A Creamery is Born!
I first began the Birth of a Creamery blog on March 24th, 2011, optimistically calling the first chapter “Four Years and 364 Days” for the 4 years of planning that had gone into our creamery plan and the “less than a year” promise I was given for how soon we could complete construction. Well March 23rd 2012 has come and gone, but with all the hoops and hick-ups we went through in the planning process we should have foreseen that construction wouldn’t be without its own hurtles. Thankfully we are only a few weeks over our mid-March deadline. On Thursday May 10th Pennyroyal officially became California’s newest licensed creamery!
Since “Moving Day” three weeks ago, the final equipment installations have happened. Hoses with hot water gauges, racks for color coded floor, wall, and equipment brushes, dispensers for gloves, and foaming foot sprayers have been hung on walls and installed at our entrances and exits. While not required by any set of regulations, having designated equipment and control over water temperature fall into the category of “Good Manufacturing Practices” which are promoted by regulating agencies and practiced in one form or another by most creameries, both large and small. Conveniently accessible fire extinguishers are required for fire code. Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act requires handicapped parking and access to the building along with correct signage for our bathroom. CDFA required hand-washing signage in the bathroom (and since my crew is bilingual so are our signs). The raw cheese aging racks, stainless steel frames hung from the ceiling on casters, were completed and installed. Reverse osmosis filters were installed for the water lines to our humidifiers, and even though our well water tested free of pathogens, we also installed UV treatment and filtration on all water entering the creamery. A stainless steel cradle for hoisting our pasteurizer (to allow gravity flow of milk from the pasteurizer to the vats) was manufactured, and piping for glycol lines between the pasteurizer and our heating and cooling exchangers was completed.
Wednesday was a scramble to finish plumbing of the hand sinks, which are sensor operated and therefore hands-free, and the dairy sinks, which also have built-in temperature gauges and mixing stations like our hoses. The county building inspector came as those were being complete, and after his inspection gave us the go-ahead to work in the building. Thursday both our local dairy inspector and the head of his regional office came to test our pasteurizer, proctor pasteurizer’s license exams to myself and Sarah, and do an inspection of the creamery. The pasteurizer passed, Sarah and I passed, and the creamery scored a 100 out of 100. We also received approval for our labels. A not-unreasonable-chunk-of-change-later (exam fees, licensing fee, label review fee, and the inspectors hourly fee), and we were given the go-ahead to start cheese production.
Monday the 14th was our inaugural cheesemaking day. Sixty one gallons of fresh goat and sheep milk, still warm from the animals it was milked from, was transformed into 14 wheels of Boont Corners.
Thank you to everyone who has followed the development of our creamery for the last 14 months. I hope this has given you insight into what it takes to get artisan and farmstead creameries off the ground. Our approach is not necessarily representative of everyone out there (we definitely spent more time and money than was strictly necessary, though I think to a good end), but many of the design hurdles and relationships with regulatory bodies are the same.
Visit us at www.pennyroyalfarm.com or check us out on facebook (should launch this weekend) for more information about our creamery, our farm, our cheeses and their availability.