Care and Storage of Cheese
All of our wedges of cheese are labeled on the back with a sell-by date. The cheese will be good for 2-4 weeks after this date. After a week or two, the cheese forms a thin film of mold on the surface. This is simply the good molds and bacterias that are naturally in the cheese and does not affect the quality. When you are ready to eat the cheese, simply shave off the surface with a sharp knife. Once you open the cheese and cut into it, save the rest by wrapping it in wax paper or saran wrap.
The marinated feta and labneh is covered in oil, which serves as a natural preservative and allows the cheese to ship and travel unrefrigerated for a week. It will keep in your refrigerator for at least 6 months. Once you use some of the cheese, store the remainder by pushing the cheese down with a spoon to ensure it is submerged in the oil and store it in a refrigerator.
The Blue and Brie cheeses will last for a couple of months after purchase and just get stronger with age.
We don't recommend freezing cheese because it can affect the texture and even the flavor of the cheese. Cheese contains moisture. When water in the cheese freezes, it expands and forms crystals. This is what affects the structure and texture of the cheese.
While cheese that's frozen and then thawed will still generally be safe to eat, it won't be the same quality as it was when it was fresh.
One exception to this recommendation is cheese rinds from hard cheeses like Parmesan, which some people like to save for use in soup stock. Parmesan has very little moisture, and the rinds freeze well. You can collect them in a sealed plastic freezer bag and freeze them until you need them.
We ship cheese with ice packs to keep it cool. Packages sent with our standard shipping typically arrive within 1-2 business days, and during warmer weather, the ice packs will keep the cheese cool.
We also offer overnight shipping, which you may want to use during hot weather.
Artisan cheese which contains no preservatives will typically have a thin film of mold on it. The mold forms on the rind during the aging process. When cutting into the cheese, the knife pushes some of that mold into the cut so that it contacts the surface of the cheese. Because of that, you will normally begin to see mold forming within a few weeks after the cheese was cut.
Keep the cheese wrapped tightly in saran wrap when storing it. This will help to reduce mold.
On hard cheeses, as long as the mold is translucent, white or gray, it is not harmful. We recommend that you cut off any moldy sections of cheese and discard them.
Some molds that form on hard cheeses are harmful, but they are extremely rare. If you happen to see a mold that is fluorescent (bright green or pink) then discard the cheese and do not eat it or use it.
Suggestions on How to Use Our Cheese
The rinds on all of our cheese are food-safe and can be eaten. Some rinds are more strongly flavored and the texture varies, so your level of enjoyment will depend on your taste buds.
Brie – many people especially enjoy the flavor of the edible white rind on Brie. It's often described as "mushroomy", or "woodsy." (Please see the note below about the bark wrapping that’s used on some of our Brie cheeses.)
Cheddar and Gouda - try a little of the rind and see if you like it. These rinds on these cheeses tend to have a strong flavor, which some people enjoy more than others.
Parmesan - the natural rind on Parmesan cheese is flavorful, but it tends to be hard because Parmesan is aged for a long time. Our suggestion is to slice off the rind and use it when making soup or broth. This is one of the times when it's okay to freeze cheese. Store the rinds from several wedges of Parmesan in a plastic bag in your freezer. Then when you've collected enough, add them to your soup. If you notice any mold, slice that off before use.
Van Sormon - the rind has an interesting and unique flavor from having been brushed repeatedly with vanilla, sorghum syrup and cinnamon. Try it and see what you think.
Wrappings on Certain Cheeses
It's important to distinguish between the rind and the wrapping. Some of our Brie cheeses, such as Mountain Maple Brie, have a wrapping on the outside. In this case, a thin piece of bark and a grape leaf are used to wrap the cheese. Although the wrappings are food-safe, they aren't intended to be eaten. On our hard cheeses, when you purchase them by the wedge, the wrapping has already been removed.
If you are sampling cheese from other sources, one thing to keep in mind is that you should remove and discard any type of man-made wrapping from the cheese. These wrappings may be made of cloth, wax and/or plastic.
When you buy cheese from us by the wedge, any wrappings that were used during the cheese-making process have already been removed.
A cheeseboard is an enjoyable arrangement of cheese and other treats arranged on a board or platter. In addition to cheese, a cheeseboard might contain roasted nuts, olives, peppers, jellies -- even chocolates.
There are many different ways to enjoy fresh artisan cheese. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches -- a cheese like Smoked Gouda, Morel Montasio or Havarti combined with homemade or artisan bread makes a fine grilled cheese sandwich.
- Steamed or cooked vegetables -- grated or sliced over the top of vegetables such as green beans, asparagus or broccoli, cheese adds flavor and elegance to the dish.
