Get ready for an exclusive tour of the Old Europe Cheese factory in Benton Harbor, Michigan and see how our award-winning Reny Picot Brie is made!
The Old Europe Cheese factory was established 1987 by the Spanish cheese company Reny Picot. When Reny Picot decided to establish a presence in the United States they chose Michigan for one reason: the milk.
Old Europe Cheese exclusively uses fresh Class I milk free of all harmful additives, chemicals, pesticides, and antibiotics. The milk is sourced from farms that are inspected regularly, and not just for consumer health and safety, but also to make sure the cows are well treated.
To begin the process of making a creamy wheel of Reny Picot Brie, it all starts with the milk.
Everyday, milk tankers coming directly from farms—like Crandall Dairy Farms—enter the Milk Receiving Bay at the Old Europe Cheese factory. The milk is then taken out of the trucks and pasteurized on site. Approximately 320,000 pounds (40,000 gallons) is processed each day.
The pasteurized milk then heads to preproduction where there are two 6,000-liter open cheesemaking vats imported from France. Each vat produces about 2,000 pounds of cheese. Once the milk is pumped into the vats the cultures are added, which are the most important part of the cheesemaking process as they are responsible for the development of flavor and ripening. Once the cultures are added, the milk comes out of the vat and into a machine called the tipper, which separates the curd from the whey. The whey is drained out and the curd is formed into Brie molds.
The Brie molds are transferred to the Hot Room where acidification occurs. Acidification is what ripens cheese and further develops the flavors. The molded Brie stays in the Hot Room until it has reached a certain pH level.
The molded Brie then goes into Cold Storage to stop the acidification process. When acidification has stopped and the Brie has reached the proper pH level it is unmolded. The unmolded wheels of Brie will stay in Cold Storage for 12 to 18 hours.
The cheese then heads to the Brine Room where Spanish tradesmen installed state-of-the-art brining systems that incorporate old world processes with modern technology. The unmolded wheels of Brie are put on racks and submerged into brine, which is filtered continuously. The brine will not only get onto the surface of the cheese, but also migrate to the center and add yet another layer of flavor.
The Brie is then transferred to the Curing Room where it will stay for 7 to 12 days. This is where the Brie will ripen, soften, and grow its “flurry,” which is the distinctive (and completely edible) white rind on the outside of a wheel of Brie. It is also in the Curing Room where quality assurance technicians take samples to send to an outside laboratory to be checked for pathogens.
Once the cheese has aged the appropriate time, it is ready to be packaged. The packaging equipment was carefully pieced together utilizing the best from Holland, France, Spain to ensure the perfect wrap on each and every cheese. Once the Brie is wrapped and put into boxes, it heads to the cooler to await distribution.
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