Cut the Cheese

Linda Burton posting from Salem, Oregon  –  “Have you ever tried a Boerenkaas?” Marita Powell asked. Having grown up on Velveeta, I confessed that I had not. I’m at the tasting counter at Willamette Valley Cheese, along with a couple who has been here many times before. Richard has his list in hand, is X’ing in the box beside the ones they like. Marita cut off tasting bits and placed them on our tiny trays; “The Boerenkaas is Gouda,” she explained. “And strong. People either like it, or they don’t.” We did. The three of us approved and scanned our lists for the next delicious thing to try. Patricia and I favor the Havarti line, we ask for Blueberry, Cranberry, Horseradish, and Herb de Provence. Marita tells us stories of each cheese; gives serving notes. “The Blueberry is excellent on salads,” she offered; one was great in chili, add this one to soup, that one for fondue. I goofed, I realized, I wasn’t taking notes, my memory and my palate were confused. My tasting tongue was happy with them all; the strong, the sharp, the acid bite, the creamy mild. Smoked Gouda, Garlic Pepper Jack, French Prairie Brie. Which ones to buy?

I stood in front of the well-stocked cooler trying to decide; thinking about my years on a dairy farm; thinking about cows, and milk, and cheese. It takes top-quality milk with high butter fat and extra protein to make good cheese like this, and Rod Volbeda believes that treating the herd well is the first step. There are 450 dairy cows on the farm; the ones I passed standing in the barn at milking time looked healthy, fit and fine, with udders at the bursting point. Green pastures, sunshine, and fresh air surround the barn; the creek runs cold and clear. Cows and dairy are a tradition for the Volbeda family; Rod is a second-generation craftsman. He holds a degree in food science from Oregon State University and apprenticed with Dutch cheese masters in Holland. (Hence the Boerenkaas.)

Dedicated to artisan cheese making, Rod begins with time-honored recipes, adds some innovative techniques, and chooses imaginative flavors. Many of the recipes are European classics; some are updated with herbs and spices. Marita Powell will be pleased to cut a tasting-sized chunk of any of these 31 cheeses you want to try, just as she did for Richard and Patricia and me; the tasting room is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10-5. Do better than I did when you are there – make notes as you go along, the variety is too great to leave to chance!


Aged, Creamy, Blueberry, Chive, Cranberry, Dill, Garlic Pepper, Herb de Provence, Horseradish, Jalapeno


Aged, Boerenkaas, Cumin, Farmstead, Smoked


Farmstead, Brindial, Raw Milk, Smoked


Chive & Smoked Pepper, Eola, Garlic Pepper, Jalapeno


Aged, Curds, Raw Milk Aged


French Prairie Brie, Perrydale (Sheep/Cow)

See the cows, taste the cheese, take some home. Tuesday-Saturday 10-5 (once you know what you like you can order online)

Large tasting groups please call ahead to schedule – 503-399-9806

Willamette Valley Cheese, 8105 Wallace Road NW, Salem, Oregon,



Dates & Prosciutto: Take a date and cut into 1/4’s. In the center of the date place a piece of Willamette Valley Boerenkaas (raw milk) Gouda cheese. Take a thin strip of prosciutto and wrap the date and Boerenkaas by rolling it up. Pin it in place with a tooth pick. You have now created a sensational appetizer for your party or gathering.

Raw Aged Cheddar

You will need a package of filo dough, pears, raw sugar, cinnamon, butter and our Raw Milk Aged Cheddar. Take the filo dough, cut into 1/4’s and brush on melted butter. Sprinkle on a mixture of raw sugar (turbinado) & cinnamon. Please the sliced pears in the center of the dough and sprinkle on more sugar mixture. Bake for 20 min at 350 or till golden brown. Remove and sprinkle shredded Willamette Valley Raw Milk Aged Cheddar over the pears and bake for another 5 minutes. You can also use apples instead of pears.

Aged Gouda

The recipe is simple but elegant. You will need fresh String Beans, Butter, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Whole Garlic and Willamette Valley Aged Gouda. Saute the green beans in olive oil, butter, and garlic, till tender. Place into a beautiful serving dish. Top it off evenly over all the beans with finely grated Willamette Valley Aged Gouda. Makes an excellent side dish.

Farmstead Fontina

It seems that Fontina cheese is all the rage in slow cooking these days. It is goes great with pork, chicken or beef and also added to soup or a salad, also makes an excellent fondue. In this recipe we used Sourdough bread, thinly sliced turkey, ham, sautéed onions, butter & olive oil, and thin slices of Willamette Valley Farmstead Fontina. Brushed on a mixture of melted butter and olive oil to the bread. Toast the bread. When they are nice and golden removed them and brush the other side of the bread. Add meat, onions, and Willamette Valley Farmstead Fontina (You can also use Smoked Fontina) to the toasted side of the bread. Grill until the cheese is melted. This our version of a Panini.

Fun Fact

The first dairy cows came to Oregon in 1838 and today there are dairy farm families in every corner of the state.