It’s become a family and cultural tradition – to make cheese as naturally as possible.
At Mountainoak Cheese in New Hamburg, dairy farmer and cheese maker Adam van Bergeijk continues to stay true to his roots by taking part in the entire process of cheese making.
“We plant our own seed, take care and harvest our own crops. If we are good to our cows, they will be good to us,” van Bergeijk says.
“It’s all about the recipe. And this comes from within, caring for every step from looking after the cows and what you feed them. This is what makes it successful. Every step counts and this is what is so important.”
Mountainoak Cheese has become a modern, state-of-the-art processing plant that allows the van Bergeijks to continue a traditional Dutch recipe of great-tasting, high-quality, Gouda-style cheeses made with high-quality, fresh milk from their own dairy cows.
Each cheese is handled with care daily and aged naturally, bringing out the best characteristics of the natural milk produced and the work that has gone into each step in making high quality, delicious and natural cheese.
A visit to the farm and on-site cheese store, has everyone wanting to sample a piece.
Greeted by a vast assortment of cheeses, a customer ponders her next selection.
“I’m working my way through all of them,” she says.
“Every one is delicious. And the cheese curds are such a good snack for kids. I used to feed them to my kids when they were little. A great snack.”
Opening the door to the “drying room”, one is greeted with shelf after shelf of about 3500 wheels of cheese, each one in a brilliant yellow coating which was painted by hand.
Each of these cheeses starts with milk, but different bacterial cultures and different rates of acidification make each variety unique.
In general, some cheeses go right to store shelves, such as cream cheese and cottage cheese. Softer cheeses, such as Brie and Camembert, are aged for about two months. Harder cheeses can age for decades.
Cheeses age in a temperature and humidity controlled environment for varying lengths of time depending on the type. As cheese ripens, bacteria break down the proteins, which alters the flavor and texture. At each stage, more complex flavors are produced.
Mountainoak Cheese offers a variety of award-winning cheeses from Farmstead Medium/Mild, Black Pepper and Chilli Pepper Smoked.
It also offers Mountainoak Goat Gouda and a variety of other products from tasty cheese curds, gift baskets and party trays.
It all began when van Bergeijk and his wife Hannie took over the family dairy farm in Holland from Adam’s parents in 1976.
From the start, they had an interest in making artisan cheese, right from the farm.
In 1981, they both attended the renowned cheesemaker’s school in Gouda, a centre of cheesemaking expertise for over three hundred years. Since then, van Bergeijk has trained many students in the art of cheesemaking.
In Holland, the van Bergeijks’ cheeses were very popular with local consumers, but there was little opportunity to grow as dairy farmers. Seeking a brighter future for their children, the family emigrated to Canada in 1996, where they purchased their present farm in Wilmot Township.
Today, Adam’s sons Arjo with his wife Baukje, and John with his wife Angela, have taken over primary responsibility for the dairy herd while Adam continues to focus on his passion, cheesemaking.
“My two sons are farming and my daughter is a dairy farmer as well,” van Bergeijk says.
“Now a new generation is coming with grandchildren, which is such a blessing. My boys run the farm and I run the cheese plant, but we all work together.”
And where did the name Mountainoak come from?
It is a literal, English translation of the Dutch family name, “Van Bergeijk”, which is, “from the mountain oak” according to van Bergeijk.
And so, the name Mountainoak Farms became the name of their dairy.
Mountain Oak Cheese recently won best Canadian Cheese (3-year-old) at the International Cheese and Dairy Awards in the U.K.
But for, van Bergeijk, it’s about the natural recipe, and caring about each and every step.
“I wanted people to try a piece of cheese and then long for another piece,” he says.
And customers do.
“I like seeing people enjoy our cheese and I’m so glad I can pass this on, something everyone can enjoy.”