Monday, March 03, 2008

River Valley Farm
Fall City Washington

Here is your Goat Cheese making pop quiz:

1. Can you name the six dairy goat breeds in the US? There are six types of dairy goats that are recognized by the American Dairy Goat Association: Nubians, LaManchas, Alpines, Oberhaslis, Togenburgs, and Saanens. Throw in a couple yaks, a few Brown Swiss Dairy cows, a small herd of sheep and you have River Valley Farm of Fall City, Washington— the ultimate niche cheese maker in the Snoqualmie Valley.

Don’t forget “Woodstock” the riverine water buffalo. He basically started this dairy with his charismatic demeanor, attracting all the other animals at River Valley Ranch. OK— maybe with the help of Julie and Rod’s desire to try something new and different. How different? Formerly Regional Sales Managers for a southern real estate co. — Julie and Rod’s complete transformation with accents to expert Northwest cheese makers.

2. Do cows or goats make most of the milk in the world? The answer: goats!

3. Does mozzarella cheese originally get made from a) goat’s milk, b) cow’s milk or c) Water buffalo milk? Answer is c) water buffalo are milk source for mozzarella cheese first record of in 12th Century Italy.

4. What do you get when you cross a water buffalo with a Brown Swiss Milk Cow? Swissalo ? Get it?

The goats, yak, water buffalo, brown Swiss bovine and bah bah sheep herd all blend together under the guidance of gourmet cook Julie and her cheese maker. Julie ______ is the dynamo behind this growing dairy operation. After years of running a successful real estate company, she and her husband decided to break into something new and challenging: cheese making.

Most of us know that Carnation, Washington was the center of the dairy cow universe in Washington just a generation ago. But those days have gone. A few dairies remain— but Carnation is no longer the center of the diary universe. California is. And small cow milk dairies are scarce as sun in monsoon season around here.

Enter Julie and her dream of making the best cheeses in the Northwest, Goat cheese is the new gourmet food — fastest growing cheese in America according to the American Cheese Makers Assoication. River Valley Ranch Goat cheese’s rich creamy flavors being blended into everything imaginable — and River Valley Ranch has a range of goat cheese to meet anyone’s desire:

Did you know that goat cheese is the fastest selling cheese at local farmer’s markets in Seattle?

River Valley Farm-- Julie and Rod grew a few goats and liked iti so much they added a few more. Cheese has become the reason they live. Work never stops, and they like the pace.

And their farm in Fall City is just a start. Now they plan on getting 1000 goats to milk on a dairy farm in Orting with partner PCC Grocery store.

But for now there is plenty to keep them busy on their 10 acres in Fall City. They're building cheese caves into the side of the mountain behind their house. And you can find their cheese is sold at several farmers markets, Whole Foods, QFC, PCC and other top grocery stores.

The first few weeks Julie found herself trying to make cheese — with little success. The usual cooking technique — a little of this and two of that wasn’t working for this master chef from the South.

So she ended up doing what many great cooks do when frustrated time and again with gallons of wasted milk.

She followed the directions. And the result has been a number of exceptional flavored soft cheeses that has River Valley Ranch fans across the Seattle metro area.

Chevres are fussy cheeses. You have to cook the milk to just the right temperature. Then the bacteria gets added. Finally, the cheese chills out at 55 degrees. Raw milk ages between 45-55 degrees. And the cheese then sits for anywhere from 2 days to 6 months.

“We’ve got 48 girls milking”— Julie said about her goat operation. We got everybody’s birth pens and schedules marked so we know when they are going to give birth.

Trial and error has now given way to Taste and Delight for River Valley Farm’s thousands of customers.

“Now we have varieties of cheese that defy gravity they taste so different and good. We have chevres, we have a creation I call “Tipsy Cow” with a subtle wine skin around the cheese, I have created something I call Naughty Nellie— which has to be tried to understand, and Cherry and Walnut Goat Cheese log, Apricot & Almond Goat Cheese log, Rancher Rob’s Pepper Jack, and Fire Roasted Chevre. Every week I try out a little different flavor— just to see what happens— and discover new and interesting cheeses. This variety and the adventure of trying out new flavors is what makes life so interesting.”

River Valley Ranch is also starting work on a farm plan that King Conservation District has helped them create.

They are just starting out — and are learning about mud and manure management as well as how to handle compost and storm water coming off their barns.

“We are busy every day. Between our five boys and all the animals here we have a lot of work— but it makes me so glad we decided to make cheese and create food people enjoy, said Julie.

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