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!

A Father’s Legacy

My earliest memories of Pake include him teaching me how to perfectly peel an orange, the new pink (!) barn boots he would bring me when mine where about to give way, and the way he would sing, all day everyday. My Grandfather loved to farm, it was his lifelong dream and he achieved it!

As Dutch immigrants, my dad’s parents often had challenges to deal with, Pakabut you would never know from the way they would talk about their lives. The first thing they would tell you is how absolutely blessed they have been, and nothing happens without the will of God. Now I want you to imagine this. Walking out to the milking parlor as the early morning light washes over Mt. Baker. Pausing as you hear a baritone voice joyfully singing hymns to the Lord. This was not someone singing to themselves quietly, but a clear, booming voice you could hear from across the yard! Seriously! My Aunt Ruth will tell you she used to open her windows in the morning so she could listen! Can you tell this is someone who loves his life and his Lord with all his heart? To this day, Pake is remembered for his gentle, but strong, personality, ready smile, and his beautiful voice. However, if you ask someone who knew him, they will tell you about his incredible faith and the impact his wisdom had in their lives. A real legacy.

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I’ve always been a “daddy’s little girl”, but as I grew older, married, and moved out, I’ve started to recognize the similarities between my Dad and Uncle and their father. They love to farm! These brothers will happily talk about cows, land, and future projects for hours. They would love nothing better than to sit on a tractor all day. They both have beautiful voices and sing as often as they breathe! But more importantly is how seriously they take their relationships with the Lord. These are a couple farming brothers who are daily living examples of grace, humility, and honesty to those around them. To me, they have become invaluable sources of wisdom as I contemplate the future and the choices it holds.

These are the foundations we have built our farm, cheese plant, and now the store around. A legacy set in place before my generation was even born. We are truly stewards of everything God has given us! Everything from our families, to the land, and the cows, are blessings and we are going to take the best possible care of them we can. It’s our responsibility!

Katherine