Do you remember hearing about Tillamook cheese years ago? I do. I remember hearing that the cheese was rich and creamy and simply fantastic, but it wasn't available in our area of the country. Those were the days when you couldn't get everything, everywhere, like you can today. Sometimes I wish our country was still a place where one could find unique goods only in specific areas. For example, Vidalia Onions could only be found near the Georgia town known for this particular sweet onion; or Coors beer could only be found in the west… and Tillamook Cheese could be enjoyed by those fortunate enough to be traveling along the west coast. How much more treasured and appreciated would these items be? But, on the other hand, how lucky we are that we all can find Tillamook cheese in just about every grocery store, just down the aisle from Coors beer, which is around the corner from the Vidalia onions! But, I digress….
Over 1 million visitors make the trek to the factory to see the process of packaging the cheese from upstairs viewing stations. (Tours of the processing area were discontinued in 1967 due to health and safety concerns.)
Here are a few views from the observation area. I apologize for the odd color created by the glass.
Here you can see three of the 8 vats where milk is made into cheese. Each vat holds 53,500 pounds of fresh milk. Three batches of cheese are made each day.
Each block of cheese is weighed. If the block is underweight or overweight, it is shuttled to one side. The single block on the lower edge does not weigh enough. The worker will reach over and place a slice of cheese on its top, and move it back into line.
The blocks continue down the line where plastic wrap is placed around the cheese, sealed and cut (I think with a hot wire) and later will be processed (either by heat or suction) so the wrapper tightens around the cheese.