Pearl Valley Cheese
by Tristen Spahr
Pearl Valley Cheese has been producing award-winning Swiss cheese for nearly a century. Located in Coshocton County, Ohio, the local business has been a family affair since its inception.
Pearl Valley Cheese has won many awards at the state, national and international level, including the 2019 Ohio State Fair Grand Champion Swiss Cheese, a title they have held since 2017, and the 2019 Ohio Swiss Festival’s Grand Champion Cheesemaker. In addition to a production plant, the company has a full retail store where visitors can watch the cheese-making process live and learn about the local dairy community.
“Ohio milk makes up about 80% of our milk supply,” says Pearl Valley Cheese President Chuck Ellis. “We value our partnership with local dairy farmers, and we want to see them be profitable and grow in their operations so that we can upgrade and grow as well.”
From one 200-pound wheel of cheese a day, the business grew.
The company makes 35,000 pounds of cheese per day and makes 13 varieties of cheese. In addition to Swiss cheese varieties such as Lacey Swiss, Baby Swiss and Naturally Smoked Swiss, the company produces other types of cheese such as Cheddar and Colby.
“My favorite kind of cheese right now is our Emmental Swiss,” says Chuck. “To make it, we use European Swiss cheese cultures, and we’re the only company in the United States using those cultures for a more flavorful style of Swiss cheese.”
Pearl Valley Cheese prides itself in being environmentally sustainable. The company treats their cheese wastewater in an anaerobic digester to generate electricity. “The methane gas that comes from the digester is used in an electric-generating microturbine that helps supply the electric needs of our cheese operation,” Chuck explains. “One of the byproducts of the pre-treatment is organic sludges, which go onto our farmlands as fertilizer. The final discharge goes to the local municipal sewage plant, which has helped them to expand and grow their capabilities as well.”
Pearl Valley Cheese was started in 1928 by Swiss immigrants Ernest and Gertrude Stalder, who began making cheese in a copper kettle. “From one 200-pound wheel of cheese a day, the business grew, and it was then passed on to their son and daughter-in-law John and Grace Stalder, who moved away from copper kettles to stainless steel vats and expanded the product offering,” says Chuck.
In the 1980s, the next generation of family members began working in the plant, and the company was again passed on to Ernest and Gertrude’s daughter Sally and her husband Chuck Ellis, who are now the present owners. Since then, the business has continued to grow and expand, and Sally and Chuck’s sons Kurt and Thomas Ellis, as well as their nephews David and Daniel Burch, presently run the day-to-day operations.
Learn more about Pearl Valley Cheese at pearlvalleycheese.com.