Today we decided to visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory, about a 2 hour drive north along the Oregon Coast from our campsite in Waldport.
As someone who grew up in the Netherlands, a country that produces A LOT of high quality and tasty cheese, I am accused of being somewhat of a snob when it comes to this dairy delight. I’ve had Tillamook before and DO consider it better than many of the somewhat flavorless cheeses found in US supermarkets. Linda and I therefore were very keen to visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory which, we had read, had a self-guided tour, a factory viewing platform and, best of all, . . . . free tasting of samples!
As the day was wet, windy cold we did not stop for any scenery shots, deciding to do those on the way back, later in the day when, hopefully, it would be a lot warmer.
Upon arrival in the town of Tillamook, one cannot help but see how “small” this place is, despite its famous name. We suspect that a large portion of the local population works at the factory and that many, if not all, of the surrounding dairy farms produce the milk required by the production process.
We first went to the observation deck, an area above the factory floor where you can walk around and observe the cheese making activity below – all from behind glass of course, for hygienic and safety reasons.
It was interesting to see the various stages of the process.The big vats where the milk is first processed and the curds are extracted and made into giant blocks of cheese, which are put away for aging. When properly aged, these blocks are cut into the smaller sizes you get in the store.
We were amazed at how many human hand were still needed in this process. Simple things like laying the cut blocks of cheese down onto the conveyer, removing the leftovers of the cutting and multiple actions such as turning, flipping and rearranging were all done by people.
After the viewing we headed for the tasting! Oh yeah! There were some 6 different flavors: the cheese curds, cheddar, the sharp cheddar, swiss, a smoked cheddar and a pepper-infused cheddar.
I had never had the curds before and was pleasantly surprised at the soft and subtle flavor. I am guessing the curds are “fresh” and have not yet gone through the aging process, which would increase the flavor.
My favorites turned out to be the Swiss and the Smoked Cheddar with the pepper-infused one coming in at a close second.
Needless to say, after the sampling comes the buying! Visitors cannot avoid going through the gift store and well-stocked cold-boxes filled with cheese.
No surprise that we purchased the Smoked Cheddar, the Swiss and the pepper-infused.
We also purchased a cheese cutting board for in the motorhome. On the way out, we gave the ice creamery and fudge bar a wide miss, having convinced ourselves we did not need the calories.
Believe me, that was hard.
On the way back to Waldport, we made those stops to shoot the scenic coastline.