Friday, May 1, 2015

Touring Grassfields

We receive a lot of questions about touring Grassfields Cheese.  We love to tell people about what we do here.  There are a couple different ways to tour our farm.

First, we welcome you to just stop by.  You can walk around a bit and enjoy the fresh country air and famous farm smells.  Come into the farm store and one of us will be happy to talk to you about the cheese making process.  You'll probably also learn a little Meerman family history, too.

Second, you can schedule a group tour.  This is great for homeschoolers, senior centers, classrooms, scouts, family reunions.  Just email me at and we can work on getting something scheduled.  You can ask to have a cheese making going on, the cost is $4.00 per person with a $40 minimum.  You will see a cheese making and we will talk about the cheese making process and what goes into making our fantastic cheeses.  There will be samples to try.  We will also take you by wagon out to our fields where you can see our ladies in their element, enjoying our fresh grass.  You will hear a bit about why we exclusively grass-feed.  If you would prefer a tour without a scheduled cheese making the cost is $3.00 per person, $30 minimum, and you still get the wagon ride, samples, and talk about cheese making.

Lastly, we have scheduled a couple of dates for public tours.  Come to the farm 9:30 on June 20th to see cheese making and take a wagon ride out to our fields.  You will hear about what we do and how we do it.  The cost is $3 a person.  On August 15th we will be having our 13th anniversary and there will be cheese making and wagon rides that day also.

The pictures are from the tour we gave today for a group of homeschoolers.

Angela~The Cheese Shop Mafia

Thursday, April 9, 2015

FAQ in the Cheese Shop

Is this really your beef?  Yes it is.  Byron Center Meats does the processing for us but  the meat is from our 100% grass-fed beef cows.

Do you have bacon?  No.  We have it for a few days right after we've had our pigs  butchered and then it is sold out until the next butchering.  We do try to let everyone 
know  when it’s in by posting on Facebook.

Is this your milk and butter?  No.  Since we do not pasteurize our milk, we can not sell  anything other than our cheese which has been aged for 60 days.  We do carry 
Mooville.  They are a Michigan dairy.  They pasteurize but don’t homogenize so their 
products  are not quite as processed.

Why is the cheese in the sales basket?  Occasionally a piece or 2 will near it's suggested sell-by date, when that happens we offer it at a discount price.  We also like to bag up scrap pieces when we are done cutting a wheel. The cheese tastes great but it just isn't in a pretty wedge like what is up on the other shelves. 

Can you help me with a cow share question?  Most of the time, no.  The cow share  program and Grassfields Cheese are separate businesses.  We will do what we can to  help but most of the time we will ask you to call Betsy or Jesse, who are the owners of  Green Pastures.

Do you give tours? Yes. You are welcome to come anytime and wander around and we are always happy to tell visitors about the cheese making process.  You can also email and ask to have a tour scheduled for a group. 

Are you all related?  In one way or another, yes.  Luke and Vicky Meerman own Grassfields Cheese.  Luke's brother, Jesse and his wife Betsy, run the dairy and the cow share program.  Luke's youngest brother, Jay and his wife Chaeli, take care of the beef cows.  Necia, who works on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, is Chaeli's mom.  Katie, who works on Mondays, is my daughter.  And I am Luke, Jesse, and Jay's cousin by marriage.

When are you open?  Monday and Tuesday from 9-5.  Friday from 1-5, and Saturday 
10-2. That being said, I am usually in the shop 40 hours a week.  If I am working I will turn the sign around.  We ask that you call ahead on Wednesdays and Thursdays to check and see if we are open.  Sometimes we have to go out for coffee or we just need to see what Goodwill has to offer. 

Do you have curds for sale?  No.  Curds are fresh cheese.  Since we do not pasteurize the milk we can’t sell any form of cheese until it’s aged for 60 days.

Do you have any meat that isn't frozen? In the summer when we are frequently butchering chickens, we have fresh whole birds for a few days after each butchering.  The beef and pork come to us from the butcher frozen.

