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Pearl Valley Cheese Please!

Posted by CMH Gourmand on February 27, 2021

I love cheese. I like to support local foods. I’m also proud of any award winning Ohio food. Putt all of these things together and you have, Pearl Valley Cheese. I first discovered the company by accident. In the 1990’s I spent many weekends roaming the back roads of Ohio looking for places to hike and bike. One day while enjoying the hilly roads of State Route 93, I spied a sign for Pearl Valley Cheese Company. I braked hard, back tracked and saw a small red building and a deserted parking lot. I figured it must be a manufacturing facility closed for the weekend but I drove on anyway and saw an open sign so I popped into a turophiles wonderland.

When I arrived it was close to closing time but the staff were generous with samples and suggestions therefore I happily left with several sampler bags and pounds of cheese. Later that day, I had a mini-cheese tasting somewhere along the backroads of Holmes County. Pearl Valley is far off the beaten path in Amish country but it became a mandatory stop for any adventure in that part of the state.

Pearl Valley is not as as well known as the other Amish / Swiss Cheese makers and destinations in Ohio but the company is no less distinguished. It has won countless awards at the state, national and international level for a variety of their cheeses. Pearl Valley is a perennial winner at the Ohio State Fair, which offers stiff competition in all cheese categories.

The company has a almost of century of cheese making experience, dating back to 1928. The company is still family owned and was started by Swiss immigrants. While the company follows traditional recipes and techniques, it has never been reluctant to be innovative and progressive. In 1969 they started a whey drying facility that allowed them to recycle waste from the cheese making process into a useful commodity. In 2010, they built a wastewater treatment plant which uses the waste water from cheese making and the methane created to generate 1/3 or more of the electricity for the operation.

Life, world travels and parenthood curtailed my Ohio roaming but I still sought out Pearl Valley cheese where I could. At this point, I am going to take us on a detour to share the story of my latest trip to Pearl Valley. In the summer of 2020 during the mid point of covid quarantine, cabin fever and a 5 year old with too much energy and too little world exposure prompted our family to get out of the house to do something that would be different, far away and contactless. We typically do a mini adventure every July for CMH Griffin’s birthday. In the summer of 2020, we decided to visit a drive through petting zoo in Amish country. When CMH Spouse presented the idea my face lit up. I made an expression that she is all too familiar with because she saw the wheels turning in my head as I was making a PLAN. I asked if we could tag on a trip to Pearl Valley Cheese since it is on the way and would give us some nice scenery to look at. I proposed that I would maintain distance, double mask and just go in and out quickly so we could cheese up of the afternoon. She reluctantly agreed and the deal was done. (For other plans gone awry, please refer to past posts where I went somewhere with the grumpy old man)

The journey started with high spirits and jubilation until we came across a detour sign on the way to Fresno, Ohio, the home of the cheese company. At this point I “heard” my wife direct a LOOK at me so I averted my eyes and tried to assume the fetal position as best as I could in the passenger seat. As it turns out CMH Spouse has a medical condition that involves vertigo, this makes hilly, twisty, up and down driving a neurological nightmare for her. I could not offer to drive because she gets car sick on long drives if she is not the driver. So we endured about 15 minutes of narrow, gravel-roaded terror as we made our way to Pearl Valley Cheese company. When we pulled into the parking lot there was silence. I very quietly said I would be back in 5 minutes and slinked to the front doors and safety. With great haste and focus I gathered as much cheese as I could carry. As I was checking out I asked if there were any detours for the rest of our journey, I was relieved to hear that we were done with our gauntlet run for the day. I was gifted with a map that highlighted a route that would ensure we had smooth sailing on the way home. I returned to the car, delivered the news and we proceeded on. Our destination was the Farm at Walnut Creek. The Gourmand family highly recommends this drive thru petting zoo with two caveats: 1) Get twice as much animal food than you think you will need 2) Carefully read the instructions that warn you about what animals to avoid on the route BEFORE you start your drive down the road.

In light of the above, it is unlikely I will travel to Pearl Valley Cheese again with my wife in this decade, however, I have a good alternative. You can order online from Pearl Valley Cheese. Here are a couple pointers for ordering from them. First, sign up for their mailing list, they sometimes have promotions that offer 10 to 15% off. Second order in the winter months. In the summer, they include cold packs to keep the cheese at temperature, so this adds weight to the box and thus more shipping charges and extreme heat in the summer could lessen the flavor of your cheese. Lastly, looking at shipping charges, your best value is getting 4 or more cheeses which is the weight point where the price per wheel percentage starts to decline to create a good value. Using these strategies you will get a wider variety of their cheeses for less than you would pay at a store if you can find it (often you can not).

Over the years, I have identified my favorites Pearl Valley Cheeses: Lacey Baby Swiss, Smoked Swiss and Farmers Cheese. I have never consumed any of their cheeses I did not enjoy, but these are the three I always order. The quality is very good. I have eaten Swiss Cheese in Switzerland and our Ohio Swiss cheese is as good or better than what I had in the mother country.

Here are a few fun facts about Swiss Cheese in Ohio:

– Ohio produces 61% of the Swiss cheese in the united states

– All of the large Ohio cheese producers are family owned

– Pearl Valley makes 35,000 pounds of cheese per day, five days a week and all
milk is sourced from ohio dairy farmers

Since our July excursion I have had two boxes of cheese delivered to me and was highly satisfied with what I received. I even shared some.

One Response to “Pearl Valley Cheese Please!”

  1. Tippy OBrien said

    Thanks for the reference, have already placed two orders. Love your Columbus Pizza book as well

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