The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 17, 2009

Cheese-maker takes root in Old Town

Aims at high-end markets

MANKATO — Getting it right when making fresh cheese is a combination of art and science.

Keith Adams works with precision inside a small production facility in Mankato’s Old Town as he tries to perfect the Camembert-style soft cheese he began making last spring under the Bent River brand name.

He heats the organic milk to precise temperatures to pasteurize it, allows it to sit for the specified time to separate the curds and whey and reach the proper pH levels, and he moves quickly at the right moment to remove the blend from a large vat, using stainless steel pails, to pour it into round molds and begin the aging process.

“It took me a while to get the recipe and formula correct. It’s part of the journey, I guess, but it was frustrating,” Adams said.

His new venture, Alemar Cheese, is meeting with success where it counts — the cheese buyers and upper-end restaurants who are adding his cheese to their menus.

As co-owner of the former Bagel Bros. bagel shops, Adams’ new business brings him back to two things he desires: Being his own boss and working with food.

Alemar is a blend of the names of his teen daughters, Alex and Mari, and the Bent River brand of his first cheese is in reference to the famed bend in the Minnesota River at Mankato.

Camembert cheese is one of the most famous of French soft cheeses. The thick, gooey cheese is popular on bread and paired with fruit. While it needs to be refrigerated to be stored, it tastes best served at room temperature.

Adams made a about a dozen batches of cheese before he felt he got it right and began shopping samples around. St. Peter Food Co-op is so far the only area outlet for the Bent River cheese. He’s also selling it at several co-ops and some restaurants in the Twin Cities area.

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