Check out TheAtlantic.com's great photo-essay on Swiss Cheesemaking, with gorgeous photos from photographer Denis Balibouse, documenting the process from pasture to cave:
In Gruyeres, western Switzerland, from mid-May to mid-October, the fifth generation of the Murith family produces its distinctive mountain pasture Gruyere cheese. Each wheel of cheese weighs between 25 and 40 kilograms, and takes a minimum of six months to mature. The family produces 200 wheels each year to sell locally, using unpasteurized milk from their own herd of cows. Reuters photographer Denis Balibouse spent time with the Murith family over this past grazing season, capturing days and nights in the alpine pastures of Switzerland. [23 photos]
View the full slideshow.
(Photos ©2013 TheAtlantic.com)
On Friday, November 8th, Cheese Notes and fellow blogger Jessica Sennett of Cheese In The City are collaborating on a cheese tasting event at Skytown, in Bushwick. The theme of the night is “Urban/Local: A Cheese Speakeasy”; on the plate will be cheeses from a cross-section of urban and local cheesemakers, from as nearby as Gowanus to as far away as the Catskills, as well as pairings of various kinds. Cheesemakers will include Jos Vulto of Vulto Creamery, Yoav Perry of ArtisanGeek.com, Jon Bonanno of Arattom Dairy, Vito Forte of the Drifter, as well as Jessica and I. There will be live music, a short film from Jessica about local cheesemaking, beer from Basil Lee and Kevin Stafford of Finback Brewery (Queens’ newest craft brewers, they’re currently in the process of building their facilities), and more! Tickets are $20, you can buy them now at cheese.brownpapertickets.com, or at the door on the day of the event. 21+, and drinks can be purchased at the bar in addition to the samples from Finback.
The final lineup of participants could change as we get closer as well, stay tuned here and at Jessica’s blog for updates! You can read more about some of the participants in the "urban cheesemaking" post I wrote for Modern Farmer.
Does the idea of cheese-based tourism interest you? Rhetorical question — OF COURSE IT DOES. Well now there’s a tour company, helmed by a pair of cheese experts, that aims to give you the cheese vacation of your dreams:
Through Cheese Journeys, Anna Juhl and Chris George aim to create unforgettable food travel opportunities that allow you to share in their passion for artisan cheeses, the individuals who create them and the cultures that nourish them. It’s the commitment of everyone involved with Cheese Journeys to create a uniquely personal and educational travel experience for their guests while promoting an awareness of the world’s finest artisan cheese, food and drink producers- all individuals that have enriched our lives over the years.
Join us on March 31st, 2014 for Cheese Journeys inaugural trip to the ancestral home of Cheddar, Jane Austen, King Arthur and Camelot in Somerset, and then on to world famous markets and affineurs in London.
Plan to join us for a 9 day trip to France and Switzerland September 2014. Travel through the culinary back doors of France to the Jura, Savoie and Alsace regions and eastern Switzerland to experience some of the best cheese and wine making in the world. We are currently finalizing the itinerary which will include a personal tour of Marcel Petite Fort St. Antoine Comte, an alpine chalet and wine tastings on the famous Wine Road of Alsace!
Learn more at Cheesejourneys.com.
(Photo ©2013 Cheese Journeys)
Want to study cheese making with some of Vermont’s best? The Cellar’s at Jasper Hill may have the course for you:
Are you an aspiring cheesemaker? Perhaps a creamery hobbyist in your home kitchen? Are you looking to learn more about the chemistry behind cheesemaking so you can improve your recipes and make a better product?
The Cellars at Jasper Hill is partnering with Sterling College to host a new 2-week intensive course in artisan cheesemaking, to be held in January 2014. Read here for the course description and information on how to sign up!
It’s that time of year again: October brings us the 3rd annual American Cheese Month! Once again, the American Cheese Society, partnering with cheesemongers and cheese makers around the country, are presenting a month of events, as well as the American Cheese Month Passport Program, through which individual mongers offer a 20-40% discount on a different cheese each day in October. Restaurants will also be featuring American-made cheeses on their menus, cheese makers and cheese guilds will be hosting “meet the cheesemaker” events, and much more:
October is American Cheese Month!
American Cheese Month is a celebration of North America’s delicious and diverse cheeses, and the farmers, cheesemakers, retailers, cheesemongers, and chefs who bring them to your table.
October 1- 31
Wherever there is cheese and wherever there are cheese lovers. American Cheese Month is your chance to spread the word, experience great American cheeses, and help support and promote great cheese, local communities, and passionate producers.
Everyone who loves cheese! Get creative – we’ve got some ideas to get you started on our Get Involved page.
