, I typically compare it to a Greek yogurt. It’s got the thick, creamy goodness that could hold a spoon straight up! It’s also made with a milk powder, so there are more milk sugars, making it naturally sweeter than typical plain yogurt. However, if you are looking to use it in cooking it is very different. Greek style yogurts are made with additional additives (gelatin’s) to make it stiffer, and these break down when cooked causing problems with whatever you are making. Our Dahi style yogurt has nothing extra added to it, so it is wonderful to bake/cook with! Check back Thursday for a new yogurt recipe, but until then you can always try a dollop over some fresh fruit!

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5 reasons for Diabetics to love cheese!

For Diabetics, it’s typically not a great idea to cover everything in cheese (but hey, no judging if you do it anyway) due to the calories and saturated fat levels, but when paired with a well-rounded diet, a little cheese course can be an excellent thing! Here’s why!

  1. The protein in cheese can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates eaten at the same meal or snack and therefore help balance your blood-sugar levels and improve mood as well. Paneer
  2. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cheese eaters reported a 12% lower risk of diabetes than those who refused the goodness of cheese.
  3. Cheese has a low glycemic index, therefore if you pair it with a high GI item, it will balance to form a combo that would only moderately affect your blood sugar levels. For example, eating a piece of bread paired with cheeses would have a lower GI than the bread alone. cheddarandbread
  4. Replacing calories from carbs with calories from cheese is a great way to help achieve a more balanced blood sugar level. A good example of this would be using less pasta noodles in a baked pasta dish and instead adding a low-fat ricotta.
  5. Stronger tasting cheeses (something with an age or a flavor like our Sweet Red Pepper Gouda) will be easier to use as a replacement, because they have a fuller flavor. So you wouldn’t need as much Sharp Cheddar for example, as you would a milder version. cheddarbuffer2

Lactose Confusion

Most people tend to steer away from cheese if they are lactose intolerant, but let me tell you a little something. Cheese does not contain lactose. If you have a milk allergy, then yes, I’m sorry. Cheese shall not be a part of your life. BUT! There is no danger in cheese from lactose.

The cheese making process magically turns sugar (in this case milk sugar, aka lactose) into lactic acid, which is something entirely different and no longer a threat to people with sensitivities. The longer the milk is left to sour (a process called acidification), the more time the lactose has to dissipate. Drier, harder cheeses are therefore the safest to eat, while the fresh cheeses with a higher moisture content may retain a small amount of lactose due to the shorter acidification process.Parmesan

If you do have problems with cheese, most likely you have a milk allergy. But if lactose is what your body doesn’t like, cheese it up! No need to deprive yourself of such wonderful joy in life!

The Joy of Easter

Easter is coming! I don’t know about you, but I always loved Easter because that meant I got a new church dress! Something super frilly and totally becoming of a farmer’s daughter 😉 Now however, the thing I look forward to is the joy. The joy in being surrounded by family, the food, throwing your head back belting out “Because He Lives” in church and the special offertory our awesome pianist saves for special occasions. How can you not be full of joy when you’re celebrating the best gift of all? The freedom that comes from being redeemed by our Lord and Savior!

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I would like to share our Beppe’s testimony as she shared with our church one Easter morning.

“Today is Easter. We have come to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. It is one of the greatest teachings of the Bible. In Corinthians 15:17, we read, “If Christ has not been raised your faith is futile, you are still in your sin.” By God’s grace, I have become absolutely convinced of the truthfulness of the scriptures. God says it happened and I believe it.

Jesus is alive! Hallelujah!

I feel His presence in my life every day. He cared for me all my life and I know Jesus will be with me until the end. I begin to see more and more, God’s almighty power and His never-ending glory. With my church family and my own family, I will celebrate this Easter Sunday.

Jesus lives! Praise the Lord.
-Audrey Appel

I realize a post like this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re looking to get to know the Appel family, here we are! Sinners saved by grace, falling short constantly only to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We don’t claim to be perfect, but by golly we’re going to try our hardest to get it right!

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Photos graciously provided by Ann Appel!

