Tuesday, March 3, 2009

if the cheese IRS wants to know what I did on Tuesday, this is it

My field trip to the Beehive Cheese Company

Please forgive the confuzled version of today's events. I have tried not to lead anyone astray, but I suggest that you don't come here for an accurate and in-depth cheesemaking tutorial. These pictures are in the order I encountered their subjects, not the chronology of making a batch of cheese. We were be-bopping around in three different batches, and got to see the whole fascinating process in only 4 hours. You know those educational videos they have on Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers? It was like that, only being in it, so exponentially more enjoyable. Because I always hated those people in the videos. So smug and superior. Just because they get to make orange crayons all day.

Man, I feel sorry that my camera is such an inappropriate instrument for this. But it fits in my back pocket, and that's about all I could manage. So, I apologize for the wretched pictures of much blurriness. But if you wanted good pictures, you'd read Smitten Kitchen. And there you'd be, with no one to tell you about castrating goats, and you'd be in a fine pickle.

My sister-in-law Emily dabbles in cheesemaking as well, so I asked her to come along on this adventure. We got there at 9:00 in our poly-cotton blends (for comfort and wicking ability) and were lent some stylin' boots--did you know that Crocs makes boots? Me neither! And they are a lot of fun, but a little lacking in arch support, so don't be thinking you can climb K2 in them. Also, they are not good for irrigating. Not tall enough in the shaft. We also got some sweet hairnets. It was like working at the Church cannery, only way more fun, because at the end of the day there is cheese instead of nasty beef stew.

Here are Pat (on the left) and Tim, cheesemaking brothers-in-law and partners in the company. Pat was our cheese sensei.

Emily is rarin' to go. She is in front of a ginormous vat of milk. It comes in raw, then they pasteurize it (unless it's Full Moon . . . yum . . . ) and send it into this vat. They add calcium chloride, various cultures and rennet at the proper temperatures. Because that's how you make cheese, duh.

Here is what a batch of cheese looks like after the curds have been pressed in the hoops for a while.

Here I am lining the hoops with some funky cheesecloth. Look at the scary Jenga tower of hoops next to me--we didn't even knock them all down and ruin everyone's lives.

Pat and Doug (0bscured by me) checking the consistency of the curd.

Pat and Doug using the harps to cut the curd. I was wondering, what did people make the harps out of before they had stainless steel? Probably catgut, because it's awesome.

Emily stirring the curd. She looks all calm, but it's wicked heavy.

Me stirring the curd. Hope you have tickets to the gun show.

Here is a big old pile of slabs of cheddared curd.

Doug (obscured) is feeding the slabs into the machine whose name I forget that will turn slabs of cheese and human arms into cheetoh-sized curds. Alojio (hope I spelled that correctly) is shoveling the resultant curds around and spreading them out.

The curds get salted, then this machine stirs them and stirs them.

Doug shoveling the curd into the cheesecloth-lined hoops.

Pat preparing a hand-bandaged cheese. Both this and the other cheeses get loaded onto a press that smooshes all the extra whey out of them.

Alojio is cutting a batch of drained curds.

Pat is moving the slabs that Alojio just cut. The curds are just smooshed together under their own power, which is crazy to me, and so cool to see.

Emily flipping the slabs.

Me flipping the slabs. You would have strong arms and a sore back if you worked here. Once the slabs have chillaxed for a while, they get sent through that cheetoh machine you saw earlier.

And that's cheesemaking! It was so interesting to see it on such a grand scale (compared to what I'm used to). And such terribly nice people who take immense pride in their work. They are super knowledgeable and very creative, and are full of percolating ideas about new cheeses and new ways to expand their business and challenge themselves. We learned so much (organic matter neutralizes chlorine! hot temperatures increase the efficacy of your soap!) and had a most excellent time--Bill and Ted excellent, not Mr. Burns excellent.


Jill said...

I think Heavenly Father is drawing up blue prints for your cheese mansion above! You know what you love and you get into it! I'm glad you had fun. :-) I should have taken pictures of my tour through the Sweets Candy see, I have a passion for sugar. :-) PS I bought Seahive about a month has replaced the promontory..(sp?) as our cheese of choice. YUM!

Sarah said...

That looks like awesome dang fun...and also like hard work. Stirring the curd had to be a workout, and even flipping those slabs looked a might bit uncomfortable. But what a cool experience. Now if you ever start making cheese by the ton, you know how to go about things.

Mike B said...

Beacause I'm told that Layne calls the entry a success if someone of the male gender emerges from their state of lurking to make a comment, I am commenting. Also because I like cheese and all that it stands for. This was cool to see the whole process. They do things very similarly to the way the USU dairy lab did it back in my glory day. The batch sizes seem to be about the same, too. This brought back some great memories. The whole process is fascinating. Viva los cheese. (the term Viva not to be confused with Velveeta, the processed cheese)