- To recognize and raise awareness of the quality and diversity of American cheeses
- To support and promote great cheese, local foods, family farms, traditional methods, and sustainable production models
- To generate funding for the American Cheese Education Foundation – if you hold an event, please consider donating a portion of proceeds to help the American cheese community educate its members and the public. Your donation helps ensure the highest quality, safest, most wholesome, and diverse cheeses can reach consumers via well-trained and certified folks behind your local cheese counter.
Learn more at the American Cheese Month site! And visit your local retailer to pick up for ACM Passport. Last year in NYC, mongers such as Murray’s, Saxelby’s, Brooklyn Larder, Lucy’s Whey, Stinky, Artisanal, Eastern District, Bedford Cheese Shop and more participated, offering steep discounts on some of the best domestic cheeses.
The Wedge - Portland’s Celebration of Cheese!
Portland, Oregon folks take note: Saturday, October 5th sees the return of The Wedge cheese festival, taking place at the Green Dragon Bistro and surrounding streets. $5 gets you in to meet and taste some of the best artisan cheese makers from Oregon and surrounding states, or you can go for the VIP ticket, which gets you in early for the preview tasting. There will also be seminars led by Murray’s Cheese, Steve Jones of Cheese Bar, and more:
The Wedge is a Farmers’ Market-style event, featuring cheese and cheese accompaniments. Come sample and purchase local, artisan cheese, take a class, and try your hand at cheese wheel bowling. Yes, cheese wheel bowling.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
11am – Noon — VIP Preview Event
Noon – 5pm — General Admission, $5 Suggested Donation
Located at Green Dragon Bistro and Brew Pub (and surrounding streets) at SE 9th and Belmont.
Proceeds go to the Oregon Cheese Guild, which is dedicated to the art and craft of making cheese. The Guild is a collaborative effort to help cheesemakers network, create educational opportunities and benefit from participating in economies of scale.
Check back! New vendors added daily.
Ancient Heritage Dairy - Madras, Oregon
Briar Rose Creamery - Dundee, Oregon
Full Circle Creamery - Independence, Oregon
La Mariposa Cheese – Albany, Oregon
Portland Creamery – Portland, Oregon
Fairview Farm Goat Dairy – Dallas, Oregon
Ochoa’s Quesaria – Albany, Oregon
Rivers Edge Chevre – Oregon Coast Range, Oregon
Willamette Valley Cheese Co. – Salem, Oregon
Bellwether Farms – Sonoma County, California
Cascadia Creamery – Trout Lake, Washington
Cypress Grove Chevre – Arcada, California
Mt. Townsend Creamery – Port Townsend, Washington
Jacobs Creamery – Chehalis, Washington
Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese – Gooding, Idaho
Beehive Cheese Company – Uintah, Utah
Fern’s Edge Dairy – Lowell, Oregon
Oregon State University Cheese – Corvallis, Oregon
Rogue Creamery – Central Point, Oregon
Tillamook Cheese – Tillamook, Oregon
Goldin Artisan Goat Cheese – Molalla, Oregon
Face Rock Creamery – Bandon, Oregon
Pholia Farm – Jackson County, Oregon
Cheesemaker Visit: Woodcock Farm
Earlier this year, as summer was winding down, I found myself in the town of Weston, in southern Vermont, enjoying some last days of warmth and greenery. Although this was not a cheese trip per se, I knew that there was one destination I couldn’t pass up: Woodcock Farm, source of award-winning artisan sheep and cow’s milk cheeses and located in Weston just a few miles from where I was staying.
Woodcock is the farm and home of Mark and Gari Fischer; their daughter, Sam, has also joined the family business at the vat and helps her father out with the daily makes. located on a winding country road, the farm’s location is flagged by their distinctive yellow and green illustrated logo with a cartoon bird — the eponymous “woodcock”, a woodland bird known for its long, slender beak — standing on a sheep’s back.
On the hour that I arrived, Mark, Sam and a visiting cheesemaker from nearby Consider Bardwell Farm were just getting down to cutting the curds for a batch of Ewe Two, a gouda-ish, semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese that is a current work in progress (the name had only recently been made public and availability is still limited). As Sam expertly harped the cheese with quick, smooth strokes, Mark set up boards and moulds on the nearby steel table and reminisced about his journey to cheesemaking. A graduate of the esteemed Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), he actually got his start, back in the 70’s and 80’s, in the film industry in New York City, working as a video editor and living on the Bowery. Mark and Gari came to the realization that the city life was not for them, and headed for the country, first upstate New York and then the green mountains of Vermont. Mark went through a variety of jobs, including a stint as a ceramic tiler, before a chance encounter with David Major, of Vermont Shepherd, changed his life. Major, in addition to being a successful and award-winning cheesemaker in his own right, has for a long time been the patron saint of sheep in Vermont, creating a cooperative and educational resources and offering seminars to support sheep farming in Vermont and encourage “value added” practices like cheesemaking, to make the farms viable. That cooperative no longer exists, but it left a positive impact on the Vermont landscape, with Woodcock being only one of many sheep farms launched with Major’s guidance.
