Goat cheese from a turkey foot?
By NORRIS LEDYARD
2012 marked the beginning of Wauseon’s newest business — Turkeyfoot Creek Creamery. Located at 11313 County Road D, Del and Linda Burkholder have launched a business truly unique in northwest Ohio. Through their family-owned and sustainable-farmed herd of dairy goats, they are producing artisan-crafted, European method goat cheese.
“I have had an abiding interest in goats for most of my life,” said Del. “I had Saanen goats as agricultural projects since middle school. Now, we are starting an ongoing business in making goat cheese.
“There has been considerable study in books and online,” added Del. “I was able to study two other operations in Defiance (80 head dairy cow creamery) and in Bellefontaine (they purchase goat milk for their cheese operation). Our operation is the only one, to my knowledge, in northwest Ohio that raises a herd of dairy goats, collects the milk, pasteurizes and crafts goat cheese.”
The 40-head herd of dairy goats are a blend of Saanen and LaMancha breeds of nanny goats. Where the LaMancha nanny’s milk has a richer butter fat content, like a Guernsey dairy cow, the Saanen nanny produces a higher volume of milk, similar to the characteristics of a Holstein. The blend makes for a wonderful array of cheeses.
“I have a fondness for the Saanen goats as they have a calmer disposition. In my experience,” added Del, “the LaMancha (goat) can be a bit more ornery.”
In managing the herd he has four billy goats which are housed at the other end of the property, downwind. There are two Saanen and two LaMancha billy goats. There is care to track the breeding and to rotate the billy goats with other goat owners to keep the bloodlines healthy. The Burkholder’s refrain from inbreeding their nanny goats.
Like clockwork, it’s time to milk
Before Del begins the milking, he performs the routine maintenance on the plumbing from the milk house which travels eventually to his creamery. It is a process of certain chemicals, temperatures and fresh water. Once the equipment is prepared, they do the easiest part of the process — open the doors for the nanny goats to enter the milking parlor.
Every day at 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., the nanny goats compete to see if they can be milked first. Of the 40 nanny goats, 16 are brought in and in position to begin to eat some special food and get hooked up to the milking machines. There, Del and his sons, Seth and Chad, are busy moving the goats into the stalls, sanitizing the udder on eight of the nanny goats, attaching the equipment to the goat’s freshly cleansed udder and the milking begins.
The milk travels by plumbing to a collection vat. With each giving an average of half-gallon of milk, the 20 gallons collected are pasteurized at 145 to 147 degrees for 30– 35 minutes to eliminate all bad bacteria. Goat milk is naturally homogenized.
It’s all part of the reason that goat milk so closely resembles human milk. Goat milk contains less lactose than cow’s milk and is less likely to trigger lactose intolerance.
Goat milk, on the average, has more vitamin A than cow’s milk (39 OSU/gram vs. 21), vitamin B1, also known as thiamine (68 vs. 45), riboflavin (210 vs. 159) and is lower in cholesterol (12 vs. 15).
‘The cheese stands alone’
With a managed herd of goats, each receiving natural feed, clean water, no hormones and a minimum of medicines, the bright, white milk is made into a variety of cheeses: fresh dry curds, a young spreadable cheese variety called chevre, 90-day aged Gouda and the newest variety, feta cheese.
Del’s niece, Jill Proudfoot, plays a large role in cheese–making process at the creamery. Proudfoot also does some customer contacts, manages the website and all things in-between.
The chevre is currently available in plain, garlic, peppercorn, honey, pineapple and ranch flavors. The cheese is packaged in eight ounce tubs and is priced competitively to mass produced goat cheese.
The Gouda wheels are brined as a preservative measure and are aged on premise in their cheese cave. With tightly controlled temperature and humidity levels, these wheels are aged for a minimum of 90 days. Del does have a wheel or two that he wants to age longer, just to see the results. One of the jobs in the cheese cave is to flip the wheels every day, so each side of the wheel has equal exposure to the elements. One of the next options Turkeyfoot Creek Creamery is exploring is to make an aged, smoked Gouda.
“We have capacity in the cave for approximately 6,000 pounds of cheese,” explained Del. “Currently we have 2,500 pounds in various stages of aging. From to start to finish, there is a seven to 10 percent weight loss, due the moisture being released by the cheese. It’s all part of the aging process.”
When asked about the distinctive odor in the cave, Del had a big grin. “I was taking a chef on a tour of our operation. When we stepped into the cave, he was very pleased with the scent. He knew our operation would produce a very high quality Gouda for his kitchen. He has been a steady customer.”
There is a growing market for the curds, which are vacuum packed. Revolution Grille in Toledo is offering deep-fried curds as an appetizer. “I have eaten at Revolution and they make an outstanding burger,” said Del. “Of course, I had my sandwich with goat cheese.”
The whole operation is a labor-intensive process involving animal husbandry, cleanliness, maintaining all the equipment, constantly achieving the quality of each dairy product and reaching the market through channels of distribution.
Managing the herd
Yet another Burkholder involved in the family business is Linda Burkholder, Del’s better half. She has a full-time job with the Fulton County Health Department as a nurse, plays piano and organ at their church, First Christian Church (D of C) in Wauseon. She is very involved in tracing the bloodlines of the goats.
Yes, she can look at each goat, know their name and know the pair of goats who sired the young doe kid. She has a wide variety of names which identify the family trees of each nanny goat.
“While it is perfectly acceptable to inbreed the goats, we choose not to follow that practice,” said Linda. “The goats have wonderful personalities and respond to their names. Overall, we feel that the herd is more contented, the Saanen and LaMancha nanny goats seem to get along and their milk production seems to be a positive reflection.”
“I have been told that one of our four billy goats (two Saanen and two LaMancha) seem to produce nanny goats with superior milk production,” said Del. “Within our herd, he has produced a fine family and within a season or two, we will try to trade him for a good replacement billy to continue our diversified herd.”
Come sample, taste the difference
Locally, the public is welcome Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to the creamery. While the goats are milked twice on Sunday, the family feels the need to keep the Sabbath and be thankful for their health, their business and family (in no certain order.) Turkeyfoot Creek Creamery cheeses are available in Wauseon at a. k. a. Designs, 209 N. Fulton St.; Brookview Farms in Archbold; in Bryan at All Things Food, Stoneyridge Winery; the Maumee and Perrysburg locations of Walt Churchill’s; the Sylvania and Waterville locations of Sautter’s; in Toledo at Health Foods by Claudia, SoFo Foods, Bar 145 (restaurant), Revolution Grille (restaurant), Phoenix Earth Food Co-op; in Columbus, Ohio at Weiland’s Gourmet Market and Huffman’s Market; as well as in Adrian, Michigan at By Nature. On your next trip to one of these stores, look for the round logo of Turkeyfoot Creek Creamery. It is a locally grown food which is crafted in an European method as opposed to a mass manufactured product. After all, goat milk is the ”udder” white milk.
Norris Ledyard is a reporter with the Fulton County Expositor.