making cheese was never part of Mariann Janosko’s retirement plan. But six years after she and her husband, Jerry Onken, left their decade-old phone sales and servicing business, they’re crafting artisan cheese in 50-gallon batches.
The Hudson couple started Lake Erie Creamery in 2006 after local go-to cheese maker Ann Hauser shuttered her business. These days, Onken picks up Saanen Swiss goat milk from Portage County’s Cherry Lane Farm. It’s used to make fresh chevre (French for goat); blomma, a Swedish, mold-ripened cheese; raw milk and pasteurized feta; Caerphilly, a Welsh cheese that ages for 60 days; fromage blanc (“white cheese”); and tomme, created from mold-washed rind.
“All of the cheeses we make are really relatively simple,” says Janosko, who operates the company out of a building on Fulton Road in Cleveland.
Thirty-five to 40 percent of the cheese is sold at farmers markets (find it at Kamm’s, Coit and Cuyahoga Valley Conservancy markets) and by small vendors. The remaining 60 to 65 percent goes mostly to local chef-owned restaurants. It’s an easy sell, Janosko says. “[Jerry] goes out. He takes his cheese, opens it up and says ‘Here, taste this.’ ”