I admit it, I take for granted all the delicious diary products that I can easily pick up at my local super market. Milk, ice cream, cheese, yogurt, cream. The list goes on and on. When the American Diary Association North East invited me to the Finger Lakes region of New York state to take a tour of an artisanal cheese factor and tour a 7th generation dairy farm, I quickly said yes!
Here is a bit of the behind the scenes of the tour and what it takes to get one of my obsessions, cheese, from farm to plate.
The Inn On The Lake
We were hosted at The Inn On The Lake. You know I love to show you the inside of the rooms I stay in when I travel so here is a video of my room:
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We arrived at Yancey’s Fancy headquarters for a truly behind the scenes tour of this artisanal cheese factory. Started after world war 1 with Limburg cheese they have expanded to over 38 varieties of cheeses. The cheese is still made in the same location, although it has been expanded over the years to meet the demand for the their amazing cheeses. The company was acquired by a corporation owned by Dietz and Watson and produces the largest quantity of cheese for a cheese factory its size.
Safety & Sanitation
I was impressed with all the steps they took to ensure safety and sanitation in the cheese making process. All hair was covered, everyone wore these very stylish jackets, we all work shoe covers and the floors were constantly being sprayed with cleaning solution and wiped down. If only I could keep my kitchen as clean as they kept thier cheese factory!!
We were lead on a room by room, stage by stage tour of this cheese plant. From intake of the milk from the farmers, to adding cultures, to aging the cheese, to cutting and dipping the cheese in wax to packaging, it is all done on site.
While there lots of pipes, bowls, vats and machinery around I was blown away by how many people it took to create the tens of thousands of pounds of cheese they produce weekly. So many steps and so many hands that go into making the cheese that we all love.
All of these white containers contain cheese that is immersed in a brine solution. The solution is pumped into the top tray and then through a series of holes it flows down to the second tray and then down to the third, and so on. It is constantly flowing and constantly moving. Constantly making the cheese.
Bonus Fact: Even the bi products of cheese are not thrown out. Spent brine solution is cleaned and then used with soaps to cleanse the floors. Nothing is wasted.
Yancey’s is known for their amazing flavored cheeses.
When we were visiting they were making a jalapeno flavored cheese. The fragrance of the peppers were so intense as they hung in the air it make it difficult to get a full breath. These were amazingly intense flavors that were carefully weighed out to the exact gram before adding them to the cheese.
We visited the aging room where thousands of pounds of cheese was maturing before being sent to the packaging room. Everything from the temperature, to the humidity to the type of wood the cheese is sitting on is controlled. It was an amazing place!
We were passing through a room that I thought was full of cheese. Nope. It was full of packaging and labels. They had an entire room for labels. THAT is how much cheese they make. I love stickers so this was a tiny glimpse of heaven.
This machine is pressing the excess moisture out of the cheese. Through hydraulics and time it is removing the whey from the cheese curd forming a block of cheese. The whey is then recycled to help clean the cheese factory. Waste not, want not!
Breaking The Curd
This table was HUGE. I am going to guess at least 50 feet in length and this ‘hand’ was turning and rotating the cheese curds.
Fun Fact: It take 10 pound of milk to produce 1 pound of cheese.
Each of the wheels of cheese that require a wax coating are dipped by hand in a food safe wax. We just missed the tail end of the process on our tour so no photos of the process but look at all the waxed cheese! Each colored wax represents a different cheese flavor. I believe the bacon cheese will be my favorite.
After our cheese factory tour we went over to Noblehurst Farm. This is a 7th generation family farm with a thousand head of cows. The barn they were housed in was HUGE. It was divided into section and each section was home to a different ‘family’ or ‘herd’ of cows. There was lots of natural light, even on the dreary rainy day we were visiting. The ventilation system was very good because even with a thousand head of cows in the barn it smelled like a barn but not oppressively so.
The cows are free to choose their own stall and be neighbors with who ever they want to. Some have routines and places they like to be at certain times of day and others will roam from place to place. They have these back scratcher/massage stations that the cows can visit. A cow with a scratched back is a happy cow. And happy cows produce better milk.
One piece that we drove by on the farm, but didn’t get to visit due to time, was the Digester.
This is more than a composter. It combines the cow manure along with other compostable materials such as produce, soda, table scraps and expired food to create cleaner biogas. This is an environmentally friendly way of disposing of methane and converting it into a clean fuel source. The farm is run entirely on the power the digester produces and the farmer is able to sell the energy back to the poser company, creating another revenue source.
It is a in for the farmer, a win for the environment and a win for the public.
I had the pleasure to spend time on a #ny #dairyfarm with the #nydairytour17 #ad. 🐄 This sweet face was polite enough to look up from her lunch to give me her best side. REAL TALK. I don’t know if I have what it takes to be a #farmer there days. There is so many aspects to dairy farming beyond feed and milk the cows. 🐄Animal comfort and care. 👩🏽🎓Public education. 🚜Farming innovation. 🚚Waste management. 🎯Marketing. 🌎Sustainability. 🌱Responsible production. And SO MICH MORE!! Please! #thankafarmer today for #nationalfarmersday #undeniablydairy #cow #dairycows #dairycowsofinstagram #milk #milkcow #lovedairy #ilovedairy
There as also a wealth of information on www.dairyspot.com.