Back to Basics – Creamy, Creamy Basics

In honor of the Creamery’s recent eighth birthday, this post celebrates the happy little story of how the cheese shop we love came to be.  It’s a Zingerman’s classic.  And it begins with cream cheese, as all good stories should.

It was right around the year 2000, and the sandwiches of Zingerman’s Deli were in top form.  They had benefited immensely from the (then 8-year-old) Bakehouse’s old-fashioned, long-baking, good-and-simple-ingredient laden bread recipes.  The Deli staff no longer had to drive daily to Detroit in search of a halfway-suitable loaf!  Out of this quest for great food, the Bakehouse had been born, and the Creamery started much the same way.  Because now that they had a great bagel, the next logical step for any self-respecting Jewish deli was to top it with smoked salmon and good cream cheese.  But most all of the cream cheese offerings of the time were preservative-laden, gummy bricks – and none of it was local.

And so: through the search for a truly traditional, hand-made fresh cheese, the Creamery was created.  John Loomis, former local cheesemaker and then-cheesemonger at the Deli’s cheese counter, became the head of the new adventure, and the Creamery was started on a farm in Manchester.  We later moved right next door to the Bakehouse, and since the very start we’ve always used super-fresh Michigan milk, and gentle pasteurization to preserve its flavors.  Besides starter and rennet, we add cream and salt to the milk… and that’s about it.  No vegetable gums, nothing that will make it indefinitely, unnaturally shelf-stable.  The result is a cream cheese of the sort that has rarely been tasted since the early 1900s.  An award winner at the 2006 American Cheese Society competition, this is a cheese so rich, smooth, and slightly sweet it takes the bagel and lox combo to a different level.

Since initiating the return of really awesome cream cheese to the culinary world, the Creamery has branched out to making the wide variety of fresh and aged goat and cow’s milk cheeses you know today.  We’ve even added a hard aged cheese, the Great Lakes Cheshire, to our repertoire.  But our reverence to the simple fresh cheese that started it all has not diminished.  Our Real Cream Cheese has remained one of our most popular cheeses throughout the years, as scrumptious today as ever before.

This is the story of Zingerman’s Creamery.  And all the people lived happily ever after, eating cheeses.  The end.

Coming in October, we will be mixing harissa from Tunisia in with our real Cream Cheese for a spicy and creamy treat.  And for a limited time we will be giving away a special Cream Cheese & Harissa T-shirt with the purchase of a 1/2 pound or more.