Next stop on my Cheesy Adventure…Gold Creek Farms
by Megan Ostler, MS RD – Dairy Council of Utah/Nevada
Just 45 minutes from bustling Salt Lake City, UT, Gold Creek Ranch is a quiet, enchanting place tucked in amongst the tree-lined roads of the small town of Kamas.
Winding my way to the farm, I passed a small herd of Brown Swiss Cows – the lifeblood of dairy’s hand-crafted artisan cheeses. All of Gold Creek’s cheeses are produced from this small herd of cows, and they are also sourcing a lot of the ingredients for their specialty cheeses right on the farm by raising pigs and growing herbs. The small farm is committed to sustainable practices and self sufficiency – leftovers from local restaurants and distillery grain provide feed for the animals, and whey (a byproduct of cheese making) is a nutrient-rich source of food for their pigs.
I slowly passed the barn, smiling at the curiosity of the cows that came to greet me and then went inside the main barn where the magic happens. The sitting room was cozy with a wonderful smell of fresh cheese and cedar wood. I immediately noticed the wall full of awards and the windows looking in on the demonstration kitchen.
I was sitting there taking it all in when Fernando came to greet me. Fernando is Gold Creek’s head cheese maker and has been with the farm since 2010. He told me a little about how he got started with cheese. Working as a gourmet chef, Fernando first met owners, Alan and Debbie Gold as their caterer. They quickly hit it off and Fernando was hired to be a full time cheese maker. Like most of the Utah’s local cheese makers, Fernando sought the council of Utah State University’s cheese making classes. With his background as a chef and some basic cheese making skills, Fernando had the foundation he needed to begin crafting and creating unique, award winning cheeses.
One of the farm’s most acclaimed cheeses is a smoked cheddar, and he credits the inspiration for this cheese to his wife, Ashley, whose secret smoking method launched this cheese to greatness. In 2012, their smoked cheddar won “Best in Class” and their smoked parmesan was “Second in Class” at the World Championship Cheese Competition. It has now become their signature cheese and trade secret.
Fernando then took me on a tour of the facility. As we walked along and he explained his process, his passion shined through. He explained that each batch of cheese is crafted by hand without special equipment. The milk from their cows changes with the seasons, so each batch is a little different. He said he makes cheese like he cooks and compared it to homemade cooking versus commercial cooking with set recipes and checkpoints.
After touring, I was able to taste. It was incredible and I quickly understood the wall of awards. I don’t normally like smoked foods, but the smoked cheddar and parmesan had the perfect amount and the cheese flavor was still prominent. I also tried some of the fun flavors like the drunken cheddar, cumin seed, and bacon chive. I asked what Fernando’s favorite was and he said it changed but it was currently their blue cheese, a recent addition to their repertoire, and it was exceptional. After eating more cheese then the dietitian in me would like to admit, I packed up my things and set off down the winding roads, past the herbs, the pigs, and the cows, excited to share this local treasure.
Take a virtual visit to Gold Creek Farms where you can shop online and taste for yourself.
Stay tuned for more Cheesy Adventures as our profiles of Utah cheese makers continues…