Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bellwether Farms Fresh Sheep's Milk Ricotta

In Italy fresh cheeses are a given, and a strong tradition of making and eating them daily means every little cheese shop has them, as well as a resident cheese maker. Hand-formed tender mozzarella. Just-drained ricotta. It all sells out by noon, and the next morning it is made again.

Fresh artisanal ricotta cheese — the real thing, not the supermarket version, which is not a reasonable facsimile — can be a divine. Sweet and creamy on the tongue, yet light, it is one of life’s simple luxurious pleasures.

At Bellweather Farms whey from sheeps milk is drained into little Italian baskets to make this delicate delight. Their sheep are a Northern European breed called East Friesian, among the best milk producing sheep in the world. Taller than ordinary sheep, they’re known for their relatively long and pointy ears. But sheep milk isn’t easy to come by – giving less milk than a cow or goat, they average about ½ gallon a day. 

Take note: fresh ricotta does not keep. The luscious fresh flavor is fleeting, replaced all too soon by an off, sour one. This cheese should be eaten immediately.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


The Making of Parmigiano-Reggiano

Lingot du Quercy

By Janet Fletcher: The Food and Drug Administration's rules on pasteurization have not been kind to French goat cheeses. Almost all the producers of classic Loire Valley goat cheeses -- Sainte-Maure, Valencay, Pouligny-Saint-Pierre -- have had to start pasteurizing the milk for the cheeses they ship here to meet our food-safety standards.

Our government requires 60 days' aging for raw-milk cheeses for food- safety reasons, and all these beloved cheeses are matured less than that. For years, a few importers have given us the pleasure of the authentic, raw-milk versions, but enforcement has become more stringent, and the raw-milk contraband has all but vanished.

Retailers, who know these cheeses much better than I because they handle them every day, say the pasteurized products just aren't the same. They don't mature as reliably and rarely develop the creamy texture that you find in raw- milk soft-ripened goat cheeses. They can still be enjoyable, but we'll have to go to France now to sample these regional specialties at their best.

Lingot du Quercy, a soft-ripened goat cheese from France's Quercy region, just south of the Perigord, brings the raw-milk issue to mind. The exported versions of this cheese were initially made with raw milk. Today, I am told, the milk is pasteurized, but you wouldn't guess it from the luscious texture and considerable flavor that this superb cheese delivers. It would be fascinating to taste it alongside a raw-milk version to see if pasteurization has taken a toll on this cheese.

The Lingot is made by a small cooperative in a region renowned for goat cheese; Rocamadour is the area's best known. As its name implies, Lingot du Quercy has the shape and appearance of an ingot, or thick bar. It weighs just under 6 ounces so is perfect on a cheese tray for six. When ripe, it will have a bloomy rind with some tan or gold markings, and it should develop some softness as it matures from the outside in. At its best, it is molten just under the rind, becoming progressively firmer toward the center, so that the diner experiences a range of textures. Notice how light it is on the tongue, neither chalky nor gummy as some goat cheeses are. Do eat the rind; if you try to cut it away, you will lose too much of the creamy part underneath.

Lingot's flavor is assertive but not strong, faintly suggestive of the barnyard. It is salty, but just enough to make you want another bite. The pronounced tang makes me think this cheese has enjoyed a long, slow fermentation. In late summer, I enjoyed it with a dry rosé made of Rhone grape varieties, but in this season's cooler weather, you may want to open a red wine. Choose a youthful, fruity wine without a lot of tannin, and you won't go wrong.

Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam

Cowgirl Creamery's signature cheese is a smooth and sexy triple-cream. With a silky texture, luxuriously rich and mild, buttery taste, Mt. Tam is surely one of America's best examples of this style of cheese. Made with organic pasteurized cow's milk from West Marin's Straus Family Dairy. By industry convention in this country (in France, it's a law), triple- cream cheeses contain at least 75 percent butterfat. A cheesemaker can't get there with whole milk alone so must enrich the milk with cream.

Cowgirl Creamery started life in Point Reyes Station 10 years ago as a fresh-cheese producer, making cottage cheese, fromage blanc and the like. Mt. Tam was its first foray into aged cheese. Cheesemakers Maureen Cunnie and Eric Patterson are still tweaking the recipe, adjusting the brining time and other factors, but handmade cheeses like Mt. Tam are never completely consistent, a quality that Patterson argues is part of their charm.

Each petite round has a thick, snow-white rind and smooth, creamy, ivory paste resembles buttercream frosting. Like Brie and other bloomy-rind cheeses, Mt. Tam ripens from the outside in, so it will be softer under the rind and perhaps a touch firm at the center. The rind's appearance can lead some consumers astray. "People cut into it thinking it's going to be oozy like a brie, and it's not supposed to be," says Patterson. "It's a firm cheese."

Ideally, Mt. Tam is 4 to 5 weeks old and perfectly ripe when it hits retail cheese counters. The flavor should be mild, milky and pleasantly salty. In a step more common to Gouda production than to triple creams, the cheesemakers wash the curds before transferring them to molds to lower the acidity and heighten the sweetness. To contrast with Mt. Tam's lush texture, try a lean sparkling wine.


