making what's her name

On September 8, 2010 I made my first batch of "what's her name" with raw milk, all by myself. It was a bit intimidating to do since I had to follow Joel's note keeping ex:
My dad brought me milk from a raw milk farm and, yes, you walk into the cooler take your milk and leave $4.50/ gallon in the box.... gotta love small towns. I followed the recipe pretty well and everything went smoothly. It was fun having Joel's aunt there to help, too. While I am tending Bleu boy he is tending "what's her name" in California. He let her age a few weeks and get covered in mold-

He then gives her a salt water cleaning & vinegar bath-

He rotates her every day and will rotate the salt & vinegar rubs-

These salt & vinegar rubs enhance the cheese flavor while keeping the mold to a minimum. It also helps develop a good rind, which will hopefully keep the cheese moisture in. We will be eating her around Christmas time which will make her almost 5 months old, which is the longest aging we have done thus far. We will also be taking her to our 2nd annual Rocky Mountain Dairy Sheep meeting. It will be held in Logan this year and I get to help with the catering. Very fun!

bleu cheese- 12 days old

Well our bleu baby is very interesting. We don't quite know how he's going to turn out. We didn't follow the recipe exactly... we added less of the Penicillium Roqueforti and added the Roquefort cheese itself. So it isn't really looking like the pictures from the recipe. I guess this is what we call "live and learn". We will do a few things differently next time such as cut smaller cubes or even mash the curd up by hand just to make sure the gaps aren't too big. The most important part of cheese making is of course, taste which we can't determine for another...50-90 days. But once you open that lid the smell hits you and makes you want to take a bite of it, it is amazing.


bleu cheese- 9 days old

The bleu is well on its way. How pretty! I will be piercing thin holes into it tomorrow which will stimulate the growth of the bleu mold. Anywhere there is access to air the bleu will grow.
This is an aging cave in France where they age the Roquefort Bleu Cheese and wow... so we have our work cut out for us.
This image comes from Hotel Cap Vert Saint Affrique, Roquefort France. If you are ever in the area please stop by and see the caves. One day Joel & I will go... I am sure of it.

Les grands classiques
Entre le mythique Viaduc de Millau qui s'élance vers le ciel et les légendaires Caves de Roquefort et leurs mystérieuses fleurines, classées site remarquable du goût, l'Aveyron oscille entre modernité et tradition.

I took one year of french in High school and 2 semesters of it in college so I will translate this for you.

The Grand Classics,
Enter the mystic viaduct of Millau
..um..something-something.... the legendary caves of Roquefort .. lets see here... um... mysteries ...what? uh.... classes a remarkable ...something or other.... something else... ok so basically that's it.


bleu cheese- 5 days old

Into day 5 and it is looking good so far but since it is our first bleu we really have no idea if its really looking good or if we are fooling ourselves, either way we are having fun trying. I removed the block from the mould and set it in the pot to age for the next 60-90 days. Now the temperature in our basement is perfect- it stays a nice 55-60 degrees and the humidity is around 85-90%.

I set in limestone rocks just to see if anything happens. I am sure it needs to have more limestone surrounding it but this is all I could fit in the pot. I still have to flip it every day so hopefully we will see some mold start to grow in the next few weeks.


bleu cheese- 4 days old

Well she is now 4 days old. She held together very well and as you can see she has kept her cube like features though they stick together. There should be holes throughout in order for the bleu mold to grow.

Very exciting.



As most of you know our entire cheese journey began with wanting to make the best bleu cheese in town. We have been patient and tried our hand with several other cheeses and getting lots of practice with "What's her name", Queso fresco, Juustoleipä, Cheddar and the infamous "chocolate milk trial". Though we feel very comfortable with our cheese making skills bleu was something we wanted to do together and with us being apart more often than together it has just had to wait. Joel and the kids came for our first Thanksgiving holiday and we thoroughly enjoyed every second we were together and one day we saw my dad at the Malt Shop and he threw out the challenge, "Do you guys want me to get you some raw milk to make cheese?" Our minds first went to "Na, that's ok- don't know where we'd find the time." But by the next day we were ready and decided bleu was the next cheese to be aged in our little cheese fridge. This process is very similar to every other type of cheese just some tweeking. There is the heating of the milk, then adding the cultures only this time we added the Penicillium Roqueforti AND actual Roquefort bleu cheese. We took about 1 Tablespoon of the cheese and smashed it into the milk then added it to the pot. We added the rennet and then cut the curd. After which we allowed the curds to sit as they released more whey then drained the whey. Then we set the curds in the moulds to set for 24 hours. We had to keep then at about 55 degrees so our basement was the perfect spot. As you can tell, we have a limestone basement which we will try and use to age the cheese and gain that bacterial flavor that is only mastered with limestone. As far as we know, no one has used the Oolite Limestone for aging bleu so it will be very exciting to see what comes of it. 24 hours we then cut the curd again into half inch cubes and added 6 tablespoons of salt. Yes, 6. We then placed them back to the mould and this time they all fit into the large mould. As more whey is expelled the smaller and firmer the curds get. We placed a 10lb. weight on top to aid in the pressing. The next few weeks are going to consist of flipping the cheese once a day then we will place the cheese in the fridge and let the magic begin.

