Oakdale Cheese & Specialties
(Bulk Farms)
10040 Highway 120
Oakdale, CA 95361
Telephone: (209) 848-3139
Fax: (209) 848-1162
email:  oakdaleche@itechnet.net

Finding Holland beautiful, but too crowded and offering too few opportunities, the young Bulk family decided to immigrate to the U.S. in 1980 in search of new opportunities. Since Walter Bulk had worked with his father in the Netherlands raising sugar beets, potatoes, wheat and grass seed, he quickly found a similar job in the farming community of Marysville, California near Sacramento.

Prize-Winning Gouda
Soon after settling down in Marysville, Walter was unhappy to see that the price of Gouda cheese imported into the U.S. from his native country was surprisingly high. He was he challenged by the idea of making this Dutch cheese in the U.S., at a cheaper price. Although his family in Holland was not engaged in commercial cheese production, his maternal grandmother made cheese at home so he grew up in a cheese-making environment. Using recipes he obtained from family and friends in Holland, he experimented for about a year and found that he was able to produce a Gouda that was not only identical in flavor to the cheese made in Holland, but that his production costs would enable him to sell his cheese for only 50% of the price of the imported version. That propelled Walter and his wife Lenneke to establish Bulk Farms in Escalon, a small town east of Modesto, where they into commercial production in 1983. In 1984, only a year after becoming cheese makers, the Bulks entered their Gouda cheese into a competition in Holland and won second prize!  They have also won 2 gold medals at the Sacramento State Fair with their new garlic basil flavored Gouda and Aged Gouda and won First Prize at the American Cheese Society in 1999 in the International Cheese category with their mild Gouda.

Gouda and Beyond
Today, under the Oakdale Cheese Company label, a company that the Bulks started in 1995, Walter produces 1,500 lbs. of Gouda in 10 lb. wheels and 350 lbs. of quark each week. The Bulks are one of 3 or 4 Gouda makers in the U.S. and one of 3 quark makers.  Today they produce 6 types of flavored Gouda (garlic, basil garlic, garden herbs, smoked, cumin and jalapeno pepper) in addition tot the traditional mild and aged varieties.

About half of his output is sold at farmers' markets in the Bay Area (he participates in 12 throughout the year) and the other half is sold in his retail shop in Oakdale on Highway 120, which the Bulks opened in 1995. The shop is strongly reminiscent of the Bulk family's Dutch heritage, including a full-sized mannequin in traditional Dutch dress, wooden shoes and Dutch baked goods for sale.  The shop is open every day from 9:00 am - 6:00 pm. 

Cheese Making
Walter makes cheese-making sound like a simple, straightforward process:

To make Gouda
  • Day 1: 800 gallons of pasteurized milk are poured into an open cheese vat then a cultured bacteria and rennet are added to separate the curd from the whey. As the curds rise to the surface, some of the whey is drained off and hot water is added to shrink the curds. The curds are stirred for about an hour, then pressed into a 650 lb. block. After settling for about 30 minutes, these blocks are cut into 10 lb. squares and pressed for 3 hours in metal hoops to form the cheese wheels and to extract excess water.
  •  Day 2: The 10 lb. wheels are moved into a salt brine where they stay for 2 days, allowing the salt to penetrate into the cheese to give it flavor.
  • Day 4.5: The wheels are removed from the salt brine and coated with wax to prevent mold.
  • Next 8 - 10 weeks: Each 10 lb. wheel is cured in an aging room at 55 before it's ready to sell.

 

To make Quark
  • Pasteurized milk is poured into a fermentation tank and a "starter" is added to initiate the fermentation process.
  • After 16 hours of fermentation, the curds of "quark" are removed from the fermentation tank and poured into cheesecloth to allow the whey to drain out.
  • The draining quark is checked every few hours.
  • When it has reached the right consistency--usually in about 10 hours-- it's packed into 1 lb. plastic containers and it's ready to sell.

What is Quark?
It's best described as a soft and fresh, low-fat cheese with a slightly sour flavor and slightly grainy texture. Quark is common throughout Europe where it's most often used as a baker's cheese, but it can also be used as a cheese spread on toast and as a low-fat alternative to cream cheese. For a great recipe using quark see Gabi's Fruit Tarte (Der Kuchen von "Gabi").

Vital Statistics

Serving size: cup (30 g.)
Calories: 35
Total fat: 2 g. (saturated fat 1.5g.)
Sodium: 10 mg.

Cholesterol: 0 mg.
Carbohydrate: 1 g.
Protein: 3 g.

Limited Distribution
You'll find Oakdale Cheese products in specialty stores, at their Oakdale shop on Highway 120 or at one of the Bay Area's farmers' markets. They're at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market every Saturday year-round. They will also accept mail orders at the address listed above.

For more information visit the Oakdale Cheese website at http://www.oakdalecheese.com.

August 1996 (updated March 2000)

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