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About Flathead Lake Cheese

Small batch cheesemakers at the base of Flathead Lake up in the northwest corner of Montana.

Is that…… a Permanent Marker?!?

Creamery on a blustery day May 16So what started out as a tiny innocent idea of creating a middle school style morning announcement report as a way to start each of our busy summer mornings has somehow found a way of transmogrifying itself into something, well, quite different. All are the first take, one chance to get it right kind of filming. Here’s the first one, where, I seem to have forgotten to 1) – introduce what exactly I’ll be up to all summer and 2) – say the name of our business fully. Yeesh – what a momentous start. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbpAzZy49MM

You can follow the daily zaniness either directly on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWTX0IJ2cCfGbTC_m4Iy9lw                                    or on our FB page                                                                            https://www.facebook.com/Flathead-Lake-Cheese-87330205347/                                          if only to get your laugh for the day.

**Please note the author thought she had posted this last May….May!!  Good grief, where does the time go (and who is in charge of this website!!)

***Please also note the the above antics will continue with the start of the new Farmer’s Market summer season in May. We (that would be the Queen’s We) are taking a much needed hiatus from the limelight during the Missoula Valley Winter Market Season. Well, I can’t vouch that there will be NONE till then so best keep a lookout!  Cheers

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Farmer’s Markets Season 2016

Thru 5May12 012 Hard to believe we’ll be starting our 5th season of Farmer’s Markets in a scant two weeks. This shot is from our very first market, complete with nearly no identification (or really much of an idea of what we were getting ourselves into.) We had been official for a month and a half and only had curds and feta to sell that first season as our wheels ripened down in the vault. I Thru 5May12 010love the expectation shown in the photo of myself, Joe and our friend Daniel at the Polson market….”will this work out or be an absolute bust?!?” Happy to report it worked out.

With a market under our belts, felt a little under control the following day at the Artisan Market held at the lovely Cottage on Main.

Through 12May12 023Soon our big yellow tent became well known. Phone fotos 1939

We had a few weeks of just the two markets a week before the big test – the market in Whitefish began. Towards the end of that first season, the Kalispell Farmer’s Market was added to the mix.

What a first six months Flathead Lake Cheese had!

 

 

Along the way, signage has become better and our display is a touch more attractive.IMG_5375     Phone fotos 492Phone fotos 917

 

 

 

Sadly, The Cottage closed but that opened us up to the markets in Kalispell and Missoula on Saturday mornings.

 

 

You never know who or what you’ll come across at the Market. From old friends with cheese awardsIMG_6306 (Stinky Cheeseman award for our fabulous Feta)IMG_6308 IMG_3329

IMG_3335

 

 

to new ones

 

 

to really large headed folks.

 

Here’s to a spectacular summer. We’re continuing our 4 market week. You’ll be able to find us under the big yellow cheese flag IMG_5379at the:

Polson Farmer’s Market on Fridays from 9-1, on 3rd and Main starting on the 6th of May.

Kalispell Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from 9-12:30 at the college, South lot starting on the 7th of May.

Missoula’s Original Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from 8-12:30 at the north end of Higgins at the XXXX’s also starting on the 7th.

Whitefish Farmer’s Market on Tuesday evenings from 5-7:30 at the north end of Central Ave starting on the 31st of May.

IMG_6041Through 12May12 025

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The Big Shredventure

One of the joys of our cheese is the lack of processing chemicals. It can also be a hindrance as the cheeses continue to ripen and loose moisture. While still fabulously tasty, they become a touch unruly in the cut into a wedge department. For these few cheeses we had, an alternate delivery was needed. Thru 2May13 004Enter, the home cheese shredder which, if you’re just doing a cup at any given time, works wonderfully BUT several wheels at time causes their quick demise. I think we went through two or was it three. At any rate, the quest for a commercial grade shredder was on and we thought we had hit pay dirt!

