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March 20, 2024

Beehive Cheese

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A few years ago, my wife treated me to an extra-special birthday present, a trip to Napa Valley and a meal from one of my personal idols, Chef Thomas Keller. (Chef Keller is the owner and chef of The French Laundry, a three-Michelin-star restaurant that Anthony Bourdain once called, “the best restaurant in the world, period.”) As expected, the meal was exquisite. My favorite moment came at the end of the meal when the waiter brought out a cheese flight for the guests to enjoy.

The second I saw those cheeses, I did a double take. One taste confirmed my suspicion; Chef Keller was serving selections from Utah’s own Beehive Cheese—the very same cheeses we had been featuring for years.

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Beehive Cheese

Our relationship with Beehive Cheese goes back to 2005 when they opened their doors in Uintah, Utah. That year they gave us a tour of their facility, and we were so inspired by their dedication to making great cheese that we formed a partnership on the spot.

Every year, our chefs gather ingredients for several new flavors of cheeses they want to create. Then we make the trek up to Ogden where Pat and his team generously share their knowledge and skill to guide us through the cheese-making process. It’s one of our favorite days of the year!

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Why is cheddar cheese orange?

All the cheeses we’ve made with Beehive Cheese start with a classic white Irish cheddar base. Wait, white cheddar? Isn’t cheddar supposed to be orange?

Actually, no.

Cheddar cheese, like the cow’s milk it’s made from, is naturally white. The orange cheddar that you see in stores contains coloring that’s been added to give it that characteristic hue. Why would cheesemakers go through the trouble of changing the color? The answer is history.

During the 1600s, milk made in England came from Jersey and Guernsey cows, two breeds that give milk with an unusually high fat content. During the summer when these cows ate a lot of green grass, their milkfat had a slight orange color due to the beta-carotene in their diet. That orange tint came to be a sign of high-quality, high-fat cheese.

It didn’t take long for unscrupulous cheesemakers to realize that they could make more money if they skimmed off the valuable cream and sold it to make butter. Then they added carrot juice or some other coloring to the milk to make it look like it still had that orange fat in it.

Over time, cheddar cheese came to be associated (at least in England and parts of the US) with a distinctive orange color. But don’t be fooled. The highest quality cheddars made today are often white.

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Beehive Cheese makes cheddar better

Over the years, we’ve made dozens of different flavors of cheddar with the help of Pat and the other culinary wizards at Beehive Cheese. We’ve learned that cheesemaking is equal parts art and science, with an added dash of luck.

Our favorite step of the process (other than tasting) is adding the flavors. After the curds have formed and been cut into slabs, they are layered on top of each other to press out the liquid whey, a process called “cheddaring.” When enough liquid has been removed, the curds are shredded into smaller chunks again. That’s the point at which we add the cracked pepper, tarragon, black truffles, or whatever seasoning we’re going to use. When the curds are pressed together into blocks, the ingredients will be diffused throughout the cheese in a beautiful marbling pattern.

Alternatively, sometimes we just add the ingredients as a rub on the outside of the wheel and let the flavors slowly seep into the cheese as it ages. That aging process can takes months or even years. The longer a cheese wheel is allowed to age, the more sugars the bacteria inside will consume, and the sharper and tangier the cheese will taste.

It takes time and patience to create a great cheddar, but when you do…it’s all worth it.

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Cheese Madness

This month, in honor of March Madness, we’ll be looking back at some of our favorite collaborative creations with Beehive Cheese.

Each day on our Facebook and Instagram stories, we’ll be posting info on a pair of our past cheesy creations. You can vote on which cheese should advance from our “Savory Sixteen” to the next round of voting, and we’ll continue until we’ve crowned a champion!

You can find links to our social media at the bottom of this page or our Home Page.

Wishing you all the delicious cheesiness.

Eat well.

27x winner Utah’s Best of State

24x Best of State Caterer

3x Best of the Best / Hospitality

1x Entrepreneur of the Year