Cowgirl Creamery captures the essence of West Marin with Red Hawk, a triple-cream, washed-rind, cheese made with organic cow's milk from nearby Straus Family Creamery. Cheesemakers add cream to the milk during the cheesemaking process to increases the butterfat, Red Hawk begins as a pale, petite, rindless round. Aged for 6 weeks and washed with a brine solution that promotes the growth of a bacteria that tints the rind a sunset red-orange.

Named after a raptor that circles the skies in Northern Marin County Red Hawk is made by the chefs-turned-cheesemakers of Cowgirl Creamery, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith. They first made it by mistake, when they were making a batch of their popular Mt. Tam cheese. One of the chefs noticed that the rind wasn’t developing correctly, so she tried washing it off, then set it aside.

"I forgot about it," says Conley, "and a few weeks later, found that the rinds were red, sticky and stinky." Ready to throw out the cheese until they tasted it. "It was the most amazing cheese that we had ever made!" says Conley.

Red Hawk owes its golden-orange rind and mushroomy taste to Brevibacterium linens, friendly bacteria present naturally in the dairy environment. Some cheesemakers add a purchased culture to stimulate B. linens growth, but Conley relies on the wild bacteria that thrive in cool, humid West Marin.

Three times during its six weeks at the dairy, it is washed with brine to keep molds from growing and to create the moist conditions that B. linens likes. This painstaking process encourages the development of certain bacteria on the rind, which deliver the reddish color and distinct odor as well as the intense meaty flavor typical of this style of cheese. Segregated from the dairy's other cheeses in a high-humidity environment, Red Hawk gradually develops the golden surface color that signals B. linens at work.

Although the creamery sells Red Hawk at six weeks, Conley says the flavor and texture improve over the next couple of weeks. If you have a wine cellar or an unheated room, you can finish the aging yourself. Put the cheese in a cardboard box to promote humidity, then leave it in the cool room until the cheese's texture softens a bit and the aroma heightens. Red Hawk never gets as soft-centered as Brie or Epoisses, but it should give a little to the touch.

At the least, Conley recommends that you unwrap the cheese 24 hours before serving to let the rind dry a little. Cover it with an inverted bowl or cake cover that will protect it but still allow it to breathe, and leave it at room temperature.

A ripe Red Hawk is the color of butter inside, with the unctuous, ultra- creamy texture that you expect from a triple-cream. The flavor hints of earth, mushrooms and spice, although its character is more mellow than the nose might suggest. Conley's suggests to try it with a spicy Gewurztraminer.

Cambozola Black Label

Cambozola Black Label is a Masterpiece from the German company Käserei Champignon. This gourmet cheese is a triple cream soft-ripened blue cheese. Matured Through a longer ripening time in special cold cellars (cold-ripend), the result is a premium, soft ripened blue cheese with wonderful characteristics - exquisite blue veining occurring on the inside and a unique natural gray mold on the outside. Cheese lovers will appreciate the savory, nutty flavor with a sweet note.

It is made from the same blue Penicillium roqueforti mold used to make Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and Stilton. Cream is added to the milk, giving it a rich consistency. The rind of the cheese is similar to the Camembert. Cambozola is considerably milder than Gorgonzola featuring a smooth, creamy texture and subdued blue flavor. A longer ripening time enhances the taste and texture. A great introduction to blue cheese for those who might be intimidated by some of the more intense specimens on offer - try it with something bubbly and brut. 

Quadrello di Bufala

A milder, milkier, more rustic alternative to the washed-rind pungency of Taleggio, Quadrello di Bufala's distinctly gentle and sweet taste can be attributed to the buffalo milk. Water buffalo captured the hearts of 7th century Italian cheesemakers and continue to do so even today. And for good reason. The unusually rich and flavorful milk is high in fat and protein.

Produced in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, Caseificio Quattro Portoni, started as a cattle farm. In 2006 brothers Bruno and Alfio Gritti spent roughly six years transforming the farm into a buffalo farm, where they currently produce buffalo milk mozzarella – a cheese normally associated with Campania, a region in southern Italy. Although it's produced in the same way as notoriously pungent Taleggio (except that it's made with buffalo milk, not cow's milk), Quadrello di Bufala stands out thanks to its succulent eye-catching white paste and its clean rich flavor, which has neither acidity nor bitterness.

What's revolutionary about the Gritti brothers is not so much that they produce a "southern-style cheese" in northern Italy. Rather, it's their ability to use existing styles of cheeses, like Taleggio, and substitute buffalo milk for traditional cow's milk. In this way, they're applying a "southern-style" to classic "northern" cheeses.

Take a moment to appreciate this cheese's seductive aroma, a merging of cave and mushroom scents with the frank fermented smell of cultured milk. On the tongue, it is supple, creamy and coating, with plentiful salt and a vigorous tang, with a compelling fragrance, pleasing texture, flavor balance and a long finish.

