April 14, 2012

Ashe County Cheese

Mooooooo! YJDKIY seems to be hanging out with the Holsteins a lot lately. This time, though, there weren't any live bovines in my presence, just some pretty large metal ones.

Last weekend I happened to notice that Saturday was a cheese-making day at Ashe County Cheese in West Jefferson, so we packed up and headed out 221, since it was only about a 20 minute drive from our Easter vacation.

First we stopped by the store to sample some goods, and see what was available. Warm welcome from the Mouse Contingent.

I was first introduced the the Mountain Sharp Cheddar via our Winter Harvest basket, but wanted to try some other varieties.

You have no idea the varieties, shapes, and specialties that can be found in this un-assuming little cheese store. Scottie cheese anyone? I didn't get a picture, but definitely sample the cheese curds...I can't imagine why you would buy these, but it's quite an experience in your mouth!

Then we headed next door to check out the actual plant. Using the local high school welding teacher and his students, artist Stephen Willingham turned the 5000 gallon milk tanks into cows. I think this is one of the most ingenious marketing/art/industrial applications ever! Read more about it in an article from the Winston-Salem Journal last June (fascinating...seriously, read about it).

Once inside, there were lots of historical photos and a video explaining the process.

And of course, the operation itself. You can see the milk coming into the vat right in the center. The vat behind that is where it is heated and turns to curd. The round tins in the front are assembled and pressed to make the wheels. Looked like some type of cheddar on this day!

What an odd spot for a family photo! This is the viewing room for the cheese-making floor.

If you visit, be sure to walk around the building to see the farm mural on the end by the parking lot! You'll also want to spend a little time browsing the eclectic handful of independent shops on main street. I came home with two things I'd been looking for: a mini-spatula, a poly-cotton t-shirt...plus $28 worth of cheese! :P

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