Through his friendship with the Major’s, and after attending workshops that they were leading, Mark’s grew to recognize his desire to pursue the sheep dairy path, and bought himself a small herd and began milking the ewes and making cheese with their milk. Local success, and a desire to expand, led to the purchase of the land in Weston, where he grew the herd, over time to some hundred-head of East-Friesian sheep — a favored breed for cheesemaking — and the building of a cheese plant. Originally just one room, the creamery has expanded over the years, so that now it is a full-fledged operation, with two walk-in aging spaces, production, packaging and distribution spaces.
Woodcock is still a family operation, however; despite the considerable demands of running both a sheep farm and a cheese plant, Mark, Gari and Sam do the lion’s share of the day-to-day work, with farm and cheesemaking interns occasionally doing stints on-site. This has put limits on their growth, but Mark doesn’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. “I like the hands-on work”, he commented, while checking the curds with his fingers for firmness and spring, “if we grow to the point where we’re hiring full-time staff, I’ll be spending more time at my desk and on the phone than I will in the vat”; a few minutes with Mark reveals the passion and connection he has to the cheesemaking process, and one can understand why that does not seem a desirable outcome. For this same reason, he has resisted the urge to keep growing the herd, and rather than adding cows to the mix, they purchase cow’s milk as needed from neighboring farms for their mixed-milk and cow’s milk cheeses.
Mark is a born experimenter, and is constantly tinkering with recipes, trying different mixes of milks, cultures, cut-sizes and aging methods. The sheep’s milk, while far richer in fat and protein — which is why it’s so prized for cheesemaking — can also be trickier to work with, and the cow’s milk, as Mark says, allows for more leeway, can be more forgiving. Woodcock often has new cheeses in the works, but these “experimental” cheeses often go unnamed, and are sold only at the nearby Londonderry Farmer’s market while Mark is working out the kinks. The Ewe Two is one such cheese, have only recently reached a stage where he was comfortable with the quality and was willing to give it a monicker.
The Ewe Two is a new cheese for Mark, but the cheeses that have really put him on the map and made him a favorite of cheesemongers are the Weston Wheel, a sheep’s milk Tomme that was one of their early cheeses, and won a First Prize ribbon at the American Cheese Society conference in 2003 in the Farmstead Sheep Milk Cheese category; Summer Snow, a bloomy-rind sheep’s milk wheel; Cloud 9, similar to the Summer Snow but made with cow’s milk; The Timberdoodle, a pungent washed-rind cow’s milk slab with a wide, long format; the True Blue, a cow’s milk blue cheese that is similar to a Mountain Gorgonzola; West River Feta, a bulgarian-style feta; and the Humble Pie, a washed rind cow’s milk wheel.
After we had moulded the cheeses and applied the weights, Mark gave us a tour of the facilities, taking us into the two cheese caves where the wheels are aged. The walls were filled with Weston Wheels, his signature sheep’s milk Tomme, with their distinctive numbers stamped into the tops, and the Magic Mountain, mixed-milk alpine-style wheels. On one side of the room, the long, squarish slabs of Timberdoodle were beginning their aging process, getting periodic washes in the brine to encourage the growth of the orange-red b.linens. Wheels of the blue cheeses resided in the same space, recognizable by the profusion of holes punched into the top by the piercing needles.
In the cave, there was a slab of Timberdoodle cut open for sampling. The reddish-amber washed rind encloses a soft, buttery paste, a bit pungent and meaty, with sweet, buttery and earthy notes. This was a younger Timberdoodle, but as they age they’ll develop a fuller, more typically “washed-rind” profile and a softer, oozier texture.
Two Summer Snows were available, one perfectly at peak — the creamline oozing out around a firmer center, creamy, nutty and with citric and lanolin notes — and the other well-ripened; Mark was worried that it might be overripe, but it was well-appreciated by this consumer, as it had developed brothier, fuller flavors and a bit of mushroomy aroma, with more pronounced sheepy, barnyardy notes and a creamier texture.
there was also a wheel of the True Blue cut open, readying it for the next day’s farmer’s market, and we were offered samples. The flavors are rich, buttery and full, salty and herbaceous, with notes of fruitiness and caramel and a lingering peppery bite on the tongue.
