The Blade – Creamy intentions
Wauseon farm is only one in the area making goat cheese from its own goats
BY DANIEL NEMAN
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
WAUSEON — They have names like Banana and Jive, and they make cheese.
Technically, they only provide the milk that is turned into the cheese. But it is the 40 or so goats that make Turkeyfoot Creek Creamery unique.
According to owner Del Burkholder, the farm near Wauseon is the only one in northwest Ohio to make goat cheese from its own goats. And it is one of only four or five in the whole state to do so.
The creamery will have its official grand opening at noon July 17, though it has been in business since March. It makes cheese in three ways: creamy chevre, firm and flavorful Gouda, and chewy curds, which are eaten deep fried or just plain as a snack.
Currently, the curds are the farm's best seller, though Mr. Burkholder acknowledged it is the kind of food that you either love or hate.
The chevre — so soft it can be spread on crackers — comes in six flavors: peppercorn (the most popular), garlic, ranch, honey, pineapple, and plain. The plain is a blank slate to which you can add whatever herbs or seasonings you choose, and it is made without salt for people who are watching their sodium.
Mr. Burkholder, 48, works the five-acre farm with his niece, Jill Proudfoot, who insists he could do all the work himself. Ms. Proudfoot handles sales for the creamery, introducing the cheese to local stores and restaurants. So far, it it's available at Walt Churchill's Markets, Sautter's Market in Sylvania, Monnettes' Market on Reynolds Road, All Things Food and Stoney Ridge Winery in Bryan, Brookview Farm in Archbold, AKA Designs in Wauseon, By Nature in Adrian, Mich., and at the farm itself, and Bar 145 offers it as a choice on a cheeseburger.
Ms. Proudfoot also helps to make the different cheeses, which all begin the same way. The goats — they were named by Mr. Burkholder's wife, Linda — are milked and the milk is pumped into a large vat that stirs and heats it, pasteurizing the milk. Rennet, cheese cultures, and calcium chloride are added. Soon, the curds separate from the whey and can be filtered out. Mr. Burkholder gives the whey to local farmers for their hogs — gives it, not sells it — and what he does with the curds determines what kind of cheese he gets.
The chevre is stirred and drained through cheesecloth before the flavors are added. The curds are heated, stirred, pressed until all the liquid has been forced out, and then cut into the familiar bite-sized pieces.
And the Gouda is pressed into molds, brined, covered with a wax rind, and aged in a cheese cave (it's a humid cooler with wooden shelves) for a minimum of 60 days.
After 60 days, the flavor is pronounced, but mild. But it can age for several years, and the longer it ages, the sharper and deeper the flavor.
"I go through extra processes to make a better Gouda," Mr. Burkholder said. "I'm trying to make my cheese the old way."
That is why he sought the advice and assistance of Harold Schuller, the American representative of a Dutch company that manufactures cheese-making equipment. With Mr. Schuller's help, he learned to make cheese for public consumption.
"I've made cheese in the house for quite a few years, but this is totally different from making cheese in the house," Mr. Burkholder said.
When you're making cheese to sell, you have to be almost obsessed with cleanliness. Any contamination that gets in the milk, any of the wrong bacteria in the cheese can sicken the customers. Mr. Burkholder has to have five separate licenses to make it, and he tests every batch of milk to make certain no medication has gotten into it.
Mr. Burkholder generally does not medicate his goats, other than a vaccination when they are kids. If one needs medication, he quarantines her and keeps her from the rest of the herd.
He has been raising goats since he was a child, though until recently he had spent the bulk of his career as a painter. But he developed an allergy to the paint, and as his health declined he realized he had to try something new. He feels better now, and with the cheese operation well underway, the admittedly impatient Mr. Burkholder is eager to find success.
Standing in his century-old barn, he looked over his 40 docile goats — he has Lamancha and Saanen breeds — and said he would like to sell enough cheese to have 80 goats.
"As you can see, I have the space," he said.
Turkeyfoot Creek Creamery is at 11313 County Road D, near Wauseon, 419-335-0224.
Contact Daniel Neman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6155.