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Willapa Hills Cheese

Located on the banks of the Chehallis River in Doty, Washington, Willapa Hills Cheese has been producing farmstead cheeses and dairy products made with sheep and cows’ milk since 2005. 

Willapa Hills

For owners, Stephen Hueffed and Amy Turnbull, this is truly a labor of love that was inspired by a visit to a goat-cheese dairy in Napa before they were married. Fast forward to 2013 and Stephen and Amy are now is their fifth year of making cheese and they’ve expanded their line of products to include fresh cheeses, aged cheeses, blue cheeses, as well as cheese spreads and yogurt cheeses. 

GoatsProduction improvements for their cheese spreads and yogurt cheeses was supported by a Whole Foods Market Local Producer Loan, which they used to purchase a cup sealer. That improvement increased production and doubled the shelf life of these products.

There is a rhythm to life on the farm that’s tied to the seasons and spring brings the return of twice daily milking. This year their herd of Lacaune-East Friesian diary ewes lambed at the end of January/beginning of February so milking resumed the first week in March. Each ewe produces an average of about 2.5 pounds of milk per day which is just over a pint of milk per sheep per day. While this may not seem like much milk by volume, the solids in sheep’s milk are higher than in goat or cow milk, which makes for a better yield on the cheese. 

With this milk, Stephen and Amy produce one of my favorite seasonal sheep milk cheeses – Willapa White. This lactic-style cheese is made fresh to order every week for the duration of milking season which lasts from March to the end of August. 

Willapa White

The process to make the cheese starts with pasteurizing the sheep’s milk as required by the FDA. Next the pasteurized milk is cooled to 78 degrees, cultures and salt are stirred in and allowed to develop for 30 minutes before adding the vegetarian rennet. After about 12-16 hours, the pH is measured and once the sweet spot is hit the curd is hand-ladled into the cheese forms. The cheese is then flipped by hand twice a day for two days, chilled and then wrapped and delivered to market. The resulting cheese, 5 ounces round, is sweet, buttery and tangy. It’s perfect by itself but you can also serve it crumbled over a salad, added to your favorite breakfast scramble or paired with smoked salmon on a toasted bagel. Once you’ve tried this, you’ll never look at a bagel the same way again. Truly, the possibilities for this delicious cheese are endless!

Willapa White

With the range of farmstead cheeses that Willapa Hills crafts you’re sure to discover one or more that will become one of your favorites too. These cheeses are available in our stores in Washington and Oregon.

Do you have a favorite farmstead cheese in your area?

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Masu Sasajima says …

I love your cranberry blue cheese spread, as do all those I've shared it with. I live in downtown Seattle and in the past have purchased it at the U District farmers market. I was told you are not signed up for this year. Where may I purchase it? I do not drive but can access Capital Hill's farmers market if you will be there or order some from you. I sent you a prior email, but have not received a reply. Thank you. Masu Sasajima

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MASU - I believe you are trying to get in touch with the vendor directly. You can always try to see if your local Whole Foods carries this cheese or you can get in touch with Willapa Hills on their website at http://www.willapahills.com/16_contact_us.html.