MOUN­TAIN­OAK CHEESE

Grand Magazine - - FEATURE - 3165 Huron Rd., New Hamburg moun­tain­oakcheese.com

Jen sug­gests we go Old World tra­di­tional first and visit a true fam­ily farm, one where the whole process hap­pens in-house: the farmer grows the feed that feeds the cows, and milks the milk that makes the cheese. That means Moun­tain­oak cheese isn’t only ar­ti­sanal but also farm­stead, where the only milk used for cheese pro­duc­tion is from an­i­mals raised by the maker.

“Farm­ing is not an oc­cu­pa­tion. It is a way of liv­ing,” says Adam van Bergeijk, as he wel­comes us to his hand­some 200-acre dairy farm.

For van Bergeijk, who has farmed most of his life since he took over the fam­ily dairy farm back in Hol­land in 1976, it’s al­ways been about the cow.

“I love my Hol­stein. They are re­ally sweet an­i­mals. When I walk in the herd, they come up to me. They know me and I know them by name,” says van Bergeijk, who over­sees a herd of 200.

“Ev­ery­thing that you do with the cows is

go­ing to be paid back to your milk. If you be good to them, they’re go­ing to be good to you,” Adam says in a thick ge­nial Dutch ac­cent.

After years of milk­ing, van Bergeijk wanted to try his hand at cheese. In Hol­land, that meant Gouda, the coun­try’s sig­na­ture cheese and one of the old­est still made to­day; the ear­li­est record­ing is in 1184. Nearly 800 years later, in 1981, van Bergeijk and his wife, Han­nie, en­rolled in Cheese­mak­ing School in the town of Gouda where Adam went on to be­come an in­struc­tor.

Gouda to­day refers more to a gen­eral style of cheese­mak­ing rather than to a spe­cific kind of cheese, the taste vary­ing greatly based on age. My neigh­bour, Jen, ex­plains: A young Gouda can be de­scribed as but­tery with a slight mild nutty flavour, while the more ma­ture cheese has a com­plex and sub­tle sharp­ness with hints of but­ter­scotch that can take on an al­most whisky-like flavour if aged over two years.

“It’s a myth that Gouda is bland. You’re just eat­ing the wrong Gouda.”

It’s true, says van Bergeijk. Ag­ing is key, but re­ally cheese­mak­ing is all in the hands.

“I have to feel the curd be­tween my fin­gers. I can tell how ready it is in the process. A good cheese­maker has to have a sense of touch,” says van Bergeijk, whose hands mas­sage imag­i­nary curd as he speaks.

“If you don’t have the touch, you can’t make good cheese.”

Soon enough, the van Bergei­jks’ sons wanted to farm for them­selves, “but Hol­land is re­ally, re­ally crowded,” says Adam. There just wasn’t enough land, and, too many cheese­mak­ers.

In the back of his mind, he had hoped to one day bring the tra­di­tion of fine Gouda to Canada.

In 1996, at 45, he bought a farm in Al­berta. “It was De­cem­ber,” Adam said, laugh­ing. “It was mi­nus 38. No way!” In a few months, en­cour­aged by a fel­low Dutch im­mi­grant farmer, they re­lo­cated to Ox­ford County.

For the next 15 years, Adam and his fam­ily es­tab­lished them­selves in milk pro­duc­tion, but the Gouda dream never died.

“It took us a while to get li­cences and per­mits to­gether… plus, re­ally, you need six fig­ures to be in this busi­ness.”

To­day, both van Bergeijk sons farm: one at Moun­tain­oak with Adam; and the other on a dairy farm down the road. Their daugh­ter mar­ried a neigh­bour­ing dairy farmer.

The first Gouda, made from same-day, non-ho­mog­e­nized and un­pas­teur­ized milk, was ready for the pub­lic in July of 2012. To­day they make 16 va­ri­eties, from a soft and crunchy Aged Cumin Gouda to a zesty Wild Net­tle.

Their ag­ing room holds about 3,000 wheels, each turned by hand ev­ery other day.

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