New book on the Cheese Notes shelf: The Small Scale Dairy: The Complete Guide to Milk Production for the Home and Market, by Gianaclis Caldwell. Caldwell is the author of Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, which I’d say is currently the best how-to book out there for home and small-scale cheesemakers. She also wrote The Small-Scale Cheese Business (formerly titled The Farmstead Creamery Advisor), another must-read for anyone considering opening their own cheesemaking business.
I’ll have a review of it soon, but in the meantime you can learn more at the site of Chelsea Green Publishing.
A few weeks ago, after spending the morning with the cheesemakers at Von Trapp Farmstead, I got back on the road and drove towards Greensboro, VT, home to one of America’s more unusual experiments in cheese, the Cellars At Jasper Hill. Much more than just cheesemakers, the Cellars, launched by brothers Mateo and Andy Kehler in 2008, have taken on an ambitious goal: to bring the European affinage model of cheese aging and distribution to Vermont, bringing together Vermont cheesemakers large and small in one facility and creating a sustainable economic vehicle for small Vermont dairies in the process. The Kehler’s motto, “A Taste Of Place”, captures their aspiration to create a new, distinctly American version of terroir.
(Check out more photos from my visit)
Whereas most cheesemakers both make and age their own cheeses, in the affinage model this process is divided between the maker — who takes the cheese from milk to wheel — and the affineur — who receives the young wheels and then ages them to completion in specialized facilities. This is a well established economic and distribution model in France in particular,
Three Vermont cheesemakers brought home honors from last week’s 2014 World Champion Cheese Contest, held in Madison, Wi. A panel of 50 international judges picked the winners in various classes including varieties entered from around the world.
Among the winners were these Vermont companies:
Cabot Creamery Cooperative, of Cabot, was awarded three Best of Class Awards for its 2+ Years Cheddar, Hot Buffalo Wing Cheddar and Cottage Cheese. Cabot also took third place for its Medium Cheddar.
Cellars at Jasper Hill, of Greensboro, was awarded two Best of Class Awards for its blue veined Bayley Hazen Blue and soft ripened Harbison.
Grafton Village Cheese Company, of Brattleboro, was awarded third place for its mixed milk Shepsog.
Read the full story.
Dark Rye Magazine features San Francisco-based urban cheesemaker Heidi Kooy in this short video.
A thousand square feet, even in the city, is farm-worthy. Heidi Kooy grows and makes cheese in San Francisco, accompanied by a bunch of chicks and more than just one kid.
A Visit To Von Trapp Farmstead
A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a top creamery on the Vermont cheese scene: Von Trapp Farmstead, in Waitsfield VT, in the north-central area of the state. I was on my way to the Cellars At Jasper Hill, so Von Trapp was a timely stop, as they have worked closely with the Cellars for a few years now. Visiting both in one day gave me a unique opportunity to see both sides of the new model of cheese production in Vermont: the producers and the affineurs.
Von Trapp Farm has been in operation since 1959, when Werner and Erika Von Trapp purchased it. In 1979, their son Martin and his wife, Kelly, took over the farm with their three children. For most of that time, it has been a milk dairy only; it was not until the late 2000’s that Martin and Kelly’s sons, Sebastian and Dan, proposed the idea of building a creamery to make cheese from their high-quality milk. This followed on their going through the process of obtaining Organic certification for their milk, and came at a time when the Von Trapp’s, like many Vermont dairies, was struggling to remain profitable in the face of cripplingly low prices for milk. For Sebastian and Dan, cheesemaking held out promise as a “vehicle for sustainability”, a way to keep the farm in the family while generating a product they could be proud of.
In 2009, after Sebastian had spent time in England apprenticing with cheesemakers, as well as working with the Kehler brothers at the Cellars, they completed construction and opened the doors on the cheese house. Dan has since moved on, but Sebastian is still running the creamery, and is now working with cheesemaker Molly Gould. Molly was actually my connection to Von Trapp, as we had first met while we were both students in the Cheesemaker Certification program at UVM’s Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese (VIAC).
I arrived on an afternoon when they were making my favorite Von Trapp cheese, the Oma (you can see my previous post about Oma here.
Named for their grandmother (“Oma”) Erica, this pudgy, pungent washed-rind is the first cheese that they began making and was their introduction to the cheese world. It’s gone through quite a bit of development and refinement over the years, and is now a prize-winning beauty with a rind of amber and pink, covered with a morning frost of white mold, a bit sticky, and an elastic, oozing paste when ripe, moderately eyed, and a well-balanced flavor profile; earthy, buttery, with notes of nuts, hay and cave. This cheese is actually aged at — and bears the label of — the Cellars at Jasper Hill, and is part of the Kehler brother’s much-vaunted affinage program, working to revitalize Vermont’s dairy economy by providing an outlet and state of the art aging facilities for locally produced cheeses (I’ll be speaking more about my visit to the Cellars in a future post).