Angela Tramper ~ The Cheese Shop Mafia

Friday, March 13, 2015

Just The Facts

Today I sat down with Cheese Maker Evan and I asked him some of my burning questions.

How long does it take to make a batch of cheese? 10 hours including clean up

Which cheese is the quickest to make? Polkton Corners

Which takes the longest? Cheddar or Fait Gras

Which cheese is the most fun to make? Cheddar

How many gallons of milk do you start with? 400

How many pounds of cheese do you end up with? 350-400

What is in the brine tank? 500 gallons of water, 600 pounds of salt, left over goodies from leftover batches of cheese

Which cheeses go into the brine tank and how long do they soak? All our flavored, Gouda, Edam, Polkton Corners.  They each soak for 72 hours and are flipped over half way through.

How many pounds of cheese are in the aging room right now? 12,500

How cold is it in the aging room? 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit

How long have you been making cheese at Grassfields? 3 years in June

How many pounds of cheese have you made in that time? 110,000

How many pounds of cheese do we cut in a week?  400 last week

What is the best selling cheese? Gouda and Lamont Cheddar seem to be tied

Fast Fact: Our milk seems to prefer to be Edam Cheese.  Low fat milk dries faster and makes a great finished product.

~Angela~The Cheese Shop Mafia

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What about the rind?

Many people look at our cheese and see so much rind in the package and see it as waste.  Our rinds are completely edible.  The children on the farm beg for rind when we are cutting cheese.  I describe it as "cheese jerky".  The taste is only slightly different from the cheese itself and the texture is chewier.

If you aren't brave enough to eat the rind outright the best suggestion I have is to grate it like a Parmesan.  Use it in soups, salads, over popcorn, or in recipes in the exact same way.  I had a customer in the shop try grated rind in her pizza crust recipe and loved the results.  She now looks for cheese wedges with lots of rind.

So next time you buy our cheese and see the rind, think of the possibilities...

Angela ~ The Cheese Shop Mafia

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Little Something Special

The time has almost arrived!!! As of the 28th of this month we will be releasing a new cheese. This cheese will be like no other cheese we are currently selling. The cheese is special for several reasons; we created our own cultures, put the curds through a different making process and we age it for an extended period of time. Our cultures were made from the wonderful, naturally occurring bacteria that raw milk offers. Once the cultures are strong enough we add them to the liquid milk just like the other cultures used for our other cheeses. After the milk is allowed to warm up and coagulate we cut the curds and begin to stir. After three exciting hours of stirring the curds, they have become very dense and are now dry enough to achieve the texture we are looking for. From here we add the salt directly to the curds and fill the molds. Since this cheese is very special to the farm, we let it age one full year before it is ready for sale. Luckily for you, our customers, that birthday is rapidly approaching. Please come out to the farm and try this amazing cheese for yourself.

Cheese Maker Evan

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What Makes the Cheese Go Round

Have you ever wondered how a wheel of cheese becomes round like a wheel? Well let me share with you how we do things. After stirring  the curds to remove excess whey I drain the remaining whey to leave behind only the solid curds. This is what will become the actual edible cheese portion. These solid curds then get loaded into our dairy grade plastic cheese moulds. The moulds have four essential components; the bottom bucket(fig.1), inner hoop(fig.2) and top or lid(fig.3). Each part has a special purpose and without one piece nothing would work. The bottom bucket has many small holes in both the sides and bottom. These holes allow whey to drain from the wheel freely and if the holes get plugged the whey can't come out and the cheese will stay very wet and soggy. The inner hoop is a special mesh that also allows whey to be removed as well as helps to form a matrix on the outside of the wheel which will become the rind on our wheel. The top or lid is a combination of both the bucket and hoop. The solid part of the lid also has drain holes in it for whey expulsion. The mesh portion of the lid is the same material and design as the hoop and serves the same purpose. When the bucket and hoop are combined and filled with curds we then add weight to the top of the moulds to "press" out and of the extra whey(fig.4). This added weight will then force the soft curds to fill in the holes of the mesh forming the very important outer rind of the cheese. Believe it or not but our square Polkton Corners is round for a short time until we allow it to change.

Cheese Maker Evan