About the Bongards Creamery
Bongards was founded in 1908 as a co-op. Today the premium cheese company has three processing plants in Norwood and Perham Minnesota as well as Humboldt, Tennessee. Justin Larson, the Plant Manager at the Perham, Minnesota cheese plant, was our tour guide for this Bongards Creamery virtual field trip. Cheese making is nothing new for his family; Justin is a third generation cheese maker following in his father and grandparents' shoes.
The make room is where the milk is turned into cheese. A vat is where cheese is made from 60,000 pounds of milk. Prior to the milk going into the vat, it is pasteurized or heated for 15 seconds. The milk then goes into the vat with the starter bacteria to add the flavor to the cheese.
There are eight cheese vats at the Bongards' Perham, Minnesota location. This means at any given time seven vats are full making cheese. An agitator stirs the milk. Once the coagulant, the renant, is added to the cheese vat, the vat is turned off for 20 minutes to wait for the milk to turn into a pudding consistency. After 20 minutes, the agitator will spin in the other direction with knives on the opposite side of the vat that will cut the curds.
When the milk goes into the cheese vat it is about 90 degrees in temperature. Depending on the type of cheese being made, the curds can be cooked at different temperatures. cheddar cheese, the type of cheese being made on the day of the virtual field trip, will be about heated up to 102 degrees for thirty minutes once it has curds.
In 2021, 186 million pounds of cheese was made in 2021. It takes about 100 pounds of milk turns into 10 pounds of cheese. This means that about 1.5 billion pounds of milk where processed to make cheese last year. Most of the milk comes from 150 mile radius and it comes from Bongards' over 400 member owners.
To learn more about the processing and what happens in the Bongards' Tower Room, check out the virtual field trip video.