Joe found a dealer with just what we needed and, more importantly, in our price range! He gave it to Joe to take back to Creamery and test run before we purchased it. It was  perfect except for the gigantic size of the grate. It was perfect except it’s no longer made and parts aren’t available. Or even made. Drat! Many phone calls back and forth are made with the dealer to confirm this and to set up a meeting to return his property.

Back to the shop we go in the hopes that another miracle could be unearthed in his warehouse. Nope. Nothing. But wait, there is this slicer thing he just go in. It could work. Ditto DeanDuct tape removed from the ‘cord fix’ in back, Dito Dean looked a little more promising. With his merchandise manual in hand, we find grating wheels of different sizes can be ordered but it would be costly AND take several days. Joe suggested while we wait, could we plug it in and hear how it sounds? After many embarrassing attempts at different outlets (looking for one that “works”), the machine is brought in to the showroom where it was confirmed to be dead. By this time the shop owner is completely done with us. Joe innocently asks how much he’d take for the machine as it stands. “Just take it. Go” We promise to return with cheese. “No, don’t come back”. Our welcome worn away, we left with a mess of metal and a challenge.

Always up to repair, Joe set off to replace faulty fixes and broken parts, recreating it’s poor damaged feet and even finding the grate wheels at a far more reasonable price. Before I knew it, it was time to test out our latest member of the team. In mere seconds, the job was done! Shred test Shred magic Shred completeWell, as long as we have cheeses that need grating, we’ll be offering it and it looks like we’ll have plenty. In the Doorstop, Wisp o’ Smoke and Galiki this spring. We tried a new polymer coating that just isn’t what we’re used to and have a few batches that aged far faster than we’d planned but that’s another story.

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Alternative Energy Resource Organization (AERO) Meet-up

EditedWhat better way to spend a Tuesday late afternoon than with friends, alternative energy and beer? We’ll be on hand to chat about what we’ve learned about the solar thermal system that we installed onto our Creamery roof some six years ago and the joys of grant writing. Yup, you can get help with your installation!

It’s amazing how much the 140 Mazdon tubes adorning the copper FLC labels and logo 025 have become as much a part of our identity as our cheese. We’ve been contacted by folks from all over the country about how effective a system could be this close to Canada and I believe we may still be the smallest project to be awarded REAP (Rural Energy for America Program) grant funding.

We had an extra tube that came to us damaged that we used for a close up view. Sadly, it didn’t like the new “safe” storage location I found for it about a year back so there went that prop! All six feet of it. Dang!

Creamery May2So if you’re looking for a communal gathering this Tuesday, the 22nd, come on down to the 44 Bar and Outwest Grill north of St Ig on Hwy 93 in the Mission Valley. Take in the view, possibly even spy some courting hawks, meet some new folks, try some local beer, have a nosh and learn about your solar options.  See you there.

 

Here are some links –                                                                                                                              AERO – http://www.aeromt.org/

Funding opportunities include:                                  REAP http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rural-business-development-grants/mt                                                                                                                                                   and 1603 Program: Payments for Specified Energy Property in Lieu of Tax Credits https://www.treasury.gov/initiatives/recovery/Pages/1603.aspx

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Wonderful Weekend hosted by Montana Farmer’s Union

Had the opportunity to do a cheese making demonstration this past weekend at the annual Montana Farmer’s Union Women’s Conference. In fact, we kicked off the event, magically turning Kalispell Kreamery whole milk into curds, while the participants Kalispell Kreamerygathered for what turned out to be a motivating yet relaxing two days.

The IMG_0105Key Note Speaker, Kriss Marion, spoke of the creation of the Soil Sisters and how one tiny spark turned into a snowflake of opportunities for those in her surrounding area of Wisconsin and how that model can easily work for any one with a need and the drive to see their ideas grow.

It gave me thoughts on how to work to bring the diverse population of the Mission Valley together to share concepts, suggestions, recommendations and formulate a stronger sense of community among those who share this magnificent part of the planet. I’m not sure if and or when I’m going to get to this project and IMG_0104be able to plant that first seed but it’s there; where it will niggle my sub-conscience, quietly growing from an spark into a full blown idea. Or, it could die. (and, since no one reads these few and far between blogs, I’ll not be held to perform!) and I’ll wonder, in my old age, why I never acted.

