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Say CHEESE!Published April 12, 2012 at 4:22 a.m.
LITTLE ROCK By the time the milk tanker truck barreled up the gravel lane, Cindy Daley was well into her morning routine, which began at 5:15 a.m., at Daley Dairy in Rose Bud.
After milking 26 cows, Cindy joined her youngest daughter, Amanda, who was there to help fill Honeysuckle Lane Cheese orders. As Cindy sliced 12-pound cheese horns into half-pound slabs and slid them into clear, plastic bags, Amanda vacuum-sealed them and put them in the cooler.
In December 2004, Raymond and Cindy Daley decided to expand their dairy to include cheese production. Raymond said the government sets milk prices, but the dairy can control its cheese prices and get a better return.
Daley Dairy is the only dairy in the state with a license to make raw-milk cheese.
“Pasteurization raises the milk to higher temperatures, and it kills the natural enzymes in the milk,” Raymond said. “Many lactose-intolerant people can eat raw-milk cheese. … I like the benefits of the raw cheese, as for as the health benefits.”
The Daleys use the cold pasteurization method for their cheese. Vacuum-packing the cheese depletes all of the oxygen; then leaving the cheese in the cooler for 60 days at 45 degrees kills all the bacteria that may have accumulated in the cheese.
Raymond and Cindy Daley each grew up around cattle on farms, but they began dairying 22 years ago.
Taking a moment from his cheese-making to do some minor repairs on the vacuum sealer, Raymond said, “This is not the biggest, fully automated factory,” then he continued to explain how some of the equipment had been modified, in order to save money, to fit their cheese-making needs.
The name Honeysuckle Lane stems from the honeysuckle-lined road that leads to the dairy. In May, the dairy will move to Arkansas 5, about four miles south of Rose Bud.
Raymond works nights as a Rose Bud police officer, but he still begins his day early on the dairy farm. He and his father, Ray, start making cheese around 6 a.m.
“At about 6 a.m., we brought the milk in. It was 36 degrees, and it was heated to 88 degrees,” Raymond said. “We add cheese culture and rennet, which coagulates it, and raised the temperature to 98 degrees.”
The temperature of the milk is raised by a water bath that is underneath the large stainless steel tub that holds the milk. Large beaters move up and down the rectangular tub to keep the milk moving until it begins to turn into curds and whey. The 1,400 pounds ofmilk in the tub yields about 155 to 165 pounds of cheese, depending on the breed of cow, and Jersey cows are the main milk source at the dairy.
Ray scooped some of the curds out of the liquid whey to see if the loose curds clumped when he squeezed them in his hand.
“If it sticks, it is ready to drain the whey,” Ray said.
He then pulled all the curds to one end of the tub so the whey could run out of a drain at the end of the tub.
Curds and whey have no flavor.
“Salt magically pulls out the taste,” Raymond said.
Currently, the family makes cheese once a week, but production will go to twice a week in the summertime. It takes 8 to 9 pounds of milk to make a pound of cheese.
“It’s all about time and temperature and waiting,” Raymond said with a laugh about the cheese-making process.
Most of the Honeysuckle Lane cheese is sold at farmers markets, online markets and natural food stores.
“It’s hard to compete with Kraft and their lower price,” Raymond said about the reasons the cheese isn’t marketed to most grocery stores. “We can set a price on our cheese to get some stability. If we hadn’t had it, we’d have done like other dairies and went belly up.”
Raymond said that in 1990, there were 893 dairies in Arkansas, and now there are less than 120.
“It’s tough being a dairy farmer,” he said. “Ten years ago, I had to get a second job.”
The two men worked to cut the curds into blocks andstacked them to help drain more whey. Every so often, Raymond would check the acidity level of the curds to determine when it was ready to add salt and put them into molds. That day, the men were making white cheddar, but yellow cheddar, jalapeno and colby are other flavors the dairy makes.
Ray grows all the jalapenos for the cheese. Raymond said that for a sharper cheddar, the cheese just needs to age three to six months.
“Kids ask, ‘How do you get your cheese white?’” Cindysaid with a laugh.
Although for the yellow cheese, annatto extract is added, sometimes the white cheddar isn’t pure white.
“When the cows eat grass, the beta carotene in the grass gives the white cheese a yellowish cast,” Raymond said. “So nine months out of the year,it’s got that natural creamy color.”
Once the acidity levels were where Raymond said they needed to be, Ray slicedthe cheese into small blocks, hooked up the large beater and added 4 pounds of sea salt. After stirring for about 15 minutes, Ray scooped the blocks into molds, and Raymond compressed them to mold the cheese and squeeze out excess whey. Instead of using traditional cheese cloth, Raymond said he prefers disposable mold liners to prevent cross contamination.
Once the cheese is removed from the molds, it is vacuumsealed and transferred to the cooler to sit for 60 days.
Although the dairy sells its cheese through other outlets, it is also available straight from the dairy.
The dairy ships its cheese anywhere, and to order, contact the Daleys through the website at daleydairy.com or email them at daleydairy1@yahoo.
Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or jbrosius@arkansasonline.
Three Rivers Edition Writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at 501-244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.