Tillamook spent their one year anniversary of being in Texas in our great state. The #TxLoafLove tour made a stop at Deep Ellum Brewing Company for beer and cheese pairings that did not disappoint.
I learned a lot about cheese tonight including the process of cheese making, and even got to plug cheese. Say what?
Making the Cheese
- It all starts with high quality milk produced from multiple breeds. The milk is loaded onto refrigerated trucks and are sent to the creamery after being tested.
- At the Tillamook Creamery, the fresh milk is heat-shocked. Unlike pasteurization, heat-shocking raises the temperature just enough to kill any bad bacteria, while preserving the milk’s beneficial enzymes. This is an important step in the cheese making process, as the cheddar’s flavor, body, and texture depend upon these enzymes.
- Next, the milk is poured into vats for cooking and add a starter culture that produces lactic acid. This is an important step in the cheese making process because the lactic acid helps coagulate the milk and also contributes to the flavor and texture development of the cheese.
- Now that that milk has been treated, the curds and why stage is started. After about 30 minutes of heating and stirring, a soft curd made of milk fat and casein (a naturally-occurring protein) forms. The cheese making vats cut the curd into small pieces. Then the temperature of the vats is raised, which releases liquid, called whey, from the curds.
- This mixture is emptied into the Cheddarmaster, a machine that separates the curds from the whey. The curds are then laid into a six-foot-wide mat. This is the beginning of an age-old process called cheddaring, when curds start to knit together and transform into tasty cheddar.
- From there, the curds run through the curd mill, where they’re chopped into three-inch bits. Then the curd is salted and stirred. Stirring dissolves the salt crystals, creating a brine that’s absorbed by the cheddar curds.
- In the final stage, the curds are brought to our block forming towers, which draw out excess moisture before pressing the curds into solid cheese. This block of cheese is officially cheddar! The immature cheddar is only a few hours old and still has quite a bit of growing up to do.
- From the block forming towers, the cheddar is cut into 40-pound blocks and vacuum-sealed in airtight, moisture-proof bags. The blocks are cooled rapidly and then stacked in our cold storage warehouse, a refrigerator larger than a football field and about seven stories tall. In their chilly warehouse (40º-42º F) cheddar cures and ages for up to three years. The longer it ages, the sharper and more full-bodied it becomes. Even our youngest cheddar, Tillamook Medium Cheddar, is aged a minimum of 60 days.
I plugged the cheese.
(yes, you read that correctly)
When the time is right, the Tillamook cheese analysts sample the cheddar. (Side note: How cool would it be to be a “cheese analyst?” Sign me up!) I got to give it a try tonight. Cheese analysts at Tillamook use a “cheese trier” which removes a core sample from the 42 pound vat of cheese. The cheese is then graded by sight, smell, taste and texture to make sure it meets Tillamook standards.
Tillamook Fun Facts
- Tillamook is capable of holding approximately 50 million pounds of cheese.
- Tillamook sells cheese, sour cream, butter, yogurt and ice cream.
- They are owned and operated by the people who work the soil, milk the cows, and make decisions about the future of the company.
- You can purchase Tillamook at a store near you. Find a store here.
- Every day, their cheese analysts sample about 300 40-pound blocks of cheese! Wow.
Tillamook Cheese is absolutely delicious and I can’t wait for more of their products to start selling in Texas. Head to your local grocer and give them a try!