Got raw milk?
A new and unique creamery has opened in Midway, mixing state-of-the-art technology and old-fashioned sensibility.
Heber Valley Artisan Cheese was open to the public last week for tastings and tours, highlighting a 400-acre dairy farm in the heart of this tiny town settled by the Swiss. And if you are a lover of artisan cheese and local foods, this is the place for you. The creamery sells not only raw milk, but also aged cheeses made with raw milk, and fresh cheese made with pasteurized milk -- all from its own herds.
"That was milked yesterday, brought over last night, and bottled this morning," said artisan cheesemaker Mark Nelson, pointing to a truck of milk from the pastures of Grant and Caralee Kohler, who own both the farm and the cheese business.
There is a modern "cheese cave" chilled and kept in darkness for the speciality cheeses here to develop their distinctive flavors -- everything from aged parmesan-type cheese, to cheese infused with salsa, to cheese infused with cacao nibs. Nelson led a tasting for the local rotary club on Wednesday, and despite trepidation, many people liked the mixture of 60 percent dark chocolate chips mixed with white cheddar curd. There is blueberry-suffused cheese, smoked cheese, quesa fresca, and cheese curds in ranch, dill pickle, barbecue, jalapeno, Cajun, fuego verde and fuego rojo varieties. There is even an Oreo white cheddar mix for the truly brave.
Nelson is a graduate of the "cheese school" at Utah State University, "and there is such a thing as cheese school," he said.
The benefits of locally made artisan cheeses are in the quality and taste, he said. For example, cheddar cheese sold in grocery stores is orange only because dyes are added.
"We have made a decision not to use any dye in our cheese," he said. And the dairy herd is both pastured and free of antibiotics -- in fact, the cows graze outside the window of the new cheesemaking plant.
"There is no outside milk," Nelson said. "Only cow milk from this farm." The owners have also decided to make cheese using only cow's milk, not goat's milk.
The creamery also sells mozzarella, Swiss, a medium-aged cheddar called "Old Juniper," several varieties of ice cream, custard and sherbert, and Winder Dairy butter and cottage cheese made from milk from the Kohler dairy cow herd.
"As third- and fourth-generation dairy farmers, we love milk and cheese," say owners Grant and Caralee Kohler in a brochure of the creamery's "Cheese Portfolio." "It's in our blood. We hope you will enjoy our cheese, and take comfort in the fact that it was hand-crafted from start to finish by us on our farm."
Heber residents Nate Cox and Andy Dahmen were among the group of 20 or so people from the local rotary club that toured the new creamery on Wednesday.
Dahmen said his favorite was the medium cheddar, aged five months. "I think it's great to see business in this valley succeed," he said.
"I'm a believer, I'm converted," said Cox, who purchased raw milk to take home to his family, and said he would be buying cheese from the creamery from now on. His favorites were also the medium cheddar, along with the quesa fresca with cilantro, and the raw milk, "which has a lot of the nutrients and it's just better to get them in the pure form," he said.
The Heber Valley Artisan Cheese Creamery is located at 920 N. River Road in Midway. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For information, visit HeberValleyCheese.com or call (435) 654-0291.