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

Squeeze Cheese (30 of 89)

We like Aunt Ruth’s version better 😉

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!

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!

10 blessings we are thankful for!

The last year has had no lack of trials and tribulations, but we would be ungrateful if we didn’t shout from the rooftop our thankfulness for the abundance of blessings in our lives! So without further ado, 10 blessings we are thankful for!

  1. Cheese! How can you not be thankful for cheese?? Come on now. gouda-048
  2. Our new store. This is our second thanksgiving in our new store, and while it has been a process (to say the least) we are nailing things down and coming into our own!Cheese SHop
  3. Coffee! With the early wake up calls, I personally am very thankful for the ability to create whatever type of caffeinated brew I feel like every morning. It’s the little things that make me happy. Thankful Coffee
  4. Our wonderful customers. To the morning coffee guys, the squeaky cheese regulars, and our farm loving families, you’re simply the best. You make our days fly by with your smiles and stories, and we thank you.  Daddy Daughter date - Copy
  5. You! Thank you for taking the time to read our stories! It is a great encouragement when we see your comments about how you enjoy them!
  6. Our employees. I’m a little biased because I know our crew pretty well, but we really do have a fantastic group! Thank you for putting up with your manager’s craziness (ahem, Ruth), I don’t know how you do it sometimes!

    Crew Selfie
    This isn’t everyone, but honestly taking a four person selfie is already pushing my skills to the limit!
  7. The farming community. In a time where farming is under appreciated, you all just keep on trucking. Thank you for your support of our family, your day to day work putting food on this nation’s table, and your never ending stewardship of the land.  Rain 8.31.15-169
  8. Our family. Working so closely with your entire family is a tall order. By God’s grace we are still intact and the business continues to flourish in spite of our flaws…and yes, we still love each other!
  9. Our roots. Every family and their history plays an important part in shaping those people. We are especially grateful for the legacy of faith, grace, and redemption the heads of our family exemplify every day of their lives.
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    The three Appel Boys! Gerald is the oldest on the left, then John and Rich to the right.

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    Appel Family Photo!
  10. Our Creator. Because without Him none of the aforementioned blessings would have existed. To Him belongs all the glory.

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    When the original plant was built, this sign was made to grace the south wall. It’s there to this day!

Moldy Goodness

Doesn’t mold sound yummy? I mean you can’t have a tasty treat without a healthy covering of mold am I right? Believe it or not, many cheese lovers would absolutely agree with the above statement! While it is usually a solid sign to throw out its host, there are many types of cheese where just the right type of mold is coaxed and encouraged to grow. In some cheeses (blue cheese anyone?) this ingredient is actually injected into the cheese to produce that unique and strong flavor. Pair-Blue

But first! A definition of what makes this mold different.

“The molds and micro flora used in cheese making are actually microscopic organisms that are safe to eat. They produce distinct aromas and flavors on their own, as well as through integration with the cheese. It is not unusual for multiple strains to be used in a single cheese. This is often done when a secondary organism creates or improves the environment for the primary organism.”
-James R. Leverentz, The Complete Idiots Guide to Cheese making

All cheese will grow mold if left alone long enough. The key is knowing if it is meant to be there or not! Soft cheeses like cream cheese, sour cream, or even our Paneer should be thrown away if you see any colorful spots. However, harder cheeses like cheddar or Gouda can be cleaned up and enjoyed. Simply cut away the outer quarter to half an inch, and use the remaining cheese within a week.

One popular type of cheese with a deliberate moldy rind is Camembert. The only cheese in our store we do not make in house is a Cirrus Camembert we bring in from Mt. Townsend Creamery. Come in and try it for yourself! As this cheese is aging, it is sprayed with a specific type of mold called Penicillium candidum. As it grows, the fuzzy white stuff is patted down periodically to create an edible rind covering the entire surface. The result is a cheese with a soft, mild center with a flavorful coating!

Camembert

Blue cheese is another popular cheese which uses mold as a key ingredient. This one is called Penicillium roqueforti. It is layered in with the curd as it’s being pressed into shape. Then, it’s activated by “spiking” (injecting) the cheese with air to expose the bacteria. This is what causes the little blue-green, flavor packed ribbons this type of cheese is named for!

Blue

Chances are, if you just adore cheese, you will end up liking these types of cheeses eventually. In my younger years I didn’t care for anything with a strong flavor, especially anything with an older age. Now, I love older cheeses, especially over milder flavors.  If you are just beginning your cheese journey however, I would start with something a little milder before jumping into a full on aged blue. But hey, if you are a bold person, then go for it!

The Paneer Super Team

Let me introduce you to one of the most appreciated teams in the cheese plant. The tall one is Gerrit.  The little one is Maria. Gerrit is John (the cheese maker) and Ruth’s (the Cheese Shop lady) son, and has worked on and off for either the farm or in the cheese room for over 10 years. Maria has been with us for about 4 years, and is a wife and a mom to 2 beautiful daughters.

Maria

This unlikely duo make up the “Paneer Super Team” of our little cheese room. Paneer is an Indian style cheese often used as a meat substitute. People compare it to tofu, but it’s honestly SO much better! When we were younger we used to sneak the odds and ends from the cheese room and climb up into the haymow to nibble on our prizes. To this day, paneer isn’t quite as good unless it’s fresh from the vat!

