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Posts Tagged ‘goat cheese’

Dizzy feasts on buttercups

Dizzy feasts on buttercups

A cow named Dizzy munches on buttercups, a goat named Isabelle ruminates under the shade of an old oak tree; in Vermont, the rolling green pastures are shadowed only by the cheeses that its distinct flora promotes.

With all the marvelous European cheeses we carry, tasting through terroirs of France, Italy, Switzerland or Portugal can sometimes make it hard to remember that, here in New England, a slice of the Old World exists right on our doorstep. While Europeans are upholding some of the most important cheese traditions, Vermont’s cheese makers and affineurs (cheese agers) are bursting with creativity, blending European and American traditions with some truly extraordinary results.

Earlier this summer I awoke in a strange bed; the rattling in my head reminding me that I might have had one too many pints of beer the night before. I was at Consider Bardwell Farm, the first of several stops on a trip visiting the people and animals behind some of our favorite Vermont cheeses. My coworkers and I had been welcomed at the farm the previous evening with a feast spread by our gracious hosts and farmer friends. Now I scrambled to get dressed and greet the sun, which was just breaking through the clouds over the pasture.

Happy Goat at Consider Bardwell

Happy goat at Consider Bardwell Farm

The dairy was already bustling with activity before I crossed the fields to the milking room. The goats nudged each other trying to be first in line. The heifers ran to the stalls where suction would relieve their mammaries. Everyone was awake and brimming with energy. The farmers washed the equipment and prepared the udders for milking. The goats smiled, and seemed to laugh as they noshed on coveted treats, and gave their milk.

The milk traveled through sterile tubing into large vats in the dairy. The rennet was added and the process began. Each cheese has its own recipe, its own distinct needs to present itself best to our palates. While in the dairy, time, pH, and tactile impression shape the cheese before its curds are cut. Although most of the flavor in our favorite cheeses materializes in the caves, the structure of the final product depends upon the precision of the cheese maker.

Getting a Feel for the Dorset

Getting a feel for the Dorset

After a tour of Consider Bardwell’s controlled aging rooms, we drove to nearby Twig Farm to meet Michael Lee and his goats. The area was more wooded, and the land appeared to be mainly untouched. Michael greeted us at the end of the driveway and promptly gave a tour of the grounds. He introduced us to many of the 64 goats he cared for. Michael had names for each, distinguished by the goat’s markings and the color of its collar.

As we toured his land, and moved the fences to expand the pasturing area, Michael astounded us with his knowledge of the flora and the goats’ affinity for particular plants. He explained the nuances that particulars in diet bring to the flavor and structure of his famed tommes. In his cave he enjoyed watching the milk evolve. He embraced the micro cultures, molds, and yeasts that spawn delicious cheese. Twig Farm is small, Michael does the farming, cheese making and cave management himself with only an occasional helper. His devotion to the craft is recognized in each of his products.

Twig Farm Fuzzy Wheel

Twig Farm Fuzzy Wheel

From Twig Farm we traveled to Blue Ledge Farm, renowned for their Lake’s Edge and fresh chèvre. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived, and we had already missed the cheese maker. A young dog ran up to greet us near the barn. Hannah was right behind him. She took us down into their cave. There curds for chèvre drained in baskets along steel tables dripping with whey. In the next room, Lake’s edge rested covered in ash.

Next on my itinerary was Jasper Hill Farm, and the Cellars at Jasper Hill. In the pastures, on the way to the Cellars, we met Dizzy. She was munching on grass and wildflowers in a field just down the road from the barn. Jasper Hill’s cows spend much of the day ruminating in the gorgeous pastures on along the hills.

We passed the barn and dairy and continued up the road to the caves. This massive underground facility was unimposing, just a door into the hillside. Matteo opened the door and welcomed us into the cellars. Vince, our guide, and former Formaggio Kitchen monger, acquainted us with the many arms of the facility. One was devoted to raw milk bloomy rind cheeses, one to alpine style washed rinds, the largest arm was reserved for Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. The affineurs care for cheeses from a variety of neighboring dairies. Regular turning, washing, and tasting wheel after wheel is required by the cave managers to provide the best product possible.

Affineur washing Alpha Tolman

Affineur washing Alpha Tolman

After a fascinating visit at the Cellars at Jasper Hill we made our way to Cobb Hill. Cobb Hill is co-housing community who’s residents manage a vegetable farm and dairy, and create delightful cheese as well as frozen yogurt. We were given snacks of Ascutney Mountain, Cobb Hill’s signature alpine cheese and maple frozen yogurt; it was perfect on a hot summer afternoon.