Say Cheese!

Did you know cheese is good for your teeth? It’s true! Research published in the General Dentistry Journal shows 12-15 year-olds who ate cheddar cheese had lower acid levels in their mouths than even those who ate sugar free yogurt or had a glass of milk! This is because cheese has cariostatic properties. Meaning it acts to prevent (or delay) tooth decay.

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Eating a small amount of cheese after each meal neutralizes the acid left behind by the food you have just eaten. Sodas and sugary foods are more acidic, so a little cheesy snack after these types of treats is even more effective.

Cheese (the harder the better) is also considered a “saliva maker”. Saliva is your body’s best natural defense against tooth decay because it contains traces of calcium and phosphate. Combined with the natural calcium in cheese, this increases the concentration of these minerals in your dental plaque, hardening your tooth enamel!

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I know you don’t need another reason to enjoy your cheese…but it’s nice to know your “guilty pleasure” doesn’t have to be quite so guilty 😉

How do cows make milk?

 

 

This may seem like a silly question to some of you farm people, but we get this question in the store fairly often. While farming was once a common career in the United States, less than 1% claim farming as an occupation. As the general public grows farther and farther away from its roots, we find they become curious about where their food is coming from. As they should! One of our goals in starting this blog was to give our customers a place to find the answers to their questions. So here we go!

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These are all photos of the same calf as she gets older. Jubilee is only 3 days old in the top photo, here she is 1 month!

In order for a cow to produce milk, she must first give birth to a baby calf. Our cows usually give birth for the first time around the age of 2 years. Then after they have given birth to an adorable little one, they produce milk.

Jubilee- 3 Months
This is Jubilee at 3 months, having too much fun to get a clear photo of!

After a cow has her first calf, she is able to produce milk for about a year. During this year she is bred again, and produces milk up until she goes on “maternity leave” for the last 3 months of her pregnancy. During this time period these cows are kept in a special area of the barn where they can be pampered and watched a little more closely to ensure they have everything they need grow to a healthy calf.

Jubilee- 5 and 6 Months
This is Jubilee and her buddy Skipper at 5 months (top) and 6 months (bottom).

We have detailed systems to keep track of every one of our cows and their needs. My dad, brother, and the rest of the crew are highly trained in observing the cows, seeing their needs, and taking care of them in the best way possible. From custom diets to sanitary bedding, the cows are taken care of like they’re family. Because they are.

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These tag “earrings” are basically like a social security number for a cow. Every one is different, and every number is referenced for all kinds of information on what that specific cow needs.

What makes Quark special?

First of all, the name is pretty special don’t you think? The first time someone hears the name always gets a pretty good facial expression. Quark is mostly compared to cream cheese or sour cream, and makes a great substitute for either. This soft white cheese can also be compared to/substituted for ricotta and mascarpone. There are certain things to do when using Quark as a substitute, but overall it can be a great tasting, high protein, low fat alternative!

Quark is a German cheese classified as “fresh acid-set”. What that means, is the milk is heated, a coagulant (like an acid) is added, and it sets up overnight before it is packaged. I would describe the flavor most like a sour cream, but with a stronger, tangier aftertaste.

Cream-Cheese

Cream cheese is made in a similar process as Quark in that it’s heated and a coagulant is added. Mascarpone is also made similarly, but it’s basically one step away from butter. SO rich! It’s richness is perfect in desserts such as tiramisu!

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Sour cream however, is made by fermenting (heating) cream or milk, and adding a specific bacteria (in place of an acid) to thicken.

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Ricotta is a little more fun because it’s a “whey cheese”. The whey is the byproduct of other cheeses such as Mozzarella. Ricotta is made by heating whey to a high temperature and adding an acid to create curd! It has a little more of a grainy, almost fluffy texture when eaten plain, but for the most part it’s a cooking cheese. The plain, very mild flavor blends well when baked into things like a cheesy lasagna!

 

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Each of these cheeses have their own unique flavors and textures, but all are great! Check in on Thursday to see exactly how to use Quark as a substitute for any of these cheeses!