I will keep you posted.


my first painting done in utah

It has been a while since I have picked up the brush but I have been inspired ever since we moved here to try my first sheep painting. I had to find the perfect sheep to photograph and see what I could get. We are so fortunate to have such great new friends here. The second week here I met a great couple, Dane & Beth Thurston. Beth approached me and we began talking, she had heard that we were interested in sheep for the purposes of cheese making and then told me that they had 5 Icelandic sheep on their property as a hobby. Well she told her hubby about our plans and he quickly approached me and said, "We need to talk." Well that led to dinner at their house when Joel was in town and I was able to take some great photos of his adorable sheep. His sheep are like pets to them. one ram actually comes to greet you and you must give him lots of attention, just like a dog, if you don't he will ram you. Needless to say, they are gorgeous animals. We were there talking sheep for hours. I could barely pull Joel & Dane apart they were having so much fun talking. I snapped this shot as Joel was petting him and fell in love with the image- I knew this was the image I was waiting for. If we can get things going we would love to buy this ram but of course, like everything else, it all takes time & patience.We have had great interest in the Icelandic sheep to sell for meat. They are extremely tender and considered a gourmet product but we won't bring that up at this point because they are so cute.

-dedicated to my sweet adorable husband Joel, keep your eye on the prize.


livin' the farm life- sheep trailing

I was informed that the yearly sheep trailing was happening at the end of September. I waited patiently for 2 hours and then spotted the dust. I was very excited to see this happen. Sheep trailing is when the herders collect the sheep that have been free grazing high up in the mountains all summer long. They gather them together and start sending them down the trail. A dog will lead the way while the herders stay behind and make sure the sheep stay together. They kind of got spooked when they saw me photographing them so I had to jump out of the way so they would keep going down the street. I couldn't let my kids miss such a neat first experience so I pulled them out of school early and had them wait for something coming down the road. Rocket said, "What is that? Are those... SHEEP!?" They loved it as they walked by within feet of us. It was so fun! What a great experince. Can't wait for the rest of the family to be here and experience all these fun new things with us.


how do you milk a sheep???

One of the first questions asked of us when the topic of sheep milk cheese comes up is, "how do you milk a sheep??" Well, I was sent this great youtube video from our friend, Dale Peel. Hopefully, this will shed some light on how to milk a sheep. Enjoy!

Milking sheep at Hawks Highland Farm


the stars must align

Now that I am here there are many things that need to happen in order for us to reach our goals. Let's list them so we can see what needs to happen:

-Ophiuchus: Officially register name & trademark logo
-Boötes: Business Plan & correct licenses
-Lyra: Loans for above items (eeks!)
-R136a1: Build/renovate cheese facility (be ready by spring)
-Mensa: Milk supply ready by spring
-Triangulum: Trucks or bags to deliver that milk
-Corona Australis: Cheese kitchen that meets dairy standards
-Corona Borealis: Cheese making equipment & holding tanks
-Vulpecula: Set up website & business office
-Sagittarius: Start making cheese to age and sell
-Delphinus: Delivery system in place
-Gemini: Get product out to public

WOW! That's a lot of stars! Holy Cow, we need to get the ball rolling.
Now that we got the logo drawn and the name picked I went and got it registered and trademarked in Salt Lake City. We are officially a business as of September 1, 2010.
OPHIUCHUS has aligned.

How exciting!
So... one down and millions more to go. Wish us luck!


our name & logo...

It only took well over a year to come up with a name for our company but we finally made the decision and here it is... drums....

