Wednesday, April 14

Forx Farm

Looking out of the window on our way to see a movie in Anderson, I was surprised to see a sign advertising a farm and cheese. “Cheese, Cheese?” I had to explore and find out. I really like finding local cheese makers. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was not a goat cheese but a gouda, a cow milk cheese made famous by the Dutch. Who knew?

Ron Lubsen is a Dutch native who moved to the states in 1980. An engineer by trade, Lubsen had traveled to Ghana, Saudia Arabia, Iran and other places, before being assigned to Florida. He and his wife,Tammy, moved to their farm outside Anderson and opened his own company  with clients like Krispy Kreme and Arby’s. His specialty is in glass bending and he built a vast warehouse to house the tools of his trade. 

Lubsen had grown up milking cows and a a 10 year old boy, his dream was “to drive a tractor.” Gouda is the most widely consumed cheese in the world and Lubsen had certainly eaten his share. Dispairing of finding a good source of the delicious, aged cheese, Lubsen decided to explore making cheese on his own. He carved out a corner of his warehouse and build a cheese kitchen. A restored trailer became his cheese “cave” where his beautiful waxed rounds were set to age. He began with a 14 gal stockpot, which is about the size you would make a large pot of soup in at home. As his confidence and skill grew, he moved to a 60 gal, then 80 until he reached the 400 gal vat he uses today. The 14 gallon pot still remains active. He is experimenting with brie and the old pot sees new life as his brie vat. 

The milk truck

On cheese making day, Lubsen rises as early as dairy farmers and makes a round trip to several dairies in order to gather the raw milk necessary to begin the cheese process. There are three South Carolina farms where he gathers primarily Holstein milk but one farm, Milky Way, provides Jersey milk. He then arrives back at the farm and begins the day long process of creating the cheese. 

The milk is pumped into the large vat and slowly heated to 86 degrees with a stop along the way at 70 degrees to add the cultures, the “good” bacteria necessary to create cheese. The stirring of the cheese continues and lactose, calcium chloride and rennet. Rennet, a calf enzyme, is what makes the milk coagulate. The milk coagulates, or sticks together, and creates curds, those soft Cheeto looking, tubes. The leftover milk, or whey, is drained off and given to a pig farm. Now you know about the “curds and whey” that little Miss Muffet was eating. The cheese curds are what makes the Canadian dish, “poutine.”

Ron adding culture

The remaining curds are then washed twice with hot water in order to get the curds to shrink. Once the second wash is complete, the curds are then scooped into molds that resemble a plastic container with mesh at the bottom. The pressing or squeezing begins. I’ll stop explaining the process now and introduce our friend, Marcella The CheeseMonger. 

We are so blessed to have Marcella in our area. Marcella has a long history in cheese and holds the ASC CCP cheese certification. This certification from the American Cheese Society involves extensive education and an intense exam. Marcella has partnered with Blue Haven Bee in Canon and has been hosting cheese and wine pairings as well as fantastic $10 cheese plates on Saturdays. Marcella went with us to Forx Farms and here is her review.

So come explore with us. Visit the farm on one of their Saturday markets, or make and appointment to take your kids and learn about the process. Their website is updated with the other locations where their cheese is available.  Many thanks to photographer, Ray Richards, who spend all day capturing the cheese making process. The photos are beautiful.

And now, you know!

Stirring the milk and cultures, stirring, stirring
Breaking up the curds
Lifting the curds into the strainers, the whey drains away. Leftover whey is given to farm animals and kitties love it!
The “pressing” of the curds.
The cheeses are waxed, labeled and placed in the cheese “cave” for aging.
The cheese “Cave.”

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