The Von Trapp cheesemaking room, located near the milking parlors and cow barns, is a gleaming, state of the art facility, with the 1500-liter Dutch-made vat mounted on a catwalked platform about 4 feet off the ground. This allows the curds to be released through a large pipe at the bottom and flowed out onto the cheese multi-moulds in a highly efficient manner — ideally you want your curds into the forms as quickly and smoothly as possible, to minimize damaging them or allowing them to start knitting unevenly or sitting in the vat too long. I arrived just in time to see the curds being cut and stirred by Molly; Sebastian then manned the vat, controlling the flow as Molly rapidly piped the curds into the forms and portioned them out, topping off all the wheels before sending it down the line and pulling in a fresh multi-mould.
Once they were in the moulds and ready to move to the caves, a hatch in the floor with a pulley above it allowed the carts of fresh wheels to be lowered to the underground drying, brining and aging facilities. Molly took me down to the caves, where we saw bloomy rind’s being wrapped, and blue cheeses, freshly pierced, aging on racks, as well as Oma’s getting brief initial agings before being ready to ship up to the Cellars.
The Von Trapp cheeses are true farmstead cheeses, with the cow barn visible through the creamery window and the milk coming fresh every morning directly from the cows some 50 yards away. The herd is a mix of Jersey, Ayrshire and Normandie cows; This mix of milks — Jersey’s and Normandie’s are particularly prized for their butterfat content — combined with the high quality, organic feed, is an integral ingredient, Sebastian believes, in the quality of the final product.
In addition to the Oma, Von Trapp has three other cheeses in their lineup:
a buttery, mild, Camembert-style bloomy rind cheese, with a smooth texture, named for a peak not too far from the farm. Made with pasteurized cows milk and aged for a minimum of three weeks.
A new alpine creation and named for Samuel S. Savage, who settled the von Trapp farm in the 1700’s. An alpine-style, hard-cooked and pressed cheese which is aged for 8-12 months. Savage is actually aged in the alpine vaults at the Cellars at Jasper Hill, but sold under the Von Trapp label, through an arrangement separate from that of the Oma. Savage brings buttery, nutty and sweet flavors, with a bit of B.Linen red and wonderful bacon and roasted leek notes on the rind. My favorite alpines are the ones with a bit of punch, like Challerhocker, Scharfe Maxx or Sternschnuppe, and Savage seems to be developing in that direction.
Mad River Blue
Also a fairly new cheese, the Mad River is aged in the Von Trapp caves. A natural rinded raw milk blue aged for 3+ months. Buttery, salty and sweet, with vegetal notes and a bit of pepper.
It was great to see the cheesemaking in action at Von Trapp and to taste the new cheeses that they have in the works. Oma and Mt Alice are pretty widely available at cheese counters in NYC and elsewhere, and the Mad River Blue is showing up more frequently. At this point, the Savage is produced in very limited quantities and is currently only sold at farmers markets in Waterbury, Waitsfield & Stowe and Burlington.
(And yes, in case you were wondering: The Von Trapps are related to the Trapp Family Singers of Sound of Music fame. The Trapp Family Lodge is located down the road in Stowe, VT.)
Two big pieces of news in this story: Andy Hatch — Cheese world rock star and maker of two monger-favorite cheeses, Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Rush Creek Reserve — is now officially co-owner of Uplands Cheese; and, they’re working on a new tomme! from The Cap Times in Madison, WI:
This week, Uplands announced that Hatch and his farming partner, Scott Mericka, will take over for Gingrich and Patenaude at the farm 50 miles west of Madison.
The shift in ownership is a transition that has been in the works since 2008. Gingrich, now in his 70s, has retired and plans to move to Madison.
"People have already been eating Scott and Andy’s cheese for years," Hatch said. "Just the paperwork changed."
Uplands has cultivated a following for its Pleasant Ridge Reserve, a gruyere-style cheese that won Best in Show at the American Cheese Society competition three times, most recently in 2010. Each batch is aged between six and 24 months.
It’s calving season now, and Hatch is working on a new cheese as well. It will likely be another tomme, a “mid-moisture” French cheese. Hatch said he’ll be shooting for something halfway between the Rush Creek and Pleasant Ridge, aged five to six months.
"We won’t try to mimic any one of them," Hatch said of existing tomme styles in France and Switzerland. "We’ll play with our milk and see what we can coax out of it."
Hatch wouldn’t rule out bringing in milk from other herds, but only for a different cheese. The Pleasant Ridge will continue to be made from Uplands’ own grass fed cows’ milk.
Molly and Sebastian of Von Trapp Farmstead, feeding the Oma curds into the moulds, from the platform-mounted vat. The washed-rind Oma is made at the Von Trapp creamery, and then sent to the Cellars At Jasper Hill to be affinaged.
A few cheeses from my recent visit to Von Trapp Farmstead: Mt Alice, Oma, Savage and Mad River Blue.
The Bayley Hazen moon rising over the Cellars At Jasper Hill. Yes, that’s actually a wheel of Bayley Hazen Blue, and if you look closely you’ll notice that the craters are cow-shaped. This mural is on the cow barn at Jasper Hill Farm (next door to the Cellars) in Greensboro, VT, where I had the good fortune of touring their amazing facilities yesterday (a more detailed post to come).
And btw, this mural isn’t entirely fictional: the Cellars actually sent a wheel of Bayley Hazen up into the stratosphere on a weather balloon, and then ate it afterwards.