One of our favorite ways to celebrate Thanksgiving is with a round up of some of New England’s best cheeses. While we love the fruits of Europe’s great cheese-making traditions, Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to reflect on and celebrate American cheese makers, and our country’s own tradition of beautiful cheeses of all milk types and textures. This year, our Cambridge store’s domestic cheese buyer Tripp, along with the rest of the cheese team, have brought together four of our favorite Vermont cheeses for a perfect addition to the holiday table!
Founded in 1886 as a model agricultural estate, Shelburne Farms sits on the edge of Lake Champlain in Shelburne Vermont, just fifteen minutes south of Burlington. In addition to their successful dairy, vegetable, and sustainable forestry programs, Shelburne Farms also runs an nonprofit dedicated to conservation education, and in 2001 it was named a National Historic Landmark. Their Vermont farmhouse cheddar is made solely with raw milk from their herd of grass-fed Brown Swiss cows, and comes in a variety of ages. Our favorite is this two-year old cheddar, which has a delightful crumbly texture and turns creamy on the palate.
One of the the original New England artisan cheesemakers, David Major raises sheep with his wife and family in Westminster Vermont. They model their sheep’s milk cheeses after aged mountain cheeses of the Pyrénées, and Verano in particular has caught the attention of cheese lovers on both sides of the Atlantic. Verano, which means “summer” in Spanish, is made with their herd’s summer milk. The sheep’s summer diet of wild herbs and grasses gives their milk, and resulting cheese, extra herbaceous notes in it’s earthy sweetness. This cheese is wonderful with classic pairings, like the cherry jam from staff-favorite Boutique Arraya. It also pairs wonderfully with more seasonal tart treats like Wood’s Cider Jelly!
Recently crowned the “best unpasteurized cheese in the world” at the 2014 World Cheese Awards in England, Bayley Hazen Blue regularly features as another Formaggio Kitchen staff favorite. The creamy, crumbly texture of Bayley Hazen Blue is an immediate stand-out among blue-veined cheeses, with flavors of sweet grass and peppery spice. The Ayrshire cow’s milk provides a nutty, pleasantly farmy foundation for this complex cheese. Jasper Hill Farm in far north Greensboro Vermont makes phenomenal cheeses using milk from their small herd of Ayrshire cows. They also run an expansive, top-notch aging facility used by many of the state’s other producers including the much-loved Cabot Clothbound Cheddar.
Molly and Katie Pindell have been making cheese in Stowe Vermont since 2008. Together with their small herd of registered Alpine goats, they produce some of our favorite fresh goat cheeses made in Vermont. Styled after the French classic Valencay, Sterling is dusted with ash and aged for just two weeks, and it’s smooth texture yields a rich, tart flavor. Madonna is denser, but still creamy, with a brighter, lemony flavor that pairs beautifully with New England honey.