Have you ever been to a place as a kid that is so much fun that even when you’re an adult you want others, especially your own children to experience what you’ve experienced? That’s what Tillamook is for me, an experience. Which is why so many of my favorite recipes involve Tillamook, like the one pictured above, Cheese Stuffed Pretzels.
When we first started blogging as a career Cade and I decided that we wanted to have a few goals in place so that we had something to work towards. We also set a few ground rules, but we can talk more about that part later. The first goal that I blurted out was that I wanted to work with Tillamook. As a kid we had visited the factory, camped on the beach, and had it engrained in us by our parents that we bought Tillamook cheese. I have so many fond memories of Tillamook and their products that it felt natural to have the brand be one that I wanted to work with as long as I could. This summer I got an email inviting me out to Tillamook for a little blogger media trip. I’m sure you can guess how excited I was.
Alright, let’s jump right into it and be totally upfront with each other. First, no I wasn’t asked to write this, and second yes I totally I can’t wait to brag up the area I grew up in and a brand I adore.
Flying into Portland, Oregon was seriously too much fun. I cannot believe I had the privilege of growing up in such an incredibly beautiful place, (ok I grew up in Vancouver, but it’s pretty darn close). I know it rains a lot but you get used to it and the lush, green surroundings and fresh air make it totally worth it. We only stayed a day in Portland, and then it was off to Tillamook.
The drive to Tillamook is amazing. It’s easy to forget the Tillamook is literally a place and not just a brand, and that it sits on the coast, but trust me the place is just as important as the cheese. You see, Tillamook is not a normal brand. There isn’t a big CEO that runs everything and no one ever sees the guy, no Tillamook is a co-op. It’s farmer owned. The employees all know each other and the farmers make decisions together. They work hard to produce the dairy and run a brand. They do it because they have passion for their products, their way of life and for you and I, the consumers.
Trust me, this isn’t what you imagine when you think of a huge, award winning brand, but it’s exactly what the brand is, family owned, real people, and real product. In fact it’s always a little funny to me that people picture big factories and machines when in reality this brand is all about the actual faces. Like this sweet lady and her husband/family that owns one of the farms that produces dairy for Tillamook. Let me give you a quick little rundown of why her and her husband,and the other farmers are ten times cooler than you or I.
*Wake up starts around 2:30 -3:30 every morning and the man of the family gets in a good 8 hours of work before it’s even breakfast. Ever. Single. Day. Work includes cleaning out the stalls (which is crazy hard work to keep a bunch of cattle stalls clean and it’s literally back breaking labor.), feeding the cows, milking the cows (No, they do not sit on indivicual stools and manually milk the cows. There are too many and too much milk needed to do that. They do have the cows get milked but it’s a very sanitary and efficient process where a sensor knows when the cow has let down her milk and it’s time to stop), tending to broken fences, hurt cattle, sick cattle, preparing feed and on and on.
*Farmers are a Jack of all trades. They have to learn all about the diets of cattle and what they need to be healthy and strong, they become physicians learning what’s wrong with the cattle and how to care for them. This particular farmer can actually run iv’s on his herd if one comes down with something and is in need. Farmers learn about birthing and how to help as well as how to tell when the cattle are in heat and how to mate the cattle. These things are happening every day or very often, so a farmer is constantly watching over everyone.
*Farming is expensive with less return than output. Think about it, a farmer is up before dawn and doesn’t come in until around 8:00pm and sometimes even later! Then there’s buying food and supplies for the cattle which can over $10,000 every quarter!
Tillamook still uses the same process and recipe that they started with over 100 years ago and they still believe in their farmers and the hard work it takes to make such an amazing product. I loved touring the factory and learning that Tillamook not only tastes good, and believes in people coming together to share their love of the brand, but they are also higher quality than even I, their biggest fan knew!
*Tillamook was a natural brand before the natural phenomenon even started and they are working hard to become even more natural in the years to come.
*Tillamook is unique in how the make their products:
~Tillamook creates smaller blocks of cheese (only 42 lbs compared to other brands who can be over 600 lbs!!) which they cut up and send off to stores because they believe it gives an opportunity for better quality. A smaller block of cheese cools down more evenly and is able to age better than a big huge block that the outside will cool long, long before the center does which creates inequality in the brand (hello! There’s the reason that some brands of cheese are mealy, crumbly, dry or not as flavorful from brick to brick).
*Tillamook tests every single case of product. That’s right, instead of a truck load being tested Tillamook uses a food scientist who takes the time to analyze every case. It was amazing to watch them hack into a big tub of ice cream, eat it in a specific way so they can get every flavor profile and then inspect everything about it to ensure that you get quality product that is always the same across the board. In fact, in order to make sure that the team of “experts” that test daily are always at their best they actually have specific rules about what they eat! That’s right, they can’t start their mornings with a breakfast that would overpower the food or make them too full as it would affect how they test the product. You know the feeling, if you’re full and someone offers you a taste of something it doesn’t taste as good as if you were hungry, and vice versa, anything tastes good when you’re starving! So they have rules and guidelines to keep their pallets ready for testing.
There’s just something so different about Tillamook and one thing I’ll never forget is that Tillamook said that they are always interested in letting the dairy speak for itself and any flavors should compliment and allow the dairy to shine. It was like an aha! Moment for me. Try it for yourself, go try a Tillamook Ice cream and an off brand and eat it slowly. You really can tell that it has a “dairy” overtone to it. You can always tell it’s a dairy product and it’s rich in a luscious dairy way.
I know, I’m a bit of a cheese head (clearly all of us are) when it comes to Tillamook, but it really is a brand with heart. It’s about the food and the people, not about the money or popularity. In fact it’s one of the few brands I’ve ever heard of that takes the same cheese you buy in the store to competitions versus making a special brick just for judging, and guess what, they still win!! You should feel so thrilled that the product you buy in the store is so stinking good they can with awards with it! I love Tillamook and I look forward to one day bringing my family out there and teaching them about the process, product and why we stand behind certain brands forever.
And in case you were sweet enough to read through my gushing here are my favorite Tillamook recipes on the site.