As I left, Mark and Sam continued the work of cheesemaking and preparing for the next day’s market. Wandering around to the sheep barn (with a pair of border collies following me closely, although they were more fixated on the stick in my hand), I was greeted by a stampede of East Friesian’s, curious to see what I was bringing them. Behind the barn, the green hills and fields stretched out, framing the white-washed creamery with the grassy pastures on which the sheep feed and which eventually become the excellent cheeses of Woodcock. You can find their cheeses at many cheesemongers in New York City, as seasonality allows. And if you’re ever in Londonderry, VT, make sure to stop by the West River Farmer’s Market for a sample of cheese direct from the maker.
Note: Heather Paxson, MIT Anthropologist, has a great chapter in her book “The Life Of Cheese:Crafting Food and Value in America”, which focuses on Vermont Shepherd and Woodcock Farm and tells the story of both the Major’s and the Fischer’s and their path to cheesemaking, as well as exploring the economies and ecologies of their businesses; it’s well worth a read if you want to learn more about Woodcock (not to mention that the book as a whole is an insightful and engrossing exploration of the world of artisan cheese in America. I highly recommend it).
It’s that time of year again, when the greatest cheese festival in Europe, the biennial Slow Food Cheese Festival, returns to the city of Bra, in the Piedmont region of Italy, from September 20-23. This truly unique festival brings the most unusual, small-scale, artisan and traditional cheese producers from all over Italy, Europe and now even further-flung origins (including a growing American presence) to one place, to celebrate formaggio in all of its glory, variety and oddity. This is where — in addition to an exhausting selection of the world’s best cheeses — you’ll find the most unusual, stinky, runny, wrinkled, rock-like, fuzzy and oddly-shaped cheeses on the planet, brought down from the alpine farmhouses and forest caves where they’re still being fabricated and aged. The festival, and the Slow Food movement, serve an extremely important role in the preservation of these varieties, as they could easily slip into extinction without constant vigilance and support for the producers. The Festival includes the Ark of Taste, intended to protect “the cheeses around the world that urgently need to be saved from crushing standardization”. In fact, this year, the public is urged to nominate the cheeses that they believe are in need of saving. You can fill out the online form to submit a cheese, or if you’ll be in Bra, swing by the Piazza dell’Arca, with your cheese in hand, to have it nominated.
From the Slow Food site:
Cheese is back in Bra for its ninth edition, held this year from September 20 to 23.
Discover a world of cheeses amidst the stands of the Cheese Market-where you’ll find, among others, the producers from the Slow Food Presidia-and in the selections offered in the Great Hall of Cheese, this year featuring a special focus on the cheeses of the British Isles. During this ninth edition of the event, Slow Food will be relaunching the Ark of Taste project, inviting producers, exhibitors and visitors to nominate the cheeses around the world that urgently need to be saved from crushing standardization. Naturally there will be plenty of places for eating and drinking, like the Street Food stands, the Tasting Booths in the regional areas, the Beer Piazza and the Pizza Piazza.
The guided tastings of the Taste Workshops are always popular, and this year several will be held in the beautiful setting of Pollenzo (a few kilometers from Bra), in the Banca del Vino and the University of Gastronomic Sciences. The Master of Food courses will focus on tastings of typical cheeses from Belgium, the United Kingdom and Italy, paired with local and artisanal wines and beers. The Dinner Dates offer unmissable opportunities to dine in stunning locations where world-renowned chefs will be preparing local and international specialties. Once again, the educational activities for schools and families visiting the event will be an important element, as will the Milk Workshops, debates featuring experts and professionals discussing the issues around raw milk, starter cultures, the cheese-making traditions of the British Isles, animal welfare and the importance of pasturing.
For more information: cheese.slowfood.it
(Photos ©2013 slowfood.it)
On the Lover of Creating Flavours blog, David Jowett, who recently took on a position as Cheesemaker at Gorsehill Abbey Farm, discusses the farm, the creamery and the seasonality of cheesemaking and agriculture, as well as describing all of the cheeses that Gorsehill is currently producing:
The herd comprises of 60-70 milking cows, a mix of British Friesians and a French breed, the Montbéliarde. The herd has been carefully bred to give milk specifically for cheesemaking and cow longevity rather than volume, and although the yields are lower than many commercial herds of black and white cows, the milk is rich in both protein and butterfat, which is just what we want in the dairy. Unlike many other dairy farms in the area, we don’t put the cows through a traditional herring bone parlour to be milked, but use a single unit robotic parlour. The robot registers each cow as she goes in to be milked by reading a unique number on her collar. It then locates the teats with a laser, and washes each one. The robotic arm, guided by lasers then attaches each of the four teat cups to the teats. A small screen on the side of the robot displays all sorts of data as the cow is being milked – yield per udder quarter, total yield, cell count and rate of milk flow. The cows seem perfectly happy with the set up, and provide clean, delicious milk for cheesemaking.
