When you think of the dairy business, you think the producing and selling of milk, but Stuart and Connie Veldhuizen started doing something a little different with their dairy in 2002, producing and selling cheese.
The Veldhuizens moved from Minnesota to Erath County in 1990 to start their dairy business but after the dairying business began to decline, the Veldhuizens needed to make a change.
“Traditional dairying wasn’t going well at that time and we were looking at what else we could do. We were looking for something to add value in the dairy business,” Connie said. “We had the facilities here and what else could we do with this dairy besides just selling milk? And so we just looked into options and cheesemaking came to mind.”
Dairying has been in Stuart’s family for generations, but he’s the first one to get into the cheesemaking business.
Connie and Stuart, along with their seven children—three of whom are currently involved in the business—have 180 acres of land with 50 cows, a store where the cheese is produced and sold and two aging facilities.
“We actually milk the cows here and make the cheese so this makes us a farmstead operation,” Connie said. “Not all cheesemakers do that. Some buy their milk and then make the cheese, but we do it all.”
Cheesemaking is quite a process and Connie described a little about how it works.
“So we milk the cows, fill up our milk tank and then we move the milk over to our vat. This (vat) holds 300 gallons of milk and then we will heat the milk up slightly to about 89 degrees and add cultures,” she said. “There are different cultures depending on the type of cheeses you make. Most of our cheeses use just a couple cultures.”
Cultures are added to help control the ripening process of the milk.
“Then we add rennin which is what coagulates the milk and makes it thick. We let it set up for about an hour and then we start stirring it,” Connie said. “It will then start to curd and get smaller and smaller until it’s about the size of cottage cheese curd and then we drain off our whey so they’re separated.”
If you’ve ever heard the old nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffet, then you’ve heard about her eating her curds and whey, or basically cottage cheese.
The process continues and then the cheese is stored in one of the two aging facilities that are kept at 54 degrees on the Veldhuizen farm.
“In our aging room we have about 6,000 wheels (of cheese) and there are a lot of hands-on things about this,” Eli Veldhuizen, the youngest Veldhuizen son, said.
When the cheese is brought into the facility it receives a thick wax coating on the outside.
“Then each wheel of cheese is flipped on its shelf twice a week,” Eli said.
Eli thinks of cheesemaking as an art.
“I think it’s really interesting how you can take all the same ingredients and elements of something and by changing it just a little bit, make it something different,” he said. “So with cheese, if you make it two degrees different then that will change the flavor.”
On top of producing and selling cheeses, the Veldhuizens give tours of the farm and host events throughout the year including their annual free Family Farm Day that takes place in the spring.
“We’re starting to do more events out here,” Connie said. “We’re doing a wine and cheese pairing in July and then we’ll do a cheese and beer event.
The Veldhuizen family offers around 15 different varieties of cheese, raw milk, cow and sheep yogurt, free-range chicken and duck eggs and more. The Veldhuizen family is also happy to ship their cheeses anywhere within the state of Texas. For more information on Veldhuizen Cheese visit the website at www.veldhuizencheese.com.