Maria-2

Making paneer was never a coveted job in the plant. It’s hot, steamy, and takes up most of the morning because the milk can only come gushing through the pipes so fast. Then because of the intense heat of the milk, everything gets very cooked on making clean up rather difficult. Before we had a designated “Paneer Team” I remember people trying to avoid the task and jokingly bribing others to do it.

Production

Not-Gerrit

Paneer is created by heating milk to 175 degrees, and stirring vinegar into the milk to create a frothy white curd. It is then transferred to large stainless steel baskets where heavy plates are placed on top to squeeze all the whey out. After it has cooled it can then be cut and packaged into various sizes and shipped out! It’s the simplest cheese we make here at Appel Farms, but also one of the more physical.

Packaging BOxed-Paneer

We are very thankful for Gerrit and Maria because they come in regularly to complete almost every aspect of this particular cheese. One thing I have learned about cheese production (this is especially true with Paneer), is you spend more time cleaning than actually making cheese. This team ends up spending much of their time scrubbing the ultra-cooked paneer curd off the pasteurizer walls, plates, pipes, paddles… everything! Cheese can be messy, but EVERYTHING must be spotless before moving on to the next task.

Gerritmakingpaneer

7 things you should know about our Squeaky Cheese!

If you are new to the land of cheese or are looking to get a loved one hooked,  you need to come in and try our Squeaky Cheese! Now, there is a chance you may not know what this noisy cheese is exactly, so I have compiled a list of a few things you really should know!

  1. Squeaky Cheese is a super fresh cheddar curd. When we make cheddar we separate a portion of it for squeaky cheese while the rest is pressed into rounds and aged for cheddar. 
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  2. Because of its freshness, it squeaks against your teeth when you eat it. This is how you can tell if your curd is truly fresh or not! 
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  3. We make it in two different flavors, plain, and garlic & dill!
  4. There are a few ways to enjoy your squeaky cheese, the most popular way (and easiest) is straight out of the cup! No slicing makes it the perfect low key, kid friendly, snack cheese.
  5. Personally, I think the best way to have squeaky cheese is battered and deep fried. Like a mozzarella stick, but SO much better! 
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  6. You can find this cheese in our store (of course!), all the Edaleen Dairy locations, as well as the Seattle Farmers Markets!
  7. For a few of the slower winter months we are on a bimonthly schedule, but for most of the year (including currently) we produce this treat every Thursday! If you really want to have squeaky cheese in its prime, pop into our store Thursdays after 4:00!

Once you know what it is and have tried it, you will not be able to live without it. I know because when you tell people the squeaky cheese is sold out, they melt into a puddle of misery. Okay, not quite, but it is pretty addicting! 😉

Rennet 101

In the process of my short-ish (10 years) cheese making career, I learned much from my excellent teachers. Unfortunately, I also learned a few lessons the hard way. I try to blame it on my hair color, but that doesn’t really fly. One of these difficult lessons was, if you mess up adding the coagulant (or forget it entirely…opps.) you don’t get cheese. You just get this unusable milky stuff that has to be dumped down the drain. I thank the Lord even now, for such a gracious and understanding Uncle/Boss who never gave me a harsh word and reassured me of the lessons I could learn in that situation. And so, welcome to Rennet 101! Class is officially in session!

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We use a microbial rennet for our Gouda, but some cheeses (such as our Paneer) use other kinds of coagulants. Basically something acidic to cause the milk to react and form little curds. Citric acid (lemon juice is common), vinegar (which is what we use for our Paneer), and tartaric acid are other options used in cheese making.

Curd-3

When I made cheese in our plant, rennet was this syrupy brown substance (think a true maple syrup “that-came-out-way-too-fast” consistency, not so much Mrs. Butterworths slow-as-tar thickness) responsible for turning milk into curd. Exact down to the millimeter, we stir it into a squeaky clean, ultra sanitized bucket of water to dilute it into more of a light amber color. Then, with the paddles spinning furiously, we pour the rennet into the huge vat of milk. The rennet stirs for exactly 2 minutes and 20 seconds before we halt the paddles, and let the milk rest for half an hour. This is when it does its magic and everything from there on out is decently simple…as long as you got the rennet correct.

Curd-1
This is my cousin Marlies, holding a Feta curd. She’s a good sport allowing me to plaster her beautiful face all over. 😉

This magic cheese making ingredient has four different types.

  1. Calf Rennet. Made from the (chymosin) enzymes found in a calf’s stomach lining, this is the original and most traditional type of rennet.
  2. Plant Rennet. This is where plants are soaked in water to extract a thickening enzyme similar to the one found in calves.
  3. Genetically Engineered Rennet. Since this one is a little more technical, here is a real definition of the process.

    “Chymosin chromosomes are extracted from an animal’s stomach cells then implanted into yeast cultures that act as a host. The host culture encourages the growth of new chymosin enzymes. The new chymosin enzymes are separated out and purified.”
    www.cheese.about.com

    Sounds pretty scientific doesn’t it?

  4. Microbial Rennet. Enzymes similar to chymosin (the one found in the stomach lining of a calf), can be found and extracted from some molds to produce this type of rennet. This is the rennet we use to create our fabulous cheeses!

*Side note, if you read “mold” and thought “ew.”, mold is actually a good thing and very common in the cheese world! Cheese making strictly uses molds which are safe to eat, and are used often to produce unique flavors and aromas.

Various rennets produce different results in cheeses, so you have to know how to work with them. They tend to be a little touchy, hence the rennet being the most exact bit of cheese making. In my mind at least!

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