April 2011 Issue
Take a trip to Ohio’s Amish Country and sample locally made varieties.
It’s no secret that Amish communities offer some of the best comfort food around: fresh-out-of-the-oven breads and pastries, broasted chicken, fresh-baked pies. But Amish Country is also a destination for some of the finest cheeses in the state, made by people who have been producing it for generations.
Experienced shoppers know to bring coolers for all the goodies they find in Amish Country. Aside from cheese, there’s the famous trail bologna, peanut butter spread and fry pies, to name a few. But the cheese selection is so vast, it’s worth bringing a separate cooler for your stash. You’ll want to save your purchases for later, because in Amish Country, it’s possible to fill up on samples alone.
Holmes County Cheese
In Holmes County, there are plenty of places to get your dairy fix. Start at Guggisberg Swiss’s gift shop in Millersburg; if you arrive early, you can watch cheese being made from 8 a.m. until noon. However, if you show up later, a video demonstration plays on a loop throughout the day. Not into Swiss? The gift shop offers more than 60 varieties, including smoked and hot pepper cheeses, plus different fruit spreads and butters, mixes, snack foods and kitchen utensils.
The award-winning Swiss, however, is Guggisberg’s shining star, made using techniques brought here by original owner Alfred Guggisberg from his homeland high in the Swiss Alps.
Before coming to the United States in 1947, Guggisberg attended a cheese-maker’s institute and made cheese in both Europe and Africa. But Holmes County is where he invented his famous baby Swiss, a creamier version of the original. Many of the cheeses at Guggisberg contain milk from local farms, and are a great way to bring home a taste of Amish Country. 5060 St. Rte. 557, Millersburg 44654, 330/893-2500.
Walnut Creek Cheese
Despite its name, Walnut Creek Cheese offers more than just dairy. However, the variety of cheese is spectacular, from Walnut Creek and other local brands lining the shelves to a temperature-controlled cheese room with imports, curds and grape juice for pairing.
The experience goes beyond the cheese, though. While visiting, order a trail bologna and Swiss sandwich or a gigantic Mudd Valley frozen custard cone. Specialty flavors vary and are made daily in-house, including black raspberry, butterscotch and chocolate peanut butter.
Not far from the creamery, the bulk foods section provides a great way to stock up on necessities, while the test kitchen offers demonstrations, samples and recipes. A portion of the store is dedicated to kitchen utensils and decorations, along with a viewing area into the cannery, where jams, jellies and sauces are made. Sample each selection before choosing what to take home. And if you need help deciding what to do with all that food, choose from the large selection of Amish and Mennonite cookbooks.
Before you go, be sure to pick up something from the bakery for later, like dinner rolls or one of Walnut Creek’s famous fruit-filled fry pies. 641 St. Rte. 39, Walnut Creek 44687, 330/852-2888. walnutcreekcheese.com
Troyer Country Market
An array of cheese varieties are stocked at Troyer Country Market in Millersburg. Here, visitors can sample anything from fruit-laced cheddars (like blueberry and cranberry) to really sweet treats like chocolate chip cheese balls, pumpkin dip and cinnamon butter. Among Troyer’s other selections are its own line of fudge, Amish wedding food — like jarred fruits and pickled vegetables — and ice cream, plus local, seasonal produce, dip mixes and candy. 5201 Co. Rd. 77, Millersburg 44654, 330/893-3786. troyerscountrymarket.com
Heini’s Cheese Chalet
Just down the road, Heini’s Cheese Chalet offers a huge selection of cheeses and samples. The chalet is divided in two, with one side dedicated to cheese, fudge, meat and bulk food, and the other devoted to Velvet Ice Cream, bulk candy and more fudge, plus the Country Peddler gift shop and Heritage Lace store. Here, you can try cheeses made just for fun (green moon cheese, anyone?), as well as yogurt cheese and goat’s milk cheese, plus flavors such as Swiss and rye, as well as different varieties of fudge, like mint chocolate and pumpkin cream cheese. Local meat favorites, like scrapple and head cheese, are sold, as well.
View cheese making through windows (the best time to go is before noon) or call ahead to see if Heini’s is offering tours that day. If you miss the factory or the tours, a narrated video takes visitors through each step of the cheese-making process. While you stroll around sampling, look for signs that offer fun facts about cheese, like the difference between lacy and baby Swiss. (Hint: It has to do with fat content.)
