Amanda Heilman, plant operator at UDairy Creamery, stands in front of 250-gallon steel vat./Photo by Lindsay Weber
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Have you ever tried a Delaware-made cheese curd? For most, the answer is likely going to be “no”—but the UDairy Creamery wants to change that. The creamery, operated by students and staff at University of Delaware, debuted the new Genuardi Food Innovation Laboratory earlier this year. The lab features new ice cream and cheese processing plants, an expanded food science testing kitchen and several new office spaces. With the new state of the art facility comes several new offerings for students and creamery patrons alike.
A food science test kitchen, part of the new Genuardi Food Innovation Laboratory./Photo by Lindsay Weber
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The creamery first began selling cheese curds in early July in plain, ranch and old bay flavors. Food science intern Jade-Eve Bergeron says the response to the cheese has been overwhelmingly positive. Because cheese curds are something of a rarity in our small coastal state, Canada native Bergeron loves to see peoples’ reactions to their first taste.
“Seeing their face trying [cheese curds], they’re like ‘oh my God!’” she says. “And then I like seeing when they find out it squeaks, I think that’s fun. And they’re like ‘is this normal?’ And you’re like ‘absolutely, that means it’s fresh!’”
Not-yet-ready curds held above a 250-gallon steel vat that processes milk from the UD farm to create fresh cheese curds./Photo by Lindsay Weber
The cheese curds are just the beginning of UDairy’s new offerings, however. The creamery team is currently aging gouda and cheddar cheese to be sold in the fall, and they’re also working to streamline its ice cream production.
“We’re still fundraising for more high speed, more in-line ice cream processing equipment,” says Melinda Shaw, Director of Creamery Operations. “Once we have all of that we’ll be able to mainstream ice cream production more efficiently, but also teach what a larger corporation like a Turkey Hill or Ben and Jerry’s is actually using.”
UDairy plant manager Jennifer Rodammer, UDairy Creamery plant operator Amanda Heilman and Director of Creamery Operations Melinda Shaw separate whey from fresh curds at the Genuardi Food Innovation Laboratory./Photo by Lindsay Weber
Further down the line, UDairy Creamery hopes to venture into yogurt and butter production. When Delaware Today visited the laboratory in late July, creamery employees had set aside two large vats of whey and dairy fat to experiment with making butter samples. For the creamery team, experimentation is key. Because the facility is so new, employees are still in the process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
UDairy employees prep finished cheese curds in large containers./Photo by Lindsay Weber
This is all part of the learning process, according to Shaw. And the ‘cherry on top’ of the new lab space is the learning opportunities it provides for students, she says. The new kitchen will allow classes on ice cream production and other food science topics to take place in the laboratory building beginning next semester. Shaw says that hands-on opportunities like this are vital to prepare students for food science careers in the future.
The UDairy Creamery’s cheese curds are available in plain, ranch or Old Bay flavors./Photo by Lindsay Weber
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“Things like this are so important because [students will] be prepared for careers in the future, and getting hands-on experience at the creamery or here at the plant that they can’t get just listening to lectures,” says Shaw.
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