Brazos Valley Cheese is a 16-year-old company that originally was just an idea in 1999. Rebeccah Salmeri wanted to teach herself how to make cheese because the Brown Swiss milk cows that serviced families on the agrarian Homestead Heritage community where she lived in Waco, Texas, were producing an abundance of spring milk. She thumbed through a How-to Cheesemaking book and experimented with making butter, cream cheese and mozzarella. Her friends became interested in learning as well, so Rebeccah taught them the craft she had discovered. Her brothers built her a make-shift cheese press from plywood and dowels, and she used a gallon tin can with drain holes drilled in it as a cheese mold for her first hard cheese. She used an old refrigerator in the shed as an “aging cave.”
Rebeccah's skills in cheese making continued to develop and over the next couple years she wrote a How-To book of her own and began teaching hard and soft cheese making classes from the curriculum she developed. People from all over the country travel to Texas each month to take Rebeccah's cheese classes.
In May 2005, her cousin Marc Kuehl visited Waco, Texas from Denver, Colorado. Upon coming to Texas, he found a new purpose in life at Homestead Heritage and decided to stay. Rebeccah mentioned that she had always dreamed to start a cheese business. In December 2005 Marc and Rebeccah began Brazos Valley Cheese.
Brazos Valley Cheese got milk from a dairy 45 miles away. They would get enough milk to make two 36-gallon batches per week and transport it in 4-gallon buckets in the back of a pick-up truck. They would take their cheese to a Farmer's Market outside of Dallas every Saturday. The next year, they started selling at the Austin Farmer's Market and grew their production to over 200 gallons per week. Soon chefs were asking if Brazos Valley Cheese could supply their restaurants.
In 2008, Brazos Valley Cheese knew they needed to expand to meet the growing demand for their cheese. They had a company in Canada custom build a 200-gallon pasteurizer vat. This allowed them to make at one time the same amount of cheese they were making a week in their 36-gallon vat. When the question arose as to whether they should start making two 200-gallon batches per week, they wondered if it were possible to sell that much cheese. By 2010, they were making 6 batches per week in their 200-gallon vat. They knew the time to expand again had arrived, again.
In mid 2010, a custom 400-gallon vat from the Netherlands arrived. They also finished construction on an underground cheese aging cave and now have the capacity to make 2,000 gallons of milk per week into cheese. They sell to many fine dining restaurants and hotels in all the major Texas cities and have started to branch out and sell to restaurants in Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi, California, New York, Oregon and New Mexico.
Brazos Valley Cheese has been recognized at the American Cheese Society judging and competition the past two years. Their Eden (a fig leaf-wrapped Brie cheese with a line of vegetable ash in the center) won 1st place at the 2011 Montreal Competition, their plain Brie took 2nd place and their bandaged-wrapped Cheddar took 3rd. In 2010, their Brazos Select (a Brie painted with sorghum syrup and wrapped in mesquite wood) took 2nd place at the Seattle Competition.
Brazos Valley Cheese is dedicated to crafting all-natural, high quality, healthy cheese using traditional methods and no artificial flavors, preservatives or coloring. Our milk comes from grass-fed cows that graze freely on three local Brazos River Valley Jersey/Brown Swiss dairies that do not use growth hormones or antibiotics. The high butterfat content of this milk makes rich, yellow, creamy cheeses that are used by the finest chefs and sold at the best retail shops in Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin and Houston. Every one of our cheeses is made with raw cow's milk and all the hard cheeses are aged in our underground cheese cave.