Ah well, the nature of inspirations. IMG_0117While it may not grow, the concept of how it was created does and I feel my brain rewiring how I should approach challenges. So perhaps you’ll never get that handwritten letter on homemade paper inviting you to a Cultural Cookie Exchange, but the concept will be part of how I present and share going forward.

IMG_0116Like Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s creation, once it’s out, there’s no going back!

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Batch 121 Curds and Notz 21Aug15

This August schedual is pretty rough and again finds Joe alone making cheese while I’m at the Polson Farmer’s Market. Happily though, curds and Notz are a faster make day than when you have to hoop the cheeses.

There is a heavy pall of smoke in the air – what with Washington, Idaho and our own Montana sporting far too many fires – and it can’t make for happy cows as it doesn’t make for happy cheese makers either! Outside at the market, it’s hard to breath deeply and you wonder just how much oxygen intake is going on! By the second day out at the Missoula Farmer’s Market, I can tell it’s not much. Pretty lightheaded and loopy adding another layer of empathy for those who fight fires for a living!!

The smoke is too much for Horatio, our Vanguard. Happy to report he has sense recovered. You can barely see the Mission Mountain range up ahead.Smoke Aug15

The fresh cheeses have their own schedual of demands and with the curds that includes smoking. I have to say it was a bit hard to deliberately go out and add to the smoke in the air when I lit our tiny fire used in the process!

Glacier fire Aug15On our way up to Whitefish for their Tuesday Farmer’s Market about a week before the smoke overtook us, we witnessed the start of one of the many fires in Glacier National Park this year. Frightening to watch it grow in the 30-45  minutes it took for us to drive north on Hwy 2 from Kalispell to Whitefish. Glacier fire 3 Aug15

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Batch 120 FIRE 13Aug15

Fire cheeseWe are experiencing an onslaught of fires throughout the Pacific Northwest along with our area, hence this batch’s name. BUT, two days before the scent of the smoke was in the air, we made cheese.

This was an especially memorable make for me as I got to tag along with Joe as he went to the dairy to collect milk. I’ve wanted to join the fairly exclusive club of licensed Milk Haulers – you get a cool card and everything! Imagine being asked for identification and you pull that baby out – impressive!! Uh, back to the story – I’ve wanted to be trained to collect milk for quite some time now and so Thursday was the day. Still fairly clear out, it was a lovely day for both us and the cows. Still warm out but it is summer.

Now the collection process isn’t the difficult portion of the program, it’s backing up the trailer attached truck – at least for me.  So the next week, we had a training session.

Trailer training Driving around town doing errands pulling an empty 300 gallon milk tank wasn’t too bad and the way that big 18 wheeler trucks turn left comes makes more sense but backing up when you can’t really see what is going on is another thing. Dave, the truck, (named after the friend we got him from) is stick shift so there is a LOT of neutral, emergency brake, open the door, get out and looking. Training ended with me backing the trailer up to the Creamery in order to sanitize for our make the next day. Somehow – it went right after just a few attempts. Feeling pretty good about it and am looking forward to my next go at Dave driving.Trailer parking two Trailer parking

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Batch 119 Izzy 7Aug15

IzzyHoly Cow (no pun intended) it’s been hot and we usually don’t start next year’s production this soon but, as it turns out, we’re already running out of Doorstop so it’s time to get ourselves in gear and start the process.

Our summer schedules are such that sometimes that we can’t both be present when we have the opportunity to make cheese. This was one of those days. So while I was off at the Polson Farmer’s Market, Joe got to cheese alone. With just the two of us, this makes for a long hot day.

It starts at 5 am down in the Creamery, getting the hot water from the Solar storage tank into the base of the vat. A drive down the valley to the Dairy to collect milk and back brings the clock to just after 9 am. Pasteurization and cool down move us into early afternoon when we finally get to start making cheese! While all this is going on, the traveling tank gets cleaned, customers are cheesed, and there is an attempt to do other odd tasks on the ‘to do’ list. Once the cheese process is complete and the vat is cleaned, it’s somewhere around 6 to 8 pm, depending on the type of cheese made. And that is just the first day in the life of the cheeses.

