SF Bay Area
Food and drink that has us seeing gold
You know the adage: When life hands you a seventh-generation Jersey dairy farm legacy, make cheese and sustainable frozen desserts from cheesemaking byproducts. Perhaps that’s not entirely universal, but it is very much the case for sisters Amy and Beth Marcoot from Marcoot Jersey Creamery, founders of the concept of Whey Ice—potentially the next big thing to enter the frozen dairy treats aisle.
In 2009 the Marcoot sisters faced a decision: Stick with the academic pursuits—education and counseling, respectively—that their parents had always encouraged them toward, or pick up the baton from their retiring parents and continue the family legacy of raising Jersey cattle on the farm where they had grown up in Greenville, Ill.
“We thought, we should really try something,” Amy remembers. “What do we have to lose?” It’s precisely the brand of Midwestern can-do attitude and optimism that is very nearly mandatory for taking on a 24/7 enterprise. “The herd has to be milked twice a day, every day,” Amy explains. “They don’t take Christmas off.”
Beth Marcoot, the younger of the two sisters, remembers their dad during their childhood saying, “wouldn’t it be so cool if we could make our own cheese?” Even as a kid from a dairy-minded family, the thought that something wrapped in plastic in their fridge was within the scope of their own production was far-fetched. “But we also had a saying in our family,” Beth stated: “Never is a long time.”
And so the sisters literally bet the farm on it, deciding to self-process the milk from their herd rather than sell it to dairy co-ops, and establishing a creamery with another childhood friend, Audie Wall, a former engineer and helicopter pilot, releasing their first cheeses in 2010. “We learned cheesemaking the hard way,” Amy says, “by trial and error.” Audie’s scientific mindedness came in handy, as did taking cues from books by Vermont-based cheesemaker Peter Dixon. They showed his drawings for an Alpine-style cheese cave to a local contractor who built one for them. Eventually the sisters established a relationship with Dixon himself who, when he visits, tends to have an immediate request: “Let’s go look at that cheese cave.” The Marcoots now offer over 15 types of cheese.
Along with cheesemaking comes the byproduct of cheesemaking, namely whey, the milky substance left behind after the curds have gone on to their promising cheese future, destined to become Cave-Aged Gouda or Tipsy Cheddar, a partnership with Schlafly brewery. You may know whey only as the snack of choice for fussy, arachnophobic nursery rhyme characters or, on the complete other end of the spectrum, an additive protein powder for muscle-builders. But the Marcoots found a mode for making whey accessible for the rest of us: à la mode.
In order to have cheesemaking be a fully sustainable practice for them, the Marcoots had to reckon with the whey, and the bigger the cheesemaking process grew, they more of it there was. Some of it goes back to feed the herd. Some creameries are able to send it out to processing plants for use in protein powders, but Greenville—located about 50 miles outside of St. Louis— isn’t within striking distance. Whey Ice finally came into existence in 2017. “We had been working on different ideas for a while,” Amy explained, in terms of trying to fashion it into something healthy and delicious. “We looked all across the spectrum at the different ways people were using whey. Human consumption is the most valuable, and there’s nothing else out there like that.”
On its own, whey is “really bland,” Amy describes, but has a lot of nutritional value. The key turned out to be mixing it with 100 percent crushed fruits for an outcome that has more of an Italian ice texture, with a little natural creaminess, a terrifically fresh flavor, and—brace yourself—zero fat. “It’s neat to see that people, when they don’t actually know what they’re tasting, just share the reaction of ‘oh that’s really good!’” Beth describes. The product is delicious right out of the pint, but its true potential, in this author’s opinion, is its ideal inclusion in smoothies or—brace again—cocktails. Forget the lame skinny margarita; a beautifully tart margarita with natural protein? Please and thank you.
Whey Ice is currently only available at the Marcoot creamery and in local Dierbergs markets, but the gospel is spreading, care of the Undeniably Dairy campaign that has spotlighted the Marcoots, among other farmers, cheesemakers, and chefs that are devoted to sustainable dairy practices. “One of the things we learned really early on is when other people help us, it’s really like an art,” Amy says. “It means more whenever somebody else says it rather than when we try to advertise ourselves, and it really does make a difference for our company.”
Hopefully Whey Ice will be on its way to your area soon.
Header image courtesy of Marcoot Jersey Creamery.
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