It all starts with the grass.
The vast majority of our farm is covered in it and it’s our “secret” to making great cheese. Throughout the growing season, part of our herd grazes in our fields and part feeds on grass silage in our spacious new barn. In the barn, they have comfy beds, lots of space to roam, fresh feed and water, and even automatic back-scratchers! Whenever they feel the need, they line up and go right into the robotic milker room where our Voluntary Milking System (VMS) gently cleans their teats and milks them – all while they snack on some tasty grain. Every morning, the fresh milk is pumped straight to the cheeseworks where it’s either made directly into raw milk cheese to be aged or gently heated to pasteurization temperature for our fresh, soft cheeses.
Cheese is made by adding specific bacterial cultures to milk which begin turning the sugars (lactose) into lactic acid – these are critical in producing the final flavour of the cheese. At just the right point, enzymes are added to coagulate the milk. Once solid, the curd is cut and stirred, leaving the liquid behind as whey, then put into moulds. In the moulds, the brand new cheeses sit to drain and are sometimes pressed to achieve their final shape – then they are soaked in brine to bring out the best of their flavour.
After salting, the fun begins!
Micro flora take over in a strictly controlled environment; cool but not too cool, humid but not too humid. Sometimes natural yeasts and moulds are introduced as well. These help form a protective rind and add to the complexity of the flavour. The fuzzy white mould, penicillium candidum, for example, is what covers Island Brie, creating that mushroomy aroma and creamy texture.
The by-products of these moulds, bacteria and their enzymes continue to live in the cheese a long time. They break down the body of the cheese so you will discover different aromas, flavours and textures at different times during the life of the cheese.
And so the cheese is transformed from a piece of tasteless milk solids to one of nature’s wonders, ripe cheese!
"Cheese is milk's leap toward immortality."
- Cllifton Fadiman