Jim and Angel King’s marriage is a match made in cheese heaven. Jim is a fourth generation Logan County dairy farmer and Angel is a skilled and passionate cheese maker. Add their 10 children, ranging in age from 3 to 27, who all participate in the operation (the youngest applying an occasional label or two, sometimes crooked) and 45 Holsteins known for outstanding milk production, and you have Blue Jacket Dairy, one of Ohio’s newest cheese producers, which opened earlier this year. “It took us a little more than three years to get from thinking about making cheese to actually doing it,” Angel said.
The dairy, named for Blue Jacket, the famous Shawnee Indian chief who made his home in Bellefontaine, offers one of the most diverse selections of cows and goats milk cheeses in Ohio, many carrying reminders of regional history on the label. Houtz, an aged goat cheese, is named after one of the area’s original settlers, John Houtz. Ludlow, an aged cows milk cheese with a nutty, slightly caramel flavor, is a tribute to Israel Ludlow, a popular local purveyor in the 1800s. And Gretna Grilling, a brined, buttery frying cows milk cheese, takes its name from the former hamlet where the Blue Jacket Dairy now sits.
Among Ohio cheese producers, the dairy claims a unique niche with its fresh cheeses. “We make it today, you eat it today,” Angel said. Lemon Quark, a whole cows milk cheese similar in texture and taste to cream cheese, but lower in fat, is a fast seller, and fresh cheese curds or “squeakers” is a nostalgic treat for many customers.
Dave Mengle, dairy plant supervisor for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, counts Blue Jacket as one of the best among Ohio’s 15 licensed artisan and farmstead cheese producers.
“People are looking for types of cheeses they can’t easily find in the grocery store, more homemade and less mass produced,” he observed. “Our newest producers are creating interesting varieties of cheese, some just a few pounds a week, others a few hundred pounds. There’s a lot of good cheese out there.”
Marilou Suszko is a food writer from Vermilion. She is the author of “Farms and Foods of Ohio: From Garden Gate to Dinner Plate” and hosts “From My Ohio Kitchen to Yours” on the Our Ohio TV series.
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Artisan versus Farmstead
A quick scan of labels from smaller, local creameries often tells whether a cheese is an artisan cheese or a farmstead cheese. What’s the difference? Artisan or artisanal cheeses are usually produced by hand in small batches and the milk can come from more than one source. Farmstead or homestead cheeses are created with milk from the producer’s own herd or flock on the farm where the animals are raised.
Cheese producer sampler
Here is just a taste of some of the Ohio Farm Bureau member cheese producers you will find throughout Ohio and a sampling of the varieties of cheese they produce.
Blue Jacket Dairy (est. 2009)
Bellefontaine (Logan County), Jim and Angel King, owners
Assorted aged and fresh farmstead cows and goats milk cheeses
- For on-farm sales and sales locations, go to BlueJacketDairy.com or call 937-292-7327.
Fulton Creek Jersey Cheese (est. 2009)
Richwood (Delaware County), Sylvia Zimmerman, owner
Assorted farmstead cows milk cheeses including cheddar, Havarti, Colby and Gouda
- On-farm sales and at the seasonal Delaware Farmers Market. For more information, call 937-348-2633.
Mackenzie Creamery (est. 2007)
Hiram (Portage County), Jean Mackenzie, owner
Fresh artisan-style goats cheese in 10 flavors as well as aged varieties
- For sales locations, go to MackenzieCreamery.com or call 330-569-3387.
Artistry Farm (est. 2007)
Oxford (Miami County)
Debra Bowles and Bill Renwick, owners
Farmstead raw goats milk cheese including feta and specialty spreads
- Available year-round at the Oxford Farmers Market Uptown. Go to OxfordFarmersMarket.com for more information or call 513-523-3740.
Buckeye Grove Farm Cheese (est. 2004)
Beallsville (Monroe County), Al & Renae Scheiderer, owners
Farmstead raw cows milk cheese such as Boeren Kaas Gouda, Hill Folk Jersey, Dixie Swiss and Jersey Emment
- For sales locations, go to BuckeyeGroveFarmCheese.com or call 740-926-1848.
Osage Lane Creamery (est. 2008)
Pataskala (Licking County), Tom and Emma Stout, owners
Farmstead raw goats milk feta
- For sales locations, go to osagelane.com or call 740-739-1525.