We make cheese using this amazing milk, here on the farm, where we are able to respond to the daily changes in the milk as the cows move about the farm, as their diet changes through the year. We constantly tweak our cheesemaking recipes thought the year to suit the milk. A large aspect of farmhouse cheesemaking is to embrace the seasonality of milk, and to be able to react to this, and to be able to adapt the cheesemaking to accommodate this. The composition of milk from cows on pasture will be vastly different from cows being fed indoors in winter. Equally, the fat:protein balance changes throughout the lactation cycle of the cow. So we have the compositional fluctuation, and then we also have something else coming into play which makes the cheese distinctive of the farm – the incredibly complex and ever-changing indigenous microflora of the milk, which is native to the farm, and gives our cheese unique flavours and aromas.
Check out the full post!
(Photo ©2013 Gorsehill Abbey Farm)
Vermont — and the wider cheesemaking world — lost a great educational resource last June, when the University of Vermont closed the doors on the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese (VIAC), one of the few programs of its kind in the country. (to be precise, VIAC will continue to exist and will offer consulting services to Vermont cheesemakers, but the public-facing educational program was shuttered). I completed my Cheesemaker Certification there in April, just under the wire, and was a member of the last graduating class.
While the loss of VIAC leaves a hole in the cheese world, other resources are coming online, including Cornell’s new cheesemaking program. Now Vermont Tech has announced that they will be offering an Essential Principles & Practices class, taught by Monserrat Almena-Aliste, PhD, an expert in a broad array of areas of cheesemaking and sensory evaluation and former Research Associate and instructor at VIAC, and Marie-Chantal Houde, head cheesemaker at Fromagerie Nouvelle France in Quebec and formerly a regular instructor at VIAC (I had classes with both Montse and Marie-Chantal; the photograph above is of Marie-Chantal demonstrating Titratable Acidity (TA) testing). this program, should it continue to expand, could eventually fill the role formerly occupied by VIAC’s educational program.
From the Vermont Tech site:
Randolph, Vt. — Whether you’re looking to open your own small-scale cheesemaking business or would simply like to learn more about how to make cheese, this fall Vermont Tech will be offering an innovative new course on cheesemaking that provides a comprehensive look into technology, chemistry and quality. Taking place on October 21-25 at the Randolph Center campus, the course is titled “Essential Principles and Practices of Cheesemaking” and pairs the technical know-how of renowned cheese experts with applied knowledge to offer an inclusive guide to the fundamentals of cheesemaking.
“This program is unique in that combines a comprehensive technical approach with an extremely practical component to teach the sciences behind cheesemaking,” said Dr. Montserrat Almena-Aliste, course instructor, American Cheese Society (ACS) Certified Cheese Professional™ and Dairy Technologist with over 20 years of international experience. “By combining years of experience in cheesemaking, the invaluable input of local award-winning cheesemakers and the practical, applied component that VTC offers, this course offers the most integrated cheesemaking experience that has ever been offered in the state, or perhaps even the country. I am extremely excited to participate in this course at VTC and am very grateful to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., for sponsoring my time in the program.”
In addition to instruction by Dr. Almena-Aliste, the developer of the curriculum for Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese (VIAC) programs for almost a decade, students will also learn from Marie Chantal Houde, a Canadian master cheesemaker and President of La Nouvelle France. At the end of the program, students will have the opportunity to get a private tour of Neighborly Farms and learn from Linda Dimmick, the farm’s owner, about the challenges and rewards of being a farmer and cheesemaker.
The course is structured in three main sections, the first focusing on the chemistry of milk and the different aspects of defining the quality of cheesemaking milk. Students will then learn the principles of cheesemaking and the different families of cheese with comprehensive hands-on lessons in making various cheese styles. The last section of the program focuses on how to monitor and control the fundamental factors driving the quality of the product.
“We’re very much looking forward to working with such notable cheese experts for this new program,” noted President of Vermont Tech Dr. Phil Conroy. “Not only a first for VTC, this type of practical cheesemaking program is a first for the state and we’re thrilled to offer this to the community.”
The cost of the five-day program is $1,500 and registration is available at this link: http://www.vtc.edu/right.php/pid/40/sid/565/tid/1614. For additional information about Vermont Tech, please visit www.vtc.edu.