Oolite Cheese Company


taking the big plunge

After a month of pondering we decided to make a huge leap of faith and have me and the three little kids move to our adorable house in Utah while having Joel and the two older kids stay in Huntington to work and have one more year of school. Our main goal for doing this is to make a push for the business and get repairs done on the house while there is still a great job, not to mention, stop putting money into the landlords pocket instead of our own. It isn't so bad plus I get to start scoping out cheese kitchen locations. Several have come up but there are pro's and con's to each. I guess we just need to weigh the options and the best one will step forward. We are also looking into bids for the house repairs- it is a very exciting time and things are moving along very fast.


back from mexico

Joel had the BEST time. He met lots of new friends (ages 13-25) and visited some of the most beautiful sights. Caves, mountain cities, there were funerals & birthdays, a little bit of street justice and lots of incredible food. He was literally in heaven.

I was surprised that they actually made it to a cheese-maker. He loved the set up,though it was very third world and simple, that is exactly what he loved about it.
He is figuring out what he wants for our cheese kitchen and realizes simple may be the way to go.

The press set up was very interesting too, it is so fun seeing how other people do it, especially with very little money. He said she was very sanitary and had all of her licenses up on the wall. What he was most impressed with was that she still did everything by hand. No machines, just a very artisan way of making cheese which is our main goal.

He really liked the boys, they helped their mother make cheese throughout the week. And the best part of the visit was when he told her he wanted to make cheese- she suggested to make cheese in Mexico... and find a single woman who is already making it. He didn't catch it due to the language barrier but his posse of boys told him what she said. Even they were saying... ya- you should marry her and move here, she's real pretty too. He had to let them know he was already married. Too awesome!


off to mexico...

Joel and his co-worker Hugo are off to Mexico for memorial day weekend. Hugo has been trying for years to get Joel to come to his home town of Tlaltizapan,Morelos, Mexico.
Joel finally agreed when Hugo mentioned the possibility of visiting cheese-makers that he knew. The two set off last night around 8pm and had to drive to Tijuana, get on a plane and fly to Mexico City then take a bus into town. It was an all night trip for the two of them... The last night we spent with Hugo was when we went out with him and his wife Rosie. It was interesting to say the least. It started out with dinner then it was suggested we go to a Mexican bar that was close by. Well... what can I say? At about midnight I found myself dancing on the dance floor in a dirty Mexican bar, being the only white girl within 100 yards. I asked myself "What is going on and how did I get here... on my 14th wedding anniversary?" I am dancing the salsa (which I don't know) listening to the live mariachi band. All I could do was go with it. The music was loud and ever so often the singer would shout out towns in Mexico and those who are from that town would yell and shout claiming their homeland "viva Morelos- viva Tepoztlan!". We just laughed and shouted along with them. A few songs later Hugo went and whispered in the ear of the singer and gave him a buck- they started up again with the towns and then it came..."VIVA ju-tah!!!" Well at that point we all started screaming... Me and Joel, his brother Josh and Hugo & Rosie. It was hilarious. And that is how I spent my anniversary with Hugo & Rosie. Josh was the lucky one, he got to have a dancing partner for only $1/ dance. She was also our waitress. She would sit on your lap or sit by you for a nominal fee for the night. The best part is that Hugo paid her at first to dance with Josh but after a while she was asking Josh to dance... for free. What a great culture clash moment. We shall see if their trip is successful. I am hoping he will gain some insight into how smaller cheese-making shops are run.


juustoleipä- ja paholainen

Who ever invented this stuff was an evil genius. Juustoleipä is the Finnish word for "cheese bread" pronounced (HOO-stah-lee-PA). It is made like most other cheeses. We cook the curds and place them into the press and once pressed for the proper amount of time we have to cut them horizontally into 3 equal rounds, all about 1" thick.
Then we take the rounds and place them on a cookie sheet with olive oil and bake them 'til golden brown on top. We would flip them so they could get browned on both sides, pain to flip but worth it.
We cut them into desired shapes, sealed them and kept them in the freezer 'til ready to eat. Just heat and top with your favorite topping:
Cilantro & Jalapeno
Raspberry Jam
Fresh Basil
Marinara Sauce

It is unbelievably delicious and salty... herkullinen!



