Meet the Cheese Maker: Donna Pacheco, Achadinha Cheese Company
This family-operated ranch is by lead by Jim and Donna Pacheco, along with their four children.
The Achadinha Cheese Company family tradition began three generations ago in Achadinha, Portugal and Vallejo, California with both of Jim’s grandfathers milking cows. The family branched out and in 1969 Jim’s parents ended up in Petaluma, where the Pachecos are currently milking cows and goats to make their own Farmstead cheeses.
MM: How do we pronounce Achadinha? What is the origin of the name?
DP: Achadinha (Osh-a-deen-ha) is a small town in Portugal where my father-in-law is from.
MM: What is the philosophy behind Achadinha Cheese?
DP: It is very important to know where our food comes from. We are a farmstead, so we know how our girls (cows and goats) are fed and treated. We feed them a more alkaline diet, so they can digest their food, which means we can digest what they produce much better. We give tours to educate the public about farm life.
MM: How does your location in Petaluma/Sonoma influence your cheese?
DP: The Petaluma lifestyle is all about fresh air, pastures, and the natural yeast in our valley that influence the flavor of our aged cheeses.
MM: Do you have any specialties? What are your top sellers?
DP: Top sellers at Farmers Markets are our Broncha aged cheese (a Portuguese table cheese made with a seasonal blend of pasteurized goats and cows milk aged 3 to 7 months), butter, and kefir (a strained cheese made from goat and cows milk).
MM: Is there any particular cheese that’s a go-to for local chefs?
DP: Chefs buy our feta, fresh curds, and fromage blanc most often.
MM: How is your cheese best stored and for how long?
DP: We do not use any preservatives, so our fresh cheese is always sold fresh and best eaten fresh. Our aged cheeses are cut weekly for optimum flavor and are best stored in wax bags.
MM: Besides eating straight up, do you have any favorite methods for incorporating your cheese into recipes?
DP: I love our cheese with apples, pears, and figs, or grated over asparagus, brussel sprouts, and salads. Crowd-pleasing Broncha cheese is delicious on cheese boards, in salads, for grilled cheese, and macaroni and cheese.