Although there's some food manufacturing going on today in the Reading Terminal Market, Eran Wajswol will take it in a new direction when his Valley Shepherd Creamery opens later this year.
Wajswol plans on bringing 24,000 pounds of raw milk to the market each week to make about a ton of hard or semi-soft cheese. With that much cheese, it will age both in the market's basement and back in the creamery's caves in Long Valley, in northwestern New Jersey. In addition to making, aging and selling cheese, Valley Shepherd will serve lunchers cheese paninis and offer an olive bar.
"We are designing and gathering equipment now to determine if we can, indeed, do what we want," Wajswol replied to your blogger's email inquiry. "In a few weeks we will know more."
Friday Architects, the Philadelphia planning and architecture firm which created the market's Avenue D renovation plan, will visit the farm and dairy next week to begin its design work on the RTM outlet, which Wajswol describes as "very complex, because there are four elements to the space, each requiring design, equipment and talented folks."
The first element will be sourcing and transporting the milk to the market in three weekly 8,000-pound shipments. It will be unloaded into basement tanks for storage, then pumped back upstairs as needed in the cheesemaking operations behind glass for visitors to watch.
Wajswol decided against making fresh cheeses, like mozzarella or quark, because a pasteurization system would be required. With only 610 square feet for retail sales, panini-making and cheese-making, there's simply no room.
The lunch menu will be based on paninis or, as Wajswol calls them, Maninis. He said they are "being conceived by some infamous food truck people and will be tested and redesigned by local Philadelphia food talent (which we are finding amazing)."
Using milk from sheep, Jersey and Guernsey cows, and goats, Valley Shepherd's cheeses cover a wide range of styles and traditions: fresh, soft-ripened, blue, hard, semi-hard, and washed-rind. You can read a full menu of the cheeses at Valley Shepherd's website. The store also plans to sell a few cheeses from "several family farms we know and love," Wojswol said.
There will be additional brined products beyond olives on the olive bar, he said, "featuring products from several countries with a strong emphasis on brined products from that most foreign country called Brooklyn."
Brooklyn is no accident, since last year Valley Shepherd opened a retail store in the borough's Park Slope neighborhood after closing a Manhattan outlet.
A limited variety of Valley Shepherd cheeses has been available for the past few years at the Fair Food Farmstand of the Reading Terminal Market. Other than at a few farmers' markets, the Park Slope store, the farm, and a handful of retail outlets in New Jersey and New York City, the only other places you're likely to find its products are cheese plates at upscale restaurants.
Who makes food today at the RTM, besides the restaurants and lunch stalls?
Herschel's East Side Deli takes fresh meat and turns it into brined corned beef and cured pastrami in the basement. And Giunta's produces some of its sausages on site. Otherwise, food production is centered on baked goods and sweets: cookies at Famous Fourth Street and the Pennsylvania General Store, baked goods at Beiler's Bakery and Flying Monkey Bakery, pretzels at Miller's Twist, fudge at Sweet as Fudge Candy Shop, and molded and dipped chocolate items at Chocolates by Mueller.