Much like our lovely friend Izzy, cheese needs to be nurtured and tended to regularly to come out to be something to be proud of. She’s a grand lady and a perfect metaphor for how much time and attention we give our cheeses.

Here’s to a new season of cheese making. While this post is a bit behind (stressing how life is around here) the goal is to keep up with all the makes this season. Hope they’re worth reading!

 

Cheers, Wendi and Joe

 

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Follow your cheeses

From well before we had a website, one of our goals was to blog about the process of each of the batches of cheese that we make. Those darned good intentions always seem to be put on the back burner while more pressing tasks (such as making the cheese, or cutting and packaging, or you get the idea, you’ve got such lists) take precedent. Well since we’re at the beginning of next year’s cheese makes, it’s high time I jump in and start the process!

While I have absolutely no idea if anyone will read these or, indeed, be interested in learning the minutiae of their recently purchased cheese, I will, regardless, begin the endeavor.

Let’s start with some background. Around this time last year, we began naming each batch of cheese either with the name of an event, say, our youngest daughter’s birthday or just what was summing up the week.  That would be the first one named, ‘OW’, for when Joe tweaked his back and really didn’t want to be a cheese maker that day.

So the plan of this blog is to give you, lovely reader and cheese fancier, an idea of the entire process of said cheese from the weather the cows enjoyed/endured/ignored in the days prior to milking, to the process of the make and beyond to the curing room and anything interesting or odd that happens along the way till it is brought up from the vault, packaged and finds it’s way into your hand.  Each blog title will begin with the batch number which you can find in a couple different places on your cheese, the easiest being on the center bottom of the bag.

We look forward to any suggestions, questions or ideas you might have to make this a more helpful page!

Cheers, Wendi and Joe

 

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Annual Summer Open House

This weekend marks the 239th anniversary of our country’s Independence and what better way to celebrate than to come tour a little Creamery at the Polson Bay end of Flathead Lake?Polson fireworks After a fabulous day of parades, BBQ’s and fireworks, a natural progression is a desire to see how solar power can pasteurize milk and turn it into fabulous cheeses.

No, really.

That’s what we’ll be doing on Sunday, the 5th, from 10-4. Joe is already reviewing his notes and getting ready to thrill folks with the amazing story of cheese making and solar energy. I’m always secretly hoping someone comes up with a question he’s not answered yet before.Vault shot  From there, it’s down into the vault to see the cheeses up close. There’s something about seeing several hundred cheeses all hanging out together breathing and ripening up into something tasty. Once back upstairs, it’s time for sampling. We’ll have the full complement of cheeses. Four kinds of curds – natural, cold smoked, garlic and wasabi, our aged cheeses – Doorstop (natural), Wisp o’ Smoke, Hoppin’ Mad and Galiki (our new roasted garlic nib). We’ll also have the latest in our repertoire, Doc Arnold’s Notzarella.

A few surprises we’ll have at the Open House….. Smoked Notzarella and, still in the Vault and yet to be checked for readiness, our white truffle Gouda. They are currently 6 months old so may not be ready. We only made 20 wheels so it will available only at the Creamery. Once it’s ready, that is! Finger’s crossed that it’s sooner rather than later!! Right now would be perfect.

What every you do this Independence Celebratory weekend (still pushing for a visit if you’re in the area…), may it be joyful, safe and full of wonderful memories!

Cheers, Wendi and Joe

PS – fireworks photo, found on our Chamber of Commerce site, courtesy of one of the many spectacular photographers who reside in our tiny town!

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Upcoming Events

  • May 1, 2017 10:00 AMto 5pm Creamery Open
  • May 2, 2017 10:00 AMto 5pm Creamery Open
  • May 3, 2017 10:00 AMto 5pm Creamery Open
  • May 4, 2017 10:00 AMto 5pm Creamery Open
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