In april 2013, Darigold tasked Rouleau with a major project: rolling out a new retail line of natural cheddar cheese. While he’s worked at Darigold basically since the milk company’s entry into the wholesale cheddar market, developing a product for home use presented a new challenge. Based on market studies, Darigold determined their new cheddar needed to be sharper than previous cheddars they’d made, with a bit more body. They wanted it to shred, melt, and slice exceptionally well. And they wanted it to be natural, which meant omitting the coloring agents sometimes used to make cheddar cheese orange.
“ most importantly, he used a process that sets darigold cheddar cheese apart from many other cheddar cheeses.
Rouleau, a scientist at heart, developed a series of cheese trials designed to find the cheese with the perfect combination of tang, creaminess, flavor, texture, and age-worthiness. He tinkered with his formulas, changing variables like fat content and starter combinations, adding more or less cream to some test vats and changing how long the cheese spent at different parts of the cheese making process. Most importantly, he used a process that sets Darigold cheddar cheese apart from many other cheddar cheeses. Rather than using a simpler stirred-curd process, Darigold relies on a milled curd process — a cutting, turning and pressing procedure the cheese goes through before it gets formed into bricks. From a cheese taster’s standpoint, “milled curd” cheese means each bite has more protein and fat in it, and less water, which translates to more flavor. Rouleau points out how many cheddar producers skip this step.
On the first cheddar testing day, he tested 16 different cheeses, all in the running (at the beginning) to be the company’s new retail cheddar. “It was a bit of a leap of faith to launch an entire product line based on a few days of testing,” admits Rouleau. But at the first taste test, after grading one test batch — “Test E” — Rouleau’s notes showed a clear winner. “Best of the bunch,” he scribbled that day. He’d made a cheese with good body, developing flavor, and a firm texture that he thought would age well without getting crumbly. Over the next few months, time in the warehouse (which can hold a baffling 25 million pounds of cheese) proved him right. The folks at Darigold’s Seattle headquarters gave Rouleau the green light.
After months of testing and retesting — he wanted to make sure each and every batch of Darigold’s new cheddar came out of the plant with the same taste and texture — Rouleau is ready. And now, on grocery store shelves in Seattle and Portland, so is his natural cheddar cheese.