Langlois Blue Vein Cheese - A Little Taste of History

Langlois Cheese Factory as it looks today

If you glance west while crossing Floras Creek on Hwy 101, you will spy the last remaining remnant of what was once a thriving cheese industry in Langlois. Once known as Dairyville, Langlois was home to six cheese factories, the last and most well known of which was the Langlois Cheese Makers and producers of the famous Langlois Blue Vein Cheese.

Owner, Hans H. Hansen, began his dairy experience at an early age in his native Denmark, coming to America in 1898. In 1915 he acquired a sizable herd of cows and began making Cheddar cheese on the well-known Star Ranch near Langlois. Experiments in the making of the Langlois Blue Vein Cheese began in 1939 working in conjunction with scientists at Iowa State University and Oregon State College.

Prior to 1941, Americans had enjoyed imported French Roquefort Cheese, made from sheep’s milk and aged in caves. What the scientists had discovered was how to duplicate the French cheese using cow’s milk, aged in a temperature-controlled environment. The final product was notedas a full-flavored Roquefort at its best, with a rich creamy texture of English Stilton.

By 1941 Langlois Blue Vein Cheese was made in earnest by Hansen in Langlois under the label Langlois Cheese Makers. It became so popular that the Cheddar was discontinued for some time. In 10 years the annual output built to half a million pounds per year. Indeed, so rapid was its climb to nation-wide fame that it was soon being shipped to many other countries as well, including England, continental Europe, Japan and India.

“The world’s finest cheese is made in the West.
‘Tis better by far
Than other brands are.
Try some! You’ll at it with zest!”

The Langlois Cheese Makers were ideally located on the original route of the coastal highway. Visitors were welcome to visit daily for tours, sample the cheese and, of course, buy delicious treats to take with them.

Gift catalogs for Langlois Blue Vein Cheese, “made on the shores of the Blue Pacific”, included local products such as cranberry sauce, crab legs, smoked sturgeon and kippered salmon. Doris Hansen, Hans Hansen’s wife, was active in the business and invited customers to send in recipes using the popular cheese. If chosen, the recipes were reprinted in the gift catalogs and the customer received a full wheel of cheese as a “Thank You”.

The plant employed about 15 people on a regular basis, doubling the crew between Halloween and Christmas the busiest time of year. There was no automation in the plant, with the exception of an automatic pre-heater.

There were many steps to producing the cheese. The milk came in daily from the local farmers and was weighed, graded, and tested for purity. Then it was put through a homogenization process (“strictly an American innovation” according to the Hansens) to produce a more consistent flavor.  After homogenization, a lactic acid bacterial culture and rennet were added for coagulation of the curd. The curd was separated from the whey, and a pure Penicillium roqueforti blue mold culture was mixed with the curd “in a such a quantity as to give Langlois Blue Vein Cheese that superior unexcelled flavor.”

The next step in the process was “hooping” in  steel forms to give the cheese its shape, and finally it was placed in the curing room where the blue mold developed. During the aging process, each wheel was turned one-quarter turn everyday, aging about 6 months.

Mary Capps (nee Boice) of Bandon grew up a block from the Hansen factory and worked there as a young woman. She laughingly recalls having to hose off at home in the screened porch, no matter the season, because she would come home so “stinky”.

There were four buildings on the Langlois property – two factory buildings, the warehouse and the Hansen home. Tragically the factory buildings burned down in 1957 and the Hansen home was condemned in 2008. All that remains is the red-roofed warehouse, built in 1941 to house and age the cheese, and the to-be-renovated Langlois Cheese Makers sign. The wonderfully stinky cheese, however, lives on. Maytag also acquired the recipe and Maytag Blue Cheese is available today at the Langlois Market.

Since the fire, the warehouse was home to Dick’s Feed & Seed Store, and the current owner, Dennis Bowman, now makes the “Cheese Factory” available for community gatherings and private functions. The walls inside are adorned with memorabilia from the property’s history.

Photos of the Cheese Factory, its history and products can be seen in the Images Gallery. Follow this website for upcoming releases of recipes included in Langlois Cheese Makers catalogs.