About Alma Cheese
From the Farm to the Table
The Dairy – Quality cheese starts with quality milk. A lot goes into producing the milk, including feeding the cows a well balanced diet, providing comfortable housing for the cows & taking special care in the milking procedures and equipment sanitation. Cows are milked twice a day on the farm, producing an average of 85 pounds of milk each day. The milk is transported to the plant in an insulated transport trailer.
Receiving – Upon arrival at the plant, the milk is tested for quality, flavor & odor before it is unloaded from the truck. After ensuring that the plant’s quality standards are met, the milk is then unloaded into the milk silos.
Cook Process (Cheese vat) – Fresh, cold milk is pumped from the milk silos into a heat exchanging pasteurizer, which kills any harmful bacteria that may have existed. At the optimum temperature, the milk is then sent on to the cooking vats for making the famous Alma Cheese. Each of the three (3) vats holds 25,000 pounds of milk. Starter culture is then added to produce lactic acid, critical to the cheesemaking process. Certain strains of culture control flavor, while others contribute to the body and texture of the cheese. Natural coloring from the Annatto seed is added to produce a consistent cheese color. (The natural color of cheese is creamy white.) A diluted form of rennet, a natural enzyme, is then added to promote coagulation and firm the cheese curd.
Cheddaring Process (Cheddaring Table) – after about 30 minutes the vat of milk will be “set up”. A soft curd is formed. The milk divides into “Curds & Whey”. All of the product in the Cheese vats - both curds and whey --- are then pumped over to the Cheddar Tables where the sweet whey can be drained off of the curds. The curds are then matted together. During this process, a chemical change occurs which causes the curd particles to adhere to each other. When the proper acidity level is reached in the curd, we then cut & turn the cheese by hand which allows any excess whey to drain off the cheese curd. At this time, the mats of cheese are then hand fed through the curd mill which cuts the curd mass into ¼ inch pieces.
Salting & Forming – The loose curd pieces are then dusted with a layer of salt. The salted curd is then stirred to assure an even distribution of the salt. Salt crystals dissolve on the surface of the cheese creating a brine that is absorbed by the curd. When the absorption is complete, the curds are transferred into molds that when pressed, will force excess moisture out of the cheese. The end product will be either a 40# block of cheese or a 13# Longhorn of cheese (depending on the mold utilized).
Packaging/Sealing – After 18 hours of pressing, the block or horn of cheese is removed from the mold. They are placed in a laminated plastic bag. A high vacuum is drawn on this package of cheese and the pouch is then sealed. The cheese is now contained in an airtight and moisture-proof bag.
Aging – The sealed blocks/horns are boxed and palletized & transported to a cooler for proper aging and curing. No cheese is cut & sold before its time. Each type of cheese has a specific aging requirement. This ensures the cheese develops the proper flavor characteristics of the famous Alma Cheese.
Packaging – After curing and grading, the cheese blocks are taken back to the packaging department where the curing bags are removed and the blocks/horns of Alma Cheese are cut for retail sale. After passing through the packaging (rollstock) machine, the product is labeled and boxed so that the consumer-sized products are ready for distribution to the retail stores.
Special Notes: The Famous Alma Cheese has been produced since 1946.
Alvin & Jim – these two have over 80 years experience handmaking cheese at this very facility.
Alma Cheese is an All Natural, Handmade Cheese.
Outside of the Alma Creamery store.
Another photo of the Alma Creamery store.