Cheese Cave Tour {Valley Shepherd Creamery, Long Valley, New Jersey}

by Cate on October 5, 2017

An afternoon cheese cave tour and cheese tasting in Long Valley, New Jersey … a trip to Valley Shepherd Creamery pretty much makes for a perfect Fall afternoon.

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If you’ve been visiting my site with regularity, you have no doubt picked up on my love for cheese. I will gladly turn down a warm chocolate chip cookie for a cup of queso any time, and frequently use the hash tag #cheeseismyhappyplace on Instagram.

Growing up with a Parisian-born mother, a cheese plate was always a given at our dinner table, and that, perhaps, might be where my love for all things cheese started. Who knows? So when I saw an email advertising a cheese cave tour at a nearby creamery, it should come as no surprise that I immediately signed up.

I mean … it’s like visiting the mothership.

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The cheese cave tour was held at Valley Shepherd Creamery, a place that we’ve been to a few times before (there are some super cute picture of the kids from three years ago, and some more details on the creamery if you visit that link). I’ve noticed they have cheese making workshops, but the registration fee is a little out of my budget. That being said, this cave tour event was a veritable bargain – I signed up all three of us for $23!

Valley Shepherd has approximately 400 goats now and is at 18 different farmers markets a week, including running a few differential retail locations. They produce 35 different cheeses, and are currently building a facility just for making their goat cheese logs to keep up with production demands. Currently all their goat cheese logs are made by hand, but the increasing demands from some bigger retailers like Whole Foods is forcing their hand a bit and they are working on walking that fine line between remaining true to their handmade artisan ways, but adding in a few larger commercial accounts.

Besides cheese, they also have yogurt, milk, pastas, and a number of other food products available. They use milk from 600-700 animals, and most recently they have added feta, halloumi, and three new hard goat cheeses. Their feta is one of the cheeses I purchased this past weekend, and it is amazing. Salty and briny and everything feta should be.

It takes 11-12 pounds of goats’ milk to make their cheese, as compared to 4-6 pounds of sheep’s milk. A Jersey cow will yield an impressive 40 pounds of milk a day, and their rotary milking parlor pictured below can milk 600 sheep in two hours. The video showing the sheep walking into the contraption to be milked is pretty awesome – they go in single file, do their work, and then leave. Pretty much like clocking in and out of a job!

The creamery tour lasts about an hour and a half and ours was led by the owner. It begins with a video giving an overview of the creamery, what they make there, how they got their start, and how they’ve grown over the years. We then got to peek at their rotary milking station (the first picture below), see where they make the cheese, and tasted a sampling of some of their cheeses.

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The Melter Skelter is pretty much worth a visit alone, and it seriously is, hands down, my favorite. In fact, I didn’t get to sample all the other cheeses because I kept going back for more of that one.

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The rind of their cheese wheels is coated with olive oil to protect it (they go through one 55 gallon drum from Spain a month), and then the cheeses (not the goat cheese, of course) age in the cave for 12-18 months. When they make grilled cheese at their shops, the whole rind goes in the grinder, so it’s completely edible.

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After the tasting, we all went outside to hitch a ride on their covered wagon. Once everyone was on board, we began the short trek to the cheese cave that is at the back of their property, passing their fields of sheep along the way.

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Each enclosed room in the cave houses a different type of cheese, and the area was temperature controlled. For sanitary reasons we, of course, couldn’t go inside the actual rooms, but it was enough to just stand at the window and drool at the wheels of bleu cheese.

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The stronger and stinkier, the better.

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After the cave, we got back on the wagon and headed back to the main store, affectionately named the Sheep Shoppe, and browsed the general store a bit, where all their dairy offerings, along with other gift items, are available for sale.

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If you’re in the area, or a reasonable driving distance, do check this place out. You can visit their Sheep Shoppe, or attend one of their many events at the creamery, or find a farmer’s market near you. It makes for a fun outing for the family, kids included, and you’ll develop a new (or enhanced) appreciation for their craftmanship.

Valley Shepherd Creamery
50 Fairmount Rd
Long Valley, NJ
Hungry for more day trips or afternoon adventures?
For even more activity ideas in the tri-state area, visit this appropriately-themed Pinterest board.

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