The creation of amazing cheese begins with cows grazing on flavorful local grasses and does not end until the final product, aged to perfection, lands on your plate. In between, there are critical yet seemingly mysterious steps that contribute to the quality and flavor of the resulting cheese. Read on to demystify cheesemaking, from pasture to plate.
Our animals are bred to produce the perfect milk for cheesemaking – rich in protein and butterfat. Because they are pasture grazed for much of the year, the milk is supremely flavorful and ideal for producing our award winning cheeses.
Milk arrives daily from our local dairy. It is transferred to a vat and heated to just under 100 degrees. A starter culture is added and it begins to acidify the milk and will add flavor to the final cheese.
Several hours later when the ideal pH is reached, our cheesemakers add rennet, an acid, which transforms the liquid milk to a semi-solid state, similar to soft set jello. This process, called coagulation, takes about 30 minutes.
The coagulated milk is cut by hand into smaller cubes using a cheese harp and a knife. Cutting allows the whey, or liquid, to drain away from the solid curds. The curds and whey are then stirred until they reach the ideal firmness at which time, the whey is drained. When making blue cheese, curds are “hooped,” or ladled into perforated cheese forms to drain. Over the next few hours, newly formed blue cheeses will be flipped by hand numerous times to ensure even draining.
To make Cheddar, curds are drained and knit together by being cut and stacked. This process, called cheddaring, results in a firm, dense texture. Curd is then cut into small pieces using a mill before being pressed to achieve the familiar texture.
Aging is critical for flavor development and, in the case of blue cheese, the development of blue veins. All Rogue Creamery cheeses benefit from careful aging in our temperature and humidity controlled caves. Much of the magic of Blue cheese happens in the caves. Wheels are hand turned daily and then weekly to maintain proper moisture levels throughout the wheel.
After some time in the cave, wheels are pierced with stainless steel rods to allow oxygen to enter the interior of the cheese. With the addition of oxygen, blue mold cultures added during production are activated and, over time, create the distinctive blue veining throughout the wheel.
Grading and PackagingAll Rogue Creamery cheeses are released when aged to perfection. This is determined by a final tasting by members of our team. When cheeses are judged ready, our packaging team lovingly hand cuts, wraps and packages the cheeses as the final step in the production process.
From the dairy to the final cut and wrap, our cheeses are nurtured every step of the way by our skilled team members ensuring that the quality and flavor shine through on your plate each and every time.
Step By Step
The vat is filled with fresh pastueurized grass-based milk, cultures and mold. Then it is stirred by hand. Vegetable enzymes are added to coagulate it. After setting, it is cut with a cheese harp to make curds.
The curds are then hand-racked, shoveled and turned. This strengthens the individual curds and gives them integrity.
Salt is added to the vat by hand.
A stainless steel bucket with holes is used to hand-draw the curds and pour them into hoops. The hoops are placed on drain tables and turned every 15 minutes until the curds have knitted into a wheel.
The wheels are placed in our caves and turned every day like champagne. After a period of time, the wheels are perforated. This allows mold to grow inside the wheel. Thus we named our cheese "Oregon Blue Vein Cheese."
The wheels are places into one of our four aging caves and turned daily.
The wheels are pulled out of the cave after a period of time, then cleaned and waxed. The wheels are them put back into our caves and aged up to two years.
The wheel is pulled from our caves when it has achieved the perfect level of mold and taste. The wax is stripped from the wheel and the cheese is wrapped in foil and cheese paper for you, our customer.