The Marlies Method of Cheesemaking: Feta Edition.

Since I (Elizabeth) will be camping at the time this posts, I have invited my cousin Marlies to write a guest post! She is much like her mother in being a passionate foodie with a whole lotta sass, but in her father’s environment of the cheese room!

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From left to right, my cousin Marlies Appel, myself, and my little sister Katherine Appel. I had to run back to the plant to help out for a little bit, it’s not very often all three of us get to work together anymore!

The Marlies Method of Cheesemaking: Feta Edition.

Step 1: Wash those grubby hands. I know you probably licked your fingers after you ate that cookie for breakfast, you animal. Or was that just me?

Step 2: Sanitize your arms up past your elbows, even though you are only really going to use your hands. It never hurts to be prepared for a cheese emergency. You never know when you are gonna have to go all in.

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Step 3: ALL THE MILK. LOTS AND LOTS OF MILK WOW. And take a moment to appreciate all the work it takes to get that beautiful delicious milk. Cheesemaking doesn’t start with the cheesemakers. Cheesemaking starts with all the farmers, nutritionists and milkers that work so hard to have happy, healthy dairy cows. You’ve got a few minutes to think about it because it takes a while to fill up that vat- WOW SO MUCH MILK.

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Step 4: Resist temptation to jump into vat of milk. That part is hard.

Step 5: Add the stuffs that turns it into goopy goop. Let it do its thing. Don’t hover. Give it some space.

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Step 6: Have some coffee, and admire your goop. That is some nice goop. #coagulationadmiration

Step 7: Turn on the scary rotating knives, and then KEEP FAR AWAY. THESE BLADES STOP FOR NOTHING AND NO ONE. Particularly when checking temperatures with your handy dandy cheese thermometer, you must be vigilant. The last thing you want is to get your hand slammed and jammed in between the knife and the side of the vat.

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Step 8: Drain off some of the whey. Whey away. You don’t want so much whey in your squish squish.

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Step 9: Scoop the goop into the forms. These dope little forms have holes and are fitted with some nifty little cloths that allow the whey to just flow out. It’s literally magic. Feta curd is more jelloish, and it uses its own weight against itself to squish the whey out. Seems like it makes the process easier right? GUESS AGAIN. This basically means you fill the form, and then you have to top it off with extra curd approximately 3,209,183 more times while it settles and drains and drains and settles. It takes its own sweet time too, so I hope you aren’t in a rush.

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Step 10: Have some more coffee. All that draining and scooping can be tiring, so you earned it.

Step 11: Flip the cheese in the forms at some extremely inconvenient time, probably at night. Preferably sometime before Fresh Prince of Bel Air comes on though.

Step 12: (Next day.) Now that the feta is solid, you can pull those awkwardly large blocks out of their forms and put it in the illogically small brine tank. Stack stuff on top of them so they don’t float. It’s like Dead Sea salt content times infinity in there. You could put a cement truck in it and it would probably float. You want the feta submerged so it gets evenly salty salty. No one likes bland spots in their feta, you don’t want that kind of pressure on you.

Step 13: Take it out, bag it up. Seal it, and wheel it out. Let it hang out in the cooler for a while to make sure all that happy salt incorporates in to the center.

That’s all folks. See? Totally simple.11749589_10205436175437578_17631799_n

There is a corner in my heart labeled “Gouda”.

Gouda has become a central part of my life over the years. I grew up nibbling wedges and when I was older, made it daily. We make a variety of flavors of Gouda. From traditional Mild to spicy Jalapeno, from the bold Black Pepper to subtle Sweet Red Pepper. Our wide variety of this creamy cheese makes it easy for us to find a good fit for almost anyone… after some sampling of course! This cheese has been in our family for years, and though we have a wide variety now, it had a much simpler beginning.

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My Pake’s absolute dream while growing up was to be a farmer. I doubt the thought of being a cheese maker even entered his mind! Born in 1927, Jack Appel was the eldest son of the local milk man. However, it was hard to pursue his farming dreams during the occupation of Holland in WWII.  Civilians were commonly drafted into forced labor so my Grandfather spent much of his teen years staying out of sight from any German soldiers. Hardly the time to find a farming job!

After the liberation of the Netherlands, Paka found a job with a local farmer where he worked and learned the basics of farming. A few years later, at age 19, he moved to France to assist another farmer. It was this farmer who also made cheese 6 days a week, so part of my Grandfather’s job was to assist with this process as well. It was here he first developed the cheese making skills he would carry with him for the rest of his life.

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Jack immigrated to America in 1950 where he knew he would have a better chance of being a farmer than in Holland. In 1958, after marrying his wife Audrey in 1957, the new couple made the big move to Washington State. Eventually he realized his dream by purchasing a farm here in Ferndale, in March of 1967. This is the same farm he and his wife raised their five children on, three of whom are still involved in the daily running of it!

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This is Jessie cutting the pressed Gouda curd into blocks which will in turn be pressed into wheels. Yes, Gouda rounds start out as squares!

Although farming had always been his dream job, Jack continued to make cheese as gifts for his friends and family. It wasn’t until he had sold the farm to his sons and was very much encouraged by those who had tried his cheese that he started to develop his hobby into a business. I suspect he had too much time on his hands… it’s hard to tell a farmer to stop working! Eventually his sons bought this part of the farm as well and have continued to build upon the foundation laid by their father.

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This is one of our brine tank racks full of yummy cheese ready to be submerged! At the end of the day, our Gouda goes directly from the presses to these racks and into the brine tank. After a few days, they are then transferred to the aging room.

If you ask me which Gouda’s are my favorite I would point out the Aged and the Cumin. Many of my cousins would probably say the same. Why? Because they are the ones that remind me the most of my Pake. The Aged is traditionally drier with a bite only known to lovers of aged cheeses. It’s also the only cheese we still seal with a traditional rind coating. The Cumin has a little more of a nutty flavor from the tiny seeds speckling the finish. These two are my favorites due to growing up on the excellent flavors, but also because they were first handcrafted by a man whom I will always remember with great love and respect.

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Someone asked me about a cheese with little “thingies” in it. Turns out they were referring to the Cumin Gouda!