Last year, I visited the Cellars at Jasper Hill and had the opportunity to participate in the Winnimere cheesemaking process. It was a very educational experience as there are some interesting new developments going on at Jasper Hill. I thought I would share a little about the cheesemaking process, as well as give a sneak peek into a couple of new cheeses:
Flocculation is a test conducted with a rounded knife. The knife is put into the renneted milk. When the milk starts to curdle and grab onto the knife, an experienced cheesemaker is able to determine the exact time to cut the curd.
This was something I had never done before, but it allows the cheesemaker to more accurately monitor the curd cutting process. Winnimere is pretty heavy on rennet (the agent that coagulates cheese), meaning it is extra important to be aware of timing when the curd is cut. Otherwise, the curd will get too firm for cutting and the moisture-to-fat/protein ratio will be off.
Here is a photo montage of the Winnimere cheesemaking process (including pH testing and flocculation):
One of the most exciting things about my trip was hearing about a couple of the new cheeses in development:
- Harbison: This new cheese was still in development when I visited the Cellars. It is essentially a smaller format version of Winnimere, but instead of the funky, yeasty washed rind, a beautiful light, bright, full-bodied rind prevails. When I was there, Mateo (one of the founding brothers behind Jasper Hill) thought it wasn’t quite salty enough. We also looked at a few larger wheels of the cheese that were chalky in the center – he blamed this on lack of salting. Personally, I enjoyed the more delicate, rounded flavor of the well-ripened, smaller wheel. Harbison is a cow milk cheese wrapped in bark sourced from trees on the Jasper Hill Farm, giving each wheel a beautiful woodsy flavor. Since my visit, the experimental process was concluded and we now get in small batches of Harbison, the first cheese from the cellars to be named after a lady – in this case, Anne Harbison, the “grandmother of Greensboro, VT.” Ms. Harbison is very active in the community there between running a bed and breakfast and volunteering at the public library. Plus, she has known the Kehler brothers since they were children!
- Kinsmen: This cheese is made by Doug and Deb Erb, the producers that make Landaff, but it is a squatter wheel that is being washed with different brines. There were three different varieties of this cheese in the test batch we tasted. Among those we tasted was one that was washed in the Winnimere brine: 20% saturation, with all the Winni cultures. This wheel was bright, herbaceous, with a beautiful rich paste. It reminded me slightly of Vendeen Bichonne, with a thicker paste, and a cleaner, less mold covered rind.
We hope to be able to offer Kinsmen to folks soon!
Jessica Sennett is a cheesemonger with previous experience as a cheesemaker both in the United States and in France.