Couple's quest for perfect cheese
becomes Rockhill Creamery in Richmond
By Brooke Barker
April 17, 2006 | RICHMOND -- His morning begins before
most people are out of bed. He wakes up to a sound:
not the buzzer from his alarm or a nearby rooster, but
the girls are calling him. The girls -- Elsa, Gertrude,
Ingrid, Ruby and Greta -- are actually five Brown Swiss
cows. This type of cow has about the perfect protein-to-butterfat
ratio for making cheese.
Pete Schropp began selling cheese in January 2005,
and looks forward to the day when he can leave the farm
for more than a day.
"My wife and I have only left the farm for one night
in the last year," Schropp explains as he works on the
time-consuming cheese making process.
Pete Schropp and his wife, Jennifer Hines, bought
the historic farm on State Street in 1987. Both were
working for the Herald Journal at the time but
wanted a new start. They tried selling calves to local
dairies. When those businesses began closing down, the
couple looked for ways to utilize their farm and the
skills they had learned.
Hines had been interested in cheese making. She experimented
in her home until Schropp built a small creamery out
of a former chicken coop. It took about two and a half
years for Schropp to complete the building. Hines also
took a cheese-making class at Utah State University
in order to help her learn all of the necessary skills
to make cheese.
"I think the tile on the walls took the most time,
probably a year in itself," Schropp said.
Today, the couple has two extra sets of hands to help
out with the cheese making. They also have a 75 gallon
vat, to heat, stir and make the cheese in. This is especially
helpful as the customer base for their cheese is continuing
to increase. Every third day, Schropp spends his entire
day making a new batch of cheese.
Beginning in the morning he must milk the cows, and
by noon the product is a texture similar to yogurt.
Thanks to Schropp's vat, he can easily heat and cool
and add ingredients to the future cheese. After cutting
the substance to help further the dehydration process,
the whey, or excess water in the milk, begins to separate
from the curd. A while later, the cheese is ready to
pack into round hoops, using cheesecloth and a strainer.
"You don't want to waste any curd, because curd is
money," Schropp says as he skims the vat with a small
strainer picking up the loose pieces and packing them
into the last wheel. The product looks similar to cottage
cheese, but after sitting in the molds it quickly starts
to take shape. By 9 p.m. the cheese will be ready to
go into the storage room, where it will undergo several
other treatments and age for at least 60 days.
"It takes more time depending on the type of cheese
you're making," explained Schropp.
Schropp says the most popular cheese is the Dark Canyon
Edam. Rockhill also makes Gouda, Feta, and several variations
of other cheeses depending on the season. For a full
list as well as descriptions, visit the webpage at rockhillcheese.com.
Rockhill Cheese is one of two home-based, micro-dairy
cheese companies still in business in Utah. The company
is unique in Cache Valley.
The cheese is sold locally at Sweet Pea's Natural
Market, Crumb Brother's Artisan Bread, Café Ibis and
the Cache Valley Gardeners' Market during the summer.
Rockhill Cheese is used at the Painted Table in Logan
and several other restaurants throughout the state.
During the summer months it is also sold at several
other gardeners' markets around northern Utah.
On April 15, Schropp and Hines opened a small stand
on their farmstead where they will sell the cheese and
several other locally-made products. The stand is located
in a former granary on the farm. The stand will be open
on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the rest
of the warmer months. The address is 563 S. State St.