The Oregon Trail: Cascadia Creamery

Ok, I know, Cascadia Creamery is actually in Washington. Coming from a small town on the Oregon side of the border that’s named after a mountain in Washington, I’m well aware of the very slim line between the two states. This creamery is knee deep in the Cascadia bioregion and gets to reap the benefits of the area without being tethered to one states’ provenience.

I knew I wanted to road trip down to the Oregon Cheese Festival since I found myself with an abundance of time and I figured that this would be a great time to visit a ton of producers that I failed to visit when I lived in Portland. This was the first stop.

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Cascadia Creamery is located in Trout Lake, Washington, about an hour and a half east of Portland. They sit at the base of Mt. Adams and this location is imperative to the story behind their cheese. The Trout Lake Valley has a dairying history reaching back over 125 years. The rich volcanic soil and abundance of diverse plants make it a perfect place to create some of the highest quality milk available.

John and Marci were ready to leave the grind of Portland and ended up in Trout Lake where John found work as an intern with a fourth generation dairy farm. John began making cheese with his new abundance of milk and had entirely intended on it being a hobby that his friends would benefit from but John, while out on the pasture, noticed some blades of grass that seemed to be blowing in the wind though there was no wind on the field. Of course he investigated further and in doing so, he found a small opening to what looked to be a cave. The next day he brought out equipment to test the temperature and humidity and they tested perfectly for aging cheese. This find was really monumental for the future of John’s impending cheese career. They dug in and checked it out, realizing it was a lava tube that extended way further than they were willing to explore. When John initially approached the FDA, and other governing bodies for food safety, they told him they would never green-light a project where cheese is aged in an actual cave. He had done extensive research and knew this was the best place to age cheese so he took the requirements necessary for an aging facility, and built them in the cave. He got a perfect score the first time they came to inspect the facility.

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John, spelunking towards the aging rooms.

Cascadia Creamery makes organic, raw milk cheeses that are really a true testament to the terrior of the land. From the rinds that change seasonally, to the fudgy, nuttiness of the Glacier Blue, these cheeses would not be the same if they were being made anywhere else. They have a close working relationship with the dairy farm they get their milk from and have helped the farm diversify their milk quality, using genetics to make the most nutrient rich milk for making cheese . John’s tutelage has helped the dairy farm create a milk that is less allergenic for those that have a hard time processing cow’s milk. Due to a genetic mutation occurring a few thousand years ago, milk with a certain protein structure can be difficult to digest even if lactose intolerance is not an issue. This gene is called A1. Cascadia uses milk that carries the A2 gene which is mostly found in heritage breeds like Jersey or Dutch Belted but they also use Friesian milk that has been tested specifically for the A2 gene. All of this attention to detail helps to create cheese that is nutritious and delicious while also being a steward to the land and community.

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The make room.

John’s intention with moving into the area was to become an active contributor and to provide a positive impact on the local community. By building this facility in the the area, Cascadia has created jobs, brought back a cheese making culture that had been lost, and created an assurance with the local dairy that they may continue to do what their families have done for generations. Plus, they make delicious cheese!

Have you gotten to try Cascadia Creamery’s cheeses? Tell me which is your favorite and how much you love them! If you haven’t tried them, get yourself to your nearest cheese counter and ask your local monger for a taste! I’m sure they would be more than happy to share if it is in their case. Here is a listing of all the wonderful cheese that Cascadia Creamery produces!