How Marcoot Jersey Creamery transitioned from dairy farm to cheese farm

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GREENVILLE, IL (KTVI) - A decades-old dairy farm in Greenville, Illinois has transitioned to the artisan cheese business.

John Marcoot grew up milking cows on this farm. Years ago, John and his wife, Linda, decided they either needed to go big or get out of business. It was a tough time for small and medium-size dairy operations.

Years later, two of their daughters, Amy and Beth, came home and helped their parents launch a cheese-making operation. Marcoot Jersey Creamery now produces 23 artisan cheeses in their state-of-the-art kitchen.

“This morning, Amy stared pasteurizing about 3 a.m.,” said Beth Marcoot. “Right now, the cheese is in a state where we've already added our coagulant.”

Beth is standing next to a large vat of what looks like mozzarella soup. The vat is about the size of a car, and it has several inches of a yellow-ish, milk-like substance in the bottom.

“If it pulls away nicely from the side,” said Beth, “it’s going to be ready.”

It wasn’t yet ready. Cheese maker Audi Wall explained it’s all about the proper PH-balance.

“All the milk gets dumped into the vat,” said Wall. “So we actually break this union right here.”

She is pointing to a shiny, stainless steel pipe coming out of infrastructure in the ceiling.

“And it comes in from the other room where it gets pasteurized and put into the vat.”

Beth Marcoot continued our tour of their facilities in the basement.

“So our cheese cave is a man-made cave,” said Beth. “Our family came from Switzerland in 1842 with a Jersey calf. We age all our cheese on ash wood, which is a very hard wood. This cheese right here is our aged Gouda. It will sit in here four to five months before we'll cut into it. This right here is called scamorza. It's an aged mozzarella. We'll let it age two to four weeks before we'll sell it. This cheese is our Havarti.”

Beth walks over by several medium pizza-sized discs floating in a stainless steel vat.

“We made it on Wednesday," said Beth. "And the process is after we make it and hoop it we bring it down to the brine tank.”

Back upstairs, the mozzarella soup is cheese now. And Amy Marcoot shows us the next step in the process. The cheese curd has been scooped out of the bottom of the vat, and she is chopping it up.

Cheese maker Audi Wall explained, “The pieces of the curd are approximately half-inch in size. That way the water can heat it up evenly. So whenever it stretches it stretches out real smooth.”

In 2010, John and Linda Marcoot and their daughters conspired on this new venture.

“Eventually we settled on making cheese,” said John. “And looking at other options on the farm, from making ice cream, to bottling milk, and so forth.”

Back in the kitchen, the mozzarella’s finished. And Amy shows us the next step in the production process. Her gloved hands are molding a hunk of mozzarella cheese.

“And so we're just going to bend it over and fold it over until we get a nice, smooth ball.”

A mozzarella cheese ball from Marcoot Jersey Creamery; waiting to be wrapped, packaged, and delivered to as many as 170 restaurants and grocery stores in Missouri and Illinois.

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