August 20, 2013 -
Say (Ohio) Cheese!
“OHIO’S CHEESE INDUSTRY IS VERY EXCITING RIGHT NOW!” shouts Jean Mackenzie over the hum of a bus carting 25 people down I-71 in route to three Ohio creameries. Edible Cleveland‘s first food tour is designed to shine the light on exactly what makes Ohio cheese so enticing, such as…
- Nationally ranked, award-winning artisan cheese makers.
- Consumer demand** opening new doors for cheese makers in local grocers, shops and restaurants.
- New organizations, like the Ohio Cheese Guild, that strengthen the cheese making community through support, education, and promotion.
Our journey started at Yellow House Cheese, the 4-acre farmstead creamery of a young family, who live in a…
Forty sheep are milked twice every day to produce rich varieties of blue cheese. Did you know that it takes about two minutes to milk a sheep, one for each teat? Each sheep yields about a quart of milk a day, and it takes about 4 gallons of milk to make a wheel of cheese. Also, sheep teats don’t take holiday so, if you’re a sheep farmer, you can’t either.
Next stop? Kokoborrego!
Isn’t that a cool name? Say it out loud and it rolls right off your tongue. And if you think that’s fun, wait until you try their product. It makes your mouth sing. Three staple cheeses: Owl Creek Tomme (a 2012 ACS award winner), Headwaters Tomme, and Moraine all make the rounds on the Spice cheese plate.
It’s particularly awesome that Lisa & Ben Sippel, along with cheese maker Ben Baldwin, have been in the cheese business for less than three years and they’re already winning national awards. Other fun facts about Kokoborrego:
- It’s Ohio’s first licensed sheep milk dairy.
- The name is derived from a stream that flows through the property (Koko) and the Spanish word for sheep.
- The creamery sits on 77 acres, where produce is grown and sold through CSA’s at the Columbus markets.
- They started crafting cheese three years ago as a way to smooth production and cash flow over the course of the year.
Because they’re located toward the mid-ish section of the state, Kokoborrego mostly sells at the Columbus markets. But you can find them at various restaurants and shops around Cleveland, including Earthfare.
Following our lovely lunch, we headed over to Osage Lane Creamery, in Pataskala, Ohio, about 20 miles from Columbus. Here we met Emma Stout and her husband, who share their 2-acres of land with 90 goats that produce enough milk for two primary lines of cheese: Feta and Danish Hanson.
The Stouts spoke with great pride about evolving their business over the years to accommodate economic shifts. They sold milk to other creameries for quite some time, and when their largest customer fell through, they turned to cheese making themselves, building their facility from scratch. Here are a few interesting points of note:
- There is a strict separation between milking goats and making cheese; these two jobs are never swapped in the same day to avoid contamination in the facility.
- One of the greatest business expenses is ongoing testing to assure regulators that the cheese is safe at various stages of its 60-day aging period.
- Most folks enjoy savory flavors of feta, but it can also be enjoyed sweet when infused with fruits and citrus.
- Smoked Hanson is delicious.
As our group scanned the fields for the goats, Emma clarified that they were divas, preferring to stay inside after a rain.
Unfortunately, we don’t have easy access to Osage cheeses as they only sell within a three county region surrounding their farm. This may change in the future as word spreads about their products.
Stay in touch with our cheese community! Join the Ohio Cheese Guild Facebook page for updates on these creameries and others in our great state.
**And, be sure to ask your favorite stores and chefs for more Ohio cheese options – we should all have ample access to the best our local artisans have to offer.
Editor’s note: We’d like to extend a special thanks to Noelle Celeste and Jon Benedict of Edible Cleveland for planning this event, and tour guide Jean Mackenzie of Mackenzie Creamery for entertaining and enlightening us along the way.
Edible Cleveland has more food tours in the works! Where would you like to go? Post your ideas here or on their Facebook page.