- Topping for Baked Potatoes -- smoked cheeses and Extra Aged Cheddar add a special touch to baked potatoes.
- Added to soups or omelets
- Topping for salads
- Macaroni and cheese
- Grilled cheese sandwiches
Cheese making begins with a trip to a small dairy farm 11 miles away. There, we fill an insulated stainless steel milk tank mounted on a trailer and bring the milk back to our shop. The dairy is run by a third-generation dairy farmer who raises his herd on pasture. The milk from his dairy has a high butterfat content and is excellent for making cheese.
Back at our shop, before starting to make cheese, we run a set of tests on the milk. This allows us to assess the quality of the milk (which is affected by the condition of the pasture and the time of year). The tests also tell us if any unwanted hormones or antibiotics are present.
After that, we start making cheese. Here’s how we make hard cheeses:
- The milk is warmed up to between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- We then add a starter culture, mesophilic acid, which will ensure that the correct bacteria and mold will grow in the cheese creating the correct flavor profile that is desired.
- After the culture has been added the milk is heated slightly again and then we pour in a vegetable based rennet which coagulates the milk forming the curd.
- Next, we cut and "cook" the curds between 95 and 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) and then begin to drain the whey out.
- For certain types of cheese, like Gouda, we rinse the curds, which makes for a milder flavor, while cheddar is simply drained and formed into slabs of curds which will then be cut a second time.
- The curds are then placed in mold to be pressed into wheels.
- A few more steps are involved in preparing the wheels, such as salt brine for Gouda and wrapping in cloth for Cheddar, then we age the wheels in our cheese cave.
- In the cheese cave, we age hard cheese for a minimum of 2 months. Some types, like Parmesan, we age as long as 2-3 years or more (longer is better for Parmesan).
If you'd like to learn more about the process, ask when you visit our store.
White cheddar cheese doesn't have any artificial or natural coloring added; whereas, orange cheddar contains an additional ingredient called Annatto.
Annatto is a natural, reddish-orange food coloring that's made from the seeds of a certain tree that's commonly grown in South and Central America. It's added in order to give yellow cheddar cheese consistent color and appearance.
Since white cheddar has no food coloring added, it's appearance and color will vary at different times of the year, depending on what type of grasses and forbs the dairy cows have been grazing.
Yes. Cheese is an excellent source of protein, calcium, vitamin B12, riboflavin, phosphorous, zinc.
Some of the ways in which these nutrients are beneficial:
- Protein helps promote muscle growth.
- Calcium helps build strong bones and reduce the likelihood of cavities.
- Vitamin B12 is needed by the human brain, blood cells, nerves and other parts of the body.
- Zinc is a trace mineral that is important to immune function, wound healing, and growth of the body, among other things.
- Riboflavin is a water soluble vitamin that's involved in the body's process of breaking down nutrients in order to produce energy.
Cheese produced from grass fed dairy herds contains beneficial omega 3 fatty acids. Some cheeses, such as Brie, Cheddar and Blue cheese contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been shown to help reduce inflammation and to help prevent obesity and heart disease.
Affinage is the process by which cheese is aged. It's also known as "ripening" or "maturing."
As the cheese ages, its enzymes work to break down various compounds that are in the cheese. This changes the texture and the flavor of the cheese.
We age the cheese in our underground cheese cave. The cave has stable temperature and humidity, which are essential for proper aging. Good ventilation is also important because the cheese releases certain gases as it ages.
The amount of time that we age the cheese depends on the variety and varies anywhere from 60 days to several years.
The person who takes care of the cheese while it ages is known as an affineur. He flips the cheese, observes how the rind is developing, washes certain cheeses with particular mixtures to enhance and develop their flavor and does various other tasks to help the cheeses age properly and develop the proper flavor and texture.
Our store is located in a peaceful garden setting, with nearby greenhouses, orchards and vegetable gardens.
Next door is a coffee shop, which features fine coffee from Ecuador and fresh baked goods.
Across the road is a market with fresh local produce, an artisan bakery and pasture-raised meats.
A walking trail leads to the Homestead Craft Village, Homestead Cafe, a gift shop, a water-wheel drive gristmill, a variety of craft shops (including woodworking, pottery, blacksmithing, fiber crafts and basket weaving). There are many things to see and do for people of all ages.
The craft village also serves as the campus for Ploughshare, a craft and homesteading school which offers more than 100 different classes, covering a wide range of topics, from cheese making to gardening, wood furniture making, weaving on a floor loom and many others. For more information see www.sustainlife.org.
If you're visiting from out of town, a "tiny house" village within close walking distance provides cozy but comfortable accommodations.