When you’re done sampling cheese, head over to the other side of the store. If you have the time, grab a cone and sit under the mural painted by local artist Tom Miller that depicts cheese-making history from 300 B.C. to the present day. 6005 Co. Rd. 77, Millersburg 44654, 330/893-2131. heinis.com
When You Go
More sweet treats and samples await across the street from Heini’s at Kauffman’s Country Bakery, along with Amish Country souvenirs, spiral-bound cookbooks holding Amish secrets, and snacks like Hershey’s Ice Cream and red velvet cookies. kauffmanscountrybakery.com
The Ohio Swiss Festival takes place Sept. 30–Oct. 1. Swing into Sugarcreek for tastings, parades and costume contests. villageofsugarcreek.com/ohioswissfest
If you make a weekend out of it, stay at the Carlisle Inn, with locations in Walnut Creek and Sugarcreek. Each inn offers cozy yet elegant accommodations and is located near Der Dutchman or Dutch Valley bakeries and restaurants, plus gift shops, markets and furniture stores. dhgroup.com
Geauga County Cheese
Middlefield Cheese Co-op
Although home to fewer cheese producers, Geauga County is a don’t-miss dairy destination. Producers have been here for years and, in the first half of the 20th century, cheese was one of the most important industries in Middlefield. One stop at the Middlefield Cheese Co-op and you’ll be convinced that cheese still reigns supreme in this part of Ohio.
Visitors will find a large variety in a small location and can watch different cheeses being made, including Monterey Jack, cheddar varieties, Colby cheeses and farmer’s cheese. It’s best to arrive at the viewing window in the morning. You can also read about the process, starting with the local milk entering the plant in 10-gallon cans, through the pasteurization process and into the store, where it’s sold in prepackaged blocks or sliced fresh at the deli.
The co-op offers food beyond cheese, including popcorn and other snack food, chocolates, candies, jams, jellies, maple syrup, honey and meat. Some cheese samples are available at the deli counter, so you can try before you buy. 16942 Kinsman Rd., Middlefield 44062, 440/632-5567
Middlefield Cheese House
A few miles away, the Middlefield Cheese House, known for its Swiss, also carries a variety of products. Half of the location is dedicated to a shop, while the other half houses a small museum with antique cheese-making equipment and a video, old pictures and a full-sized buggy. On the store side, patrons can purchase a variety of canned and bagged food, kitchen utensils and decorations, meats and cheeses, candies and the much-loved Geauga County maple syrup. But if you buy nothing else while you’re there, be sure to pick up one or more of Middlefield’s Swiss cheese varieties.
The store has come a long way since Hans Rothenbuhler made his first wheel of Swiss in Geauga County in 1956 after studying the craft in his homeland, Switzerland. Currently, the location produces five varieties of Swiss: mild, sharp, low sodium, baby and baby-eyed Swiss, a stronger version of baby Swiss. 15815 Nauvoo Rd., Middlefield 44062, 800/32-SWISS (9477). middlefieldcheese.com
When You Go
Just down the road from the co-op, the End of the Commons General Store in Trumbull County is a throwback to the five-and-dime days. Located in Mesopotamia’s quaint town square with a gazebo and a hitching area for horse-and-buggy passengers, the store has everything from penny candy to vanilla-infused canned peaches. endofthecommons.com
To taste another local favorite, visit during the Geauga County Maple Festival, April 28–May 1 in Chardon. Aside from pancake breakfasts, there are arts and crafts, bathtub races, pageants and a lumberjack competition. tourgeauga.com
While visiting, stay at the charming Red Maple Inn in Burton. Enjoy an old-fashioned Amish breakfast and modern-day amenities including Jacuzzis. redmapleinn.com
Head out in the morning. If you get to each location early, you have a better chance of
watching cheese production. And for places that offer baked goods, you’ll get the freshest and best selection.
• Many locations offer “cheese ends” at a cheaper price.
• Within the counties, the cheese shop locations are relatively close. You might want to drive around and sample before buying.
• Many cheeses do not need to be refrigerated immediately. If your cooler is full and you’re traveling a short distance, ask how long the cheese can be left at warmer temperatures and still be safe to eat.
• If you want to buy in bulk, blocks of cheese
are easy to freeze.
Need something to do with all that cheese? Try this twist on a classic sandwich, courtesy of Middlefield Cheese House.
10 slices of rye bread, cubed
1-1/2 pounds cooked corned beef, shredded
1 cup sauerkraut, rinsed, well drained and chopped
2-1/2 cups Middlefield Swiss Cheese, shredded
6 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Extra Middlefield Swiss Cheese, for garnish
Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Arrange the rye bread cubes in the bottom of the dish. Coarsely shred the corned beef with a knife. Layer the meat and sauerkraut over the bread. Sprinkle with the cheese. Beat eggs, milk and pepper in a bowl until well blended. Pour over the corned beef mixture. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the casserole covered for 45 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes or until it bubbles. Garnish with a small amount of shredded Swiss. Serve immediately.
Variation: Top the casserole with shredded potatoes or serve with a side of Thousand Island dressing.