I had one final stop. I was running out of time but needed still to visit Spring Brook Farm: Farms for City Kids. Here they are dedicated to educating children and impressing upon them the need for sustainability. With 100% Jersey cow’s milk the farmers create award winning cheeses like the Spring Brook Tarentaise. I was introduced to the copper kettle envied by many, and after visiting their cheese caves I took some time to wander the beautiful landscape, and pat a calf or two.

It was an incredible journey through the Vermont countryside; reflective of life ruled by the sun, the seasons, and a sincere commitment of neighbors to the highest standards of quality, community, and sustainability.

Future producer of Tarentaise

Future producer of Tarentaise

Nicole Roach is a keen kitchen experimenter and a member of the produce, register, and operations teams at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

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Domaine de la Pépière Château-Thébaud Clos des Morines 2009 Muscadet Sur Lie with Valençay Affiné

It’s springtime, and you can just begin to smell it in the air as the damp ground warms up and the bulbs start pushing through. In the cheese world, there is similar rejoicing, because kidding season (when goats have their babies!) has just passed and the best of springtime chèvres are appearing in the cheese case. Paired with a mineral-driven white, these little goat cheeses make a perfect afternoon snack or appetizer to welcome in spring! (more…)

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Robiola di Mia Nonna

Lois Reichert makes Italian-style goat milk cheeses. Located near Knoxville, Iowa, she has been making cheese since 2007, and has a herd of eleven La Mancha and Nubian goats. Both goat types are known for their high butterfat and protein content, making their milk ideal for cheesemaking. Lois’ is the first micro-dairy in Iowa, and she is one of the few cheesesmakers in the USA making robiola-style cheeses – the only others I can think of are Meadowood Farm’s Ledyard and Doe Run Dairy’s Hummingbird. She sells her cheese at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market, and select locations in the Midwest. Formaggio Kitchen is the only store on the East Coast to sell Lois’ cheese, and we are thrilled to be able to bring this truly unique little round to Boston. (more…)

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Ruggles Hill Creamery - Cheese Molds

Cheese Molds

Since I began working at Formaggio Kitchen South End, I have been drawn to a selection of small goat milk cheeses made by Tricia Smith at Ruggles Hill Creamery in Hardwick, MA. Shifting from the world of art and museums to cheese, I was at first more attuned to the visual details of the cheeses I encountered than I was able to analyze the incredible flavors and aromas they offered. Tricia’s cheeses, such as the delicate Ada’s Honor and the silvery gray Brother’s Walk struck me as distinctly beautiful for their carefully developed rinds and snowy white interiors. (more…)

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Sainte-Maure Belgique

Sainte-Maure Belgique

There are a few things one learns pretty quickly as a cheesemonger. Among them are that brebis generally come from the Pyrenées and small-format goat cheeses are closely associated with the Loire Valley. Of course, there are exceptions but, as general rules, these guidelines have served me pretty well. (more…)

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Cornilly

Cheese is a unique product because the tastes and textures found even within individual rounds produced from the same batch can vary noticeably, but also because as a cheese ages and matures the taste and texture of that cheese will change.  When cheeses are aged with care this process can significantly enhance a cheese, but when this process is done poorly it can lead to an inferior product, or even a putrid moldy mess.

At Formaggio Kitchen great care is taken when aging all the cheeses, not just in the cheese caves found in the cellar but also in the day-to-day care of fresh softer goat cheese.  An excellent example of this (that can currently be found in the shop) is the Cornilly.  The three cheeses pictures below are all the same kind of cheese, but are all different ages.

As you can see the eldest of the cheeses on the left has begun to develop a slight rind and has also lost a lot of mass due to water evaporating from the cheese.

This  process has left the cheese harder, with an almost chalky texture.  The flavor has also become subtle, in a very appealing way.  Initially I thought the youngest of the three would be my favorite – but to my surprise this elder cheese was the winner hands down.  Something about the slightly salty flavor won me over.

This middle cheese does not have any rind to speak of but has started to lose some of its mass.  The texture is not at all chalky – but definitely sliceable while still being soft enough to spread.  The flavor is mildly vegetal and it does not have the salty notes of the eldest cheese.

The youngest cheese is only a week or two old.  It’s most obviously the largest having not had time to loose any mass to water evaporating.  This cheese seems even slightly softer than the most common domestic logs of fresh chevre, and to my surprise my palate finds that it has the most assertive flavor of the three ages.

These three ages of cheese illustrate what knowledge and care can do for the life of a fresh cheese.  Instead of aging into a compromised, decrepit knob of cheese the eldest cheese is enhanced and can offer a lot to any taster that’s willing to trust the idiom “age before beauty”.

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