More Amish Cheese Please!!!!
Posted by cmh gourmand on July 25, 2007
I make a run to Amish Country at least once per year. My mission – cultural appreciation, nice scenery, antiques, fresher air… all possible reasons. I go for cheese, anything else is secondary. You can’t throw a cow without hitting a cheese factory in Amish Country. Here is my lowdown on three of the best.
This barn is in pre Amish country – in Utica, near Velvet Ice Cream.
First stop is Guggisberg Cheese Factory – which was my first taste of Amish cheese years ago. You can buy their rounds of baby swiss at most Kroger stores but this spot is still worth a visit. The factory is located in Charm which is quintessential Amish Country – buggies on the road and Amish peddling all kinds of things by the side of said road. You can get a variety of free samples at the cheese store. There are also good prices on popular Guggisberg cheeses. One of the best deals and the most adventuresome is the variety bag of different samples, usually including some of their less popular cheeses and bacon bit cheese. Mmmm – bacon. Guggisberg is small and a bit cramped. It usually is crowded – so plan on some extra time to maneuver through on the weekends.
This is the cuckoo clock tower at the Guggisberg factory – part of the Swiss aura you will find throughout this part of Amish Country.
Continuing with the Swiss motiff here is one of the murals at Heini’s Cheese Chalet.
Heini’s has the largest selection of cheese and the largest number of free samples – probably about 60 types. There are three freezer rows to walk through and all of the sampling is self service using toothpicks. It can feel a little bit like you are part of a herd of cattle, but the variety is good and during the week – there is not much of a crowd. You can also sample a variety of fudges and other products here as well. Don’t get discouraged when you see the line – not everyone is standing in line for the cash register – most are just stocking up on free cheese.
Heini’s large complex also has a store with all types of food and food related products as well as a deli/sandwich counter. This is a little off the beaten path in Millersburg but worth the effort. If you use back roads when leaving – you can avoid most of the backlogged traffic in the center of town (on Saturday and Sunday). Hey English, if you are looking for cookie cutters shaped like the 50 states – this is where to find them.
Kauffman’s Country Bakery is located across the road from Heini’s. It is stocked with excellent breads, cookies, cakes, pies, and all kinds of fresh Amish foodstuffs. If you need bread to go with your cheese – this is the place to get it.
Pearl Valley is my favorite place of the three. Pearl is not always on the map and it is very off the beaten path (on SR 93 between Baltic and Fresno) for most of Amish Country. This is a very plain operation – nothing fancy – no costumes, no Swiss towers, and no flash like their competition. It is all about the cheese here. The staff are friendly and they do not hold back on the samples or sage cheese advice. You can usually expect to find a charity bake sale going on here during the summer to support a local school or organization. On my last trip here (July 2007) – I arrived 10 minutes after closing and they still let me in and offered samples even though they had put everything away for the day. That was impressive even after a long day of cheese chewing. They do a good mail order business as well. I really like their aged Cheddar and Colby cheeses.