15 years ago, Rebeccah Salmeri decided to teach herself how to make cheese. Living in Waco, Texas in the traditional agricultural and crafts community Homestead Heritage, Rebeccah was looking for a way to use some extra spring milk that the community’s Brown Swiss cows had been producing. Using books and experimentation, she gradually began producing dairy products, hard and soft cheeses, eventually teaching her craft to others. In May of 2005, Rebeccah’s cousin Marc Kuehl visited the community and decided to stay and make cheese with her. Together, the pair founded Brazos Valley Cheese.
Since then the company has continuously grown—from making two 36-gallon batches per week to using a 200-gallon vat, to purchasing a 400-gallon vat that was custom made in the Netherlands and building an underground aging cave. Milk is sourced from three local Brazos Valley dairies, where Jersey and Brown Swiss cows graze freely outside. All of the company’s cheeses are raw milk cheeses.
One day after producing wheels of a different cow’s milk cheese, Brazos Valley cheesemakers went home and accidentally forgot to turn off the heat. Knowing that temperature plays a huge role in the initial development of a cheese, the team predicted that this batch would turn out quite differently. In case it would be edible after aging, the cheesemakers decided to do an experiment, rubbing the outside of the wheels with vanilla, sorghum and cinnamon during the first two weeks of aging. The experiment was a success, and the accidental recipe now has a permanent slot in the Brazos Valley lineup.
Smelling like red hots or cinnamon gum with notes of mint, this cheese has a curiously blank flavor at first that builds yielding notes of earth, pine and cinnamon, with headier aromas towards the rind.
Co-owner Marc Kuehl suggests using Van Sormon in a grilled cheese sandwich or enjoying it solo.