Food With a View

Velvet is a word that describes two unique features on the Schlauch family dairy farm in Holmes County. In the growing season, the 200 acres of fertile farmland is so green and lush that it looks like endless yards of emerald velvet fabric. It also perfectly defines the texture of their farmstead yogurt: smooth, like velvet.

Brandi Schlauch, her husband, Aaron and his parents David and Sandy Schlauch, work together daily, as a family and in a business partnership. “Aaron’s grandparents bought this farm in 1948 when he was 6 months old,” said Brandi. “David and Aaron continued the tradition of working the land as dairy farmers. We can trace the deeds to this farm back to a land grant signed by James Madison.”

When milk prices fell for farmers two years ago, it was time to brainstorm. “Since there were two families living off the farm, we needed to figure out a way to supplement our income,” she said. She knew that Aaron and David were dedicated dairymen and Holmes County didn’t have room for another cheese maker. So they explored yogurt production and today they produce almost 400 gallons of wholesome, whole milk yogurt a week.

Three times a day, Aaron and David milk their herd of 70 registered Holsteins and three days a week, Brandi and Sandy immerse themselves in making and marketing the yogurt that has filled a niche in the local foods movement. “We are the only licensed farmstead yogurt producer in Ohio,” said Brandi.

On yogurt making days, the milk goes a short distance from the milking parlor to the processing room where it is pasteurized at low temperatures for longer periods of time to preserve flavor and texture. Brandi adds active cultures to begin the fermentation and the yogurt will sit for 12 hours when Brandi breaks the yogurt curd before moving it to the cooler for 24 hours before packaging.

For Brandi, traceability is important to creating a quality yogurt. “We know which animals produced the milk,” said Brandi. “I can name names.” Holstein milk is a good choice for yogurt. It’s not as high in butterfat as milk from Jersey cows whose milk is well suited for ice creams, but the fats and proteins in Holstein milk are at ideal levels for yogurt production.

Brandi describes Velvet View’s whole milk yogurt taste as mild and not as tangy as some commercial brands.

“It’s an original style yogurt, thinner than most popular brands and almost drinkable,” she said. No preservatives, stabilizers or milk powder to thicken are added. “When people ask if it’s fresh, I say, ‘Yes. I made it yesterday,’ because I did,” she said with a laugh.

Brandi is currently working on perfecting a Greek yogurt, one that is strained to remove more of the whey for a thicker, denser consistency. “Sandy has been in stores and at events conducting taste tests, comparing ours to other brands and by far ours is preferred,” said Brandi. “It’s a good substitute for sour cream in dips and sauces.”

For Brandi, entering into dairy farming and yogurt making was something she married into, long hours and hard work for a woman who admits to never having even owned a dog.

“Aaron made me the man I am today,” she jokes.

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 The Locavore’s Kitchen.

Farmstead or Artisan

You’ve heard both terms used to describe local products but what’s the difference? Farmstead products, like Velvet View yogurt, means that the milk is produced and the yogurt is made in a facility located on the farm. On the other hand, artisan products are made from ingredients sourced from one or more locations.

Velvet View yogurt has already found its way into restaurants in northeast Ohio that concentrate on sourcing locally grown and produced products. Doug Katz, owner and chef at Fire! Food and Drink in Shaker Heights, said that adding the yogurt to their growing list of local ingredients filled an important niche, especially in sourcing local products during the winter. “I love the acidity,” said Katz. “It’s the perfect consistency for our winter smoothies where we add roasted apples and maple or honey and our own preserves.”