Interview with Oley Cheesemaker Stefanie Angstadt of Valley Milkhouse, Oley, PA.

Jan 22, 2020

photo of Stefanie Anstadt making cheese
Stefanie Angstadt of Valley Milkhouse in Oley, PA. Photo courtesy of Cynthia van Elk

Berks County is home to an amazing number of talented commercial fermenters making everything from bread, cheese, vegetables and meats to beer, wine and kombucha. Let me introduce you to one of our cheesemakers.

I met Stefanie Angstadt three years ago when I moved to the Oley Valley. One of my first thrills was to run errands on my bicycle through the beautiful valley. I picked up books at the library, visited the Artful Egg to see the extraordinary Pysanky collection, then rode through two covered bridges to arrive at the Covered Bridge Farmstand. I found all kinds of amazing local products, including cheese made by Stepanie. Since that time, we have collaborated on tastings that pair my home brewed beer and cider with her cheese. Now her cheese is a staple in my kitchen.

How and why did you start Valley Milkhouse?

I started Valley Milkhouse Creamery five years ago, inspired by a love of European style cheeses – the cheeses I fell in love with as a young girl by my mother’s side in a French cheese shop. Since then, whenever I’ve traveled overseas, I’ve sought out those cheese shops that I can smell from around the corner. The textures, colors, scents and flavors of these old world delicacies bring my senses to life. No other food rivals the natural complexity of a wedge of cheese, made from the simple ingredients of milk, cultures and enzymes. My passion pulled me into hobby cheesemaking in my home kitchen, then to an apprenticeship with a Colorado goat dairy where I learned to make clothbound cheddars and mushroomy robiola from fresh goat’s milk. When I settled back into my homeland of Berks, I was empowered to start my own creamery and bring old world cheeses back to the Oley Valley where 200 years ago, the valley’s dairies were making similar styles for export into the Philadelphia market. The craft represents a preservation and revival of our heritage in this region.

How do you make your cheese? What is special about cheese fermentation?

I started Valley Milkhouse Creamery five years ago, inspired by a love of European style cheeses – the cheeses I fell in love with as a young girl by my mother’s side in a French cheese shop. Since then, whenever I’ve traveled overseas, I’ve sought out those cheese shops that I can smell from around the corner. The textures, colors, scents and flavors of these old world delicacies bring my senses to life. No other food rivals the natural complexity of a wedge of cheese, made from the simple ingredients of milk, cultures and enzymes. My passion pulled me into hobby cheesemaking in my home kitchen, then to an apprenticeship with a Colorado goat dairy where I learned to make clothbound cheddars and mushroomy robiola from fresh goat’s milk. When I settled back into my homeland of Berks, I was empowered to start my own creamery and bring old world cheeses back to the Oley Valley where 200 years ago, the valley’s dairies were making similar styles for export into the Philadelphia market. The craft represents a preservation and revival of our heritage in this region.

How do you make your cheese? What is special about cheese fermentation?

Cheesemaking is the process of refining raw agricultural ingredients – grass and grains – into a delicious source of protein and fat for humans. Cows feed on grass and grains, and we harvest the cows’ milk. The cheesemaker ferments the milk, coagulates it into curds and presses it into cheese. Fermentation is the core of this process. Special microbes, known as “cultures,” are added to the warm milk straight from the udder. These cultures consume the lactose in the milk and convert it into lactic acid. This sours the milk in a controlled way that draws out its natural flavors. Next, we add rennet that curdles the milk and separates the solid curds from the liquid whey. We press the curds together to form a wheel of cheese which can be aged for 1 day to 1 month to 1 year. Aging develops a complex range of flavors and textures.

How can people buy your cheese? Do you offer classes?

Berks County folks can purchase the cheeses straight from the creamery (March-December), Echo Hill, HIVE Cafe, Frecon Farms and Kimberton Whole Foods. Information about classes and our monthly cheese subscription is at www.valleymilkhouse.com

Check Out Our Classes

kpalcho@gmail.com | (610) 389-8316 | Fleetwood, PA
Serving the greater Philadelphia and Reading, PA regions

All photos courtesy of Karen

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