So we ordered our first molds from this great site He was very helpful and seems super excited about people making cheese. We ordered a white mold for camembert and blue mold for our highly anticipated blue cheese. We decided to start off with the camembert to see how it goes and then move on to the blue. It was a great process and not too complicated. We write down every single step for every batch we make. They say notes are the most important thing you can do when making cheese so you don't forget something important when trying to re-create a batch. The camembert is coming along nicely. We made 4 rounds and it was so exciting seeing tell tale signs of white peach fuzz growing on them. Each week they would get furrier and furrier. We tried the first block after it had aged 5 weeks. It wasn't quite ready, though it still tasted good. We have tried one each week since and from what we have seen ours takes about 8 weeks to ripen to proper consistancy.


girls just wanna have fun

Our daughter Maddi and her life-long friend Alex decided to help Joel make a batch of Cheddar.

They really just wanted to stir the curds with their hands.

They were very sanitary and had to wash their hands a million times.

In the end it was a great batch... we won't know for sure until mid July but it was delicious to eat fresh! Thanks ladies.

chocolate cheese...

One night we were buying milk for our next batch of cheese and I noticed the chocolate milk. Am I crazy or is there a possibility that it could work with chocolate milk. It makes perfect sense to have a cheese that would be salty with a hint of chocolatie goodness... It is worth a shot!

Well I worked on this brilliant idea till midnight and I did all of the steps very well.
It cooked well...

It curdled well

The curds were the perfect consistency and it kept it's chocolate color throughout the process...

I feel as though it would have been a HUGE success if it didn't look, smell and taste like vomit.



Ok so we have tried to make cheddar cheese two times and both have failed miserably. The first two attempts took nearly 12 hours and that only included a few 15 minute breaks to get off your feet.
First attempt:
As you can see the lines of the curb did not seal up like they are supposed to. They are supposed to come together and look like a very smooth block of cheese. We would take special care and even go as far as waxing the cheese but in the end they would fail. We would still eat them but have to cut out the mold that accumulated, not the good mold. It was a very bitter experience for both of us. Once he got back from his class he decided that cheddar was the first cheese to make. We pumped ourselves up and began the process. It only took about 7 hours this time, it really helps when you know what you are doing. Joel showed me all the steps and we watched our favorite cheese-making video at the same time, she makes cheddar at home and so we followed a lot of her directions. We set it in the mold and weighed it down with about 70 lbs. of water weight then walked away. It was very hard not peeking at it for the full 24 hours but when the time came we got to see if it had worked. It was a huge success for us. We were actually dancing around due to all the excitement. Well now we have to age it for at least 3 months before trying it. What is so crazy is at Joel's class he had a teacher who forgot about a block of cheddar in his cheese fridge and found it not that long ago... it had been aging for 10 years! It goes to show you that cheese can last for a long time. Don't ever throw it out- just cut any mold off and it's fine. By the way- the students asked if they could try it and he said no way! He is keeping it for himself. Who knew cheese-making could be filled with so much drama and excitement?!


off to cheese school, be back in a week!

Joel is taking this whole cheese thing very seriously. He is taking an artisan cheese course at Utah State University. The flight is booked, the car is rented and he is on his way. He left on February 22nd and returned on the 27th. He couldn't talk much during the week because he was so incredibly busy but he kept me informed as to what they were doing. The first day of the class was dedicated to learning about cheese and it's chemistry, 8 hours of facts and chemical reactions and all things scientific. Then next day is when the fun began. He was introduced to the cheese kitchen, had to put on the hats & boots and began getting elbow deep in milk and cheesy goodness. He helped make the following cheeses:
String Cheese
Squeaky Cheese
Monterrey Jack
Old Juniper
and many more.

He had to borrow a suitcase to bring it all home, 25 lbs. to be exact.
It has been so much fun trying all these wonderful freshly made cheeses. I had to make my semi-famous whole-wheat sourdough grilled cheese sandwiches with New Zealand sharp cheddar and his fresh mozzarella. The kids loved it.
He has come home more determined than ever to make his dream a reality. We are moving fast with our business plan and hopefully getting everything lined up. He now knows what our cheese kitchen needs, how it is to be properly cleaned and how to package the cheeses. It was a by far the most valuable class he has attended to date. It has given him so much confidence in cheese-making. Hopefully things will continue to move forward and you will all soon be able to visit us at the farm. He did however decide that using a few cows in the beginning may not be a bad idea, it will help get the farm moving quicker and cheaper. We definitely want to use whatever sheep's milk we can get our hands on but we aren't so afraid of using cows milk to get the jump start we need. Once the cheese gets rolling we will be in a better position to get the sheep milk products up and running.