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the cheese is most heavily consumed from
Thanksgiving through Christmas.
Food safety measures are embedded in the
infrastructure of Cypress Grove Chevre. The
process rooms in the new facility are essentially their own buildings within the exterior
building and allow for stringent environmental
controls. Utilities are housed in the attic space
and routed directly down to the point of use so
utilities materials within the production areas
are minimized. Corner mount lighting fixtures
minimize the potential for cross-contamination
from ceiling condensation. A building management system carefully balances the pressure
differentials rooms to minimize the potential
of airborne contaminants to infiltrate the most
sensitive process rooms. The entire plant is
built for regular wash down, but will be operated as a “dry” plant during operation.
More precise temperature and humidity
controls in production areas will avoid product
loss, improve product consistency and extend
cheese shelf life. The European-style curd
press, which separates the whey from the curd,
will allow for much more exact moisture levels
in the early stages of the cheesemaking process. For the soft-ripened cheeses, a new drying room and ripening caves will allow for more
controlled ripening environments and will translate into a more consistent finished product.
“We will be able to more precisely dial in
every step of our cheesemaking process and
will ultimately result in a better product to
the final consumer,” Estes said. “With a little
packaging innovation here and there, we may
be able to extend shelf life.”
The fresh cheese has a shelf life of at least
12 weeks, while aged cheese has a shelf life
of 6-8 weeks uncut.
The Mission Remains
Cypress Grove Chevre’s artisan practices
will remain unchanged in its new facility. Soft,
aged cheeses like Humboldt Fog, are turned,
packaged and wrapped by hand. Some vari-eties are even hand-labeled. In fresh cheese
production, herbs, like lavender, dill and chili
threads, are hand-sprinkled for flavor, aesthetics and taste.
Estes is allotting a realistic amount of time
for production trials before processing is fully
converted to the new facility. After all, it takes
time to get things just right in a new home.
Mid-August is realistic for starting the transition, he said.
“It could be months before we’re fully
dialed in and satisfied with our trials,” he
said. “Quality is everything.”
With a new owner, Cypress Grove Chevre
is getting ready for the future by investing
in a new facility. As part of a new family in
a stable specialty market, the cheesemaker
is upping its game for the longer term with
innovative technology in the food-safety savvy
facility, securing even more longevity in the
specialty cheese market. ◆