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Brush Creek Creamery Uses Flavors From Surroundings, Soil, In Pledge To Maintain Artisan Production

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When husband-and-wife team Brian and Rebeccah Salmeri decided to launch their own cheesemaking operation, they vowed to maintain small-scale production for two critical reasons: to preserve the artistry of the endeavor and to balance work and family life.

The Salmeris, both skilled in the cheese and dairy industries, launched Brush Creek Creamery, along with friends, here in 2010. After more than a decade of earning awards, recognition, increased demand and establishment of a new retail store, production output has remained steady.

“We take a lot of pride in the quality of our products, and we try our best to make products people want,” Brian Salmeri said.

“When you really put your heart into what you’re doing, the passion shows,” he said. “Do you like what you’re doing, or is it just a job? If it just becomes a job, it loses its excitement.”

“We try to live a very full life, where we have a healthy family life, a fulfilling work life and a healthy spiritual life,” Salmeri said. “When you’re living a whole and healthy life, good things can come.”

Brush Creek sources its milk from a local Brown Swiss herd. The company has previously made Feta and other drier cheeses and yogurt with milk from a Jersey Holstein herd, but Brush Creek’s Bries and Blues are made exclusively with Brown Swiss milk.

Rebeccah Salmeri grew up on a farm and has been experimenting with making cheese since she was 19, reading noted author Ricki Carroll’s book cover-to-cover and eventually recruiting French cheese consultant Ivan Larcher, whom Salmeri met at the 2009 American Cheese Society (ACS) annual conference, held that year in Austin, TX.

Larcher tutored Salmeri in the art and science of cheesemaking, shortly after which she met her future husband.

“I had a small Jersey dairy,” Brian Salmeri said. “Once she learned the art of making cheese, then she needed to find some really good milk. The first time she ever won at the American Cheese Society was with my milk.”


Brush Creek Creamery's varieities of cheese include Orchard Blue, Maple Mountain Brie, marinated Labneh and Clearwater Select among others.

 

At the time, Rebeccah and her cousin Marc Kuehl owned and operated Brazos Valley Cheese in Waco, TX. Brazos Valley is a much larger operation in comparison to Brush Creek, processing about 800 gallons of milk per day.

After Brian and Rebeccah got married and moved to Idaho, they agreed to keep this operation small and strictly artisan, with everything done by hand, Salmeri said.

We didn’t want to lose the taste, texture and artisticness of small-scale production, he said.

“We make our Brie with 100 gallons of milk at a time, but we make it in 50-gallon vats,” Salmeri said. “We’ve got a true belief that once you get big and start cutting and stirring it mechanically, it’s not the same as putting your gloves on and having hands in there working the curd.”

The product line features a number of award-winning, raw milk cheeses including Orchard Blue, Brie, Clearwater Select aged 60 days with a line of vegetable ash in the center, wrapped in wine-soaked grape leaves; Maple Mountain Brie wrapped in mountain maple bark; and Marinated Labneh.


Cheese maker and co-owner Rebeccah Salmeri makes Brush Creek Brie at the company’s production facility in Deary, ID.

 

Other available varieties are Clothbound Cheddar, Marinated Feta, and Montasio – made using an old Italian monastery recipe.

The concept of terrior is also a critical element of cheesemaking for Brush Creek, with imbued flavors coming directly from the soil and surrounding mountains. Mountain Maple bark and huckleberries are just a short hike away.

“You can’t just produce huckleberries; they’re only grown in the wild,” Salmeri said. “You can’t tame them. We wanted to make a cheese particular to our area, and this is a way we can personalize our cheese.”

Brush Creek freezes its huckleberries, and boils them right before they’re added to the Havarti cheese.

“Havarti is already a soft cheese. When you’re ready to mold it, you put the huckleberry juice on the curds before you add the salt and berries. It’s amazing stuff,” Salmeri said.

“We make a morel mushroom Montasio, where we go up in the mountains and gather the morels,” he said. “Because these are seasonal, we usually make a lot of cheese when we can. Our customers know what they want and commit to it, but once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

While the cheese emphasizes local terrior and is personalized for Idaho dwellers, organizations like ACS are exceptional in promoting “great cheeses that come from a little town called Deary, Idaho,” Salmeri said.

“We send out a lot of samples, but it pays off,” he said. “We’ve not had anyone who hasn’t ordered at least once or twice,” he continued.

The top three sellers for Brush Creek are its Mountain Maple Brie, Orchard Blue and Labneh – a yogurt-based, Mediterranean style cheese. It starts with Brush Creek yogurt, which is drained in cheesecloth for 12 hours, then spiced and shaped into balls.


Brian Salmeri exhibits Brush Creek’s cheese cave and the artisticness of varieties.

 

Labneh balls are packaged in 8-ounce jars and available in Raw Garlic and Roasted Garlic flavors. The austere ingredient list includes garlic, parsley, salt and a few other “secret steps,” Salmeri said.

The Labneh has a following of its own, he continued. Customers make trips just to buy Labneh. They call it “the Idaho crack, because they’ve gotta have it,” Salmeri said.

People buy it for special occasions, or you can use it with fresh bread and vegetable sticks, jalapeno poppers, crackers, salads, pizza, pasta or with just a spoon, he continued.

Brush Creek cheeses are sold online, at local farmers’ markets and grocery retailers, at the company’s retail spot in Deary’s Pie Safe Bakery.

The creamery also participates in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, and “next thing you know, you’re in some restaurant and they’re buying wheels of your cheese. It’s pretty neat,” Salmeri said.

The year-long pandemic has presented new challenges with getting product safely to consumers, Rebecca Salmeri said.

We realized that people still have to eat; they just may not be getting their food from restaurants, she said.

“We needed to connect directly with the consumers, and began doing bag drops where we deliver to the nearest big town to us every Saturday morning,” she said.

It’s a roughly 35-minute drive to rendezvous with customers in the parking lot of a historic building between 10 a.m. and noon for curb-side pickup.

“Every Tuesday, we post on Instagram and Facebook what our package selection is for that week,” Salmeri said. “It’s nine items from our Creamery, bakery, gristmill and farm, including eggs and canned fruits and vegetables.”

 

 


“We have a wonderful following of customers who look forward to our goodie bags every week,” she continued.

The Ultimate Goal Of Giving Back
Rebeccah and Brian Salmeri would love to watch Brush Creek maintain a steady manufacturing pace – enough to enjoy a nice living, while being able to proudly offer consumers artisan products.

The couple also has the equally important goal of giving back to the community.
“The Lord has blessed me with a wonderful life, and a help-mate that has given her heart and younger years to the dedication of making cheese,” Brian said.

“She’s very humble and soft-spoken,” he continued. “She loves being a mom and she loves making cheese. She’s also taught a lot of other people how to make cheese.”

Our goal is to see our dairy in full swing, and help troubled youth through a cheese and dairy program, Salmeri said.

We want to be able to give those people who have burned every bridge an opportunity, he said. I remember a time in my life where someone gave me an opportunity when I didn’t deserve it, and we pay it forward, he continued.
For more information, visit www.brushcreekcreamery.com.