Vintage Grand Ewe Gouda

An incredibly under rated sheep's milk cheese, Grande Ewe Gouda will surprise and delight those who choose to venture toward this wonderful treat.  The use of sheep’s milk is extremely rare among traditional Dutch cheeses, making Vintage Grand Ewe one of the most unique cheeses to come from Holland. Made from 100% sheep’s milk and aged for one year, Vintage Grand Ewe is made in the traditional Dutch Gouda style, which gives the cheese a creamy yet slightly crumbly texture. The taste is well balanced with a rich milk flavor and undertones of butterscotch and salt. There are also some floral notes and a texture that is slightly granular. It is yellowish cream in color, and then towards the orange red rind, it darkens. The natural ripening makes it comparable to the Ossau-Iraty cheeses found on the French side of the Pyrenees Mountains. I highly recommend giving it a try.

Cave Aged Emmental

High in the secluded Kaltbach Caves near Lucerne Switzerland, the finest Emmental cheeses rest in cool, humid air of these unique sandstone caverns. Made in massive 200 pound wheels from pure, unpasteurized cow's milk, and matured for one year, the cheeses acquire a densely creamy texture. Using ancient techniques, constant temperature and humidity can be achieved in the caves all year round, ensuring perfect development.

The Swiss are so particular about their cheese, and the care of their cows that Swiss law requires the cows go outside for at least 20 days of each month where they must seek their own food, and not fed silage. 

In the summer time, the farmers bring their cows up to the Alps where they can graze on a gourmet selection of 120 different herbs. They bring the cows back down from the mountains in late autumn. The resulting milk from the rich herbal diversity of their diet produces highly desirable Alpekäse (Alpine cheese) and butter. In addition to the difference in taste, Alpine cheeses have a light yellow color from the herbal diet consumed, and non-Alpine cheese (made during the winter) has a lighter ivory color.

The result is a refined, yet intense flavor, strong and fruity with a wonderfully complex aroma of meadows and flowers with raisins and wood fires. Unlike traditional Emmental (also known as Swiss cheese), this one has a dark brown rind and a unique, nutty, full-flavored taste. One of the three traditional ingredients to fondue (along with Appenzeller and Gruyere) this is a perfect melting cheese. It is manufactured by Emmi, master cheesemakers since 1782.

Sarvecchio Parmesan

Sartori's Sarvecchio Parmesan is classic Italian style cheese using high quality Wisconsin cows milk. This full flavored, buttery, nutty, slightly sweet hard cheese has a pleasing crunchy, crystalline texture followed by a creamy finish, reminiscent of an aged Cheddar. 

The paste is firm, dry, deep golden with pronounced caramel aromas. You can see the fine white calcium lactate crystals that are the product of long aging. On the tongue, the cheese is waxy and granular, crumbling rather than dissolving. It finishes with fruity caramel sweetness, because aging has produced amino acids that deliver the perception of sweetness.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Rogue River Blue Cheese

This cheese is a testament to Oregon’s terroir. It is made only for a short window in the fall when the milk is at its highest butterfat content. The flavors include hints of sweet woodsy pine, wild ripened berries, hazelnuts, and pears.

To preserve this cheese, each wheel is hand wrapped in grape leaves. Over several days, a team accumulates over 60,000 syrah leaves. After being picked and washed, they’re hand-bathed in Pear Brandy from Portland’s Clear Creek Distillery. Nearly 40 gallons of the fragrant pear eau de vie are used to process a year’s batch. After months in the brandy, the leaves become velvety and supple, adding complexity and flavor components to the cheese, plus preserving its moist creamy texture.

Leaves are a centuries-old means of wrapping cheese, and cheesemakers all over the world have wrapped their wares in this natural, practical packaging. Convenience and preservation are one reason, but leaves also affect flavor — and some more than others. David Gremmels, Rogue Creamery’s owner settled on syrah leaves after experimenting with different varietals from several Southern Oregon vineyards. “We initially tried several types of leaves including malbec, zinfandel and merlot,” he says, “but the syrah delivered more mellow, soft flavors whereas the other types tended to deliver sharper, pointed flavors.”

The cheese is aged for a year in caves built to resemble the famed caves of Roquefort, allowing natural molds of the Rogue River Valley to ripen the cheese. The resulting cheese develops a wonderfully complex flavor. It is rich, buttery, silky, and sweet, with soft fruit flavors and a slight smokiness.

“The texture of Rogue River Blue is ethereal, smooth yet grainy, creamy yet crumbly. The leaves hold in some of the moisture, and the brandy has a chance to penetrate the cheese, lending both flavor and still more moisture — but not so much that the blue molds can’t work their magic as well. I think Rogue River Blue is unquestionably one of the best blue cheeses made in the United States.”
says cheese expert Laura Werlin.

While you might be inclined to pull off the leaves before sampling your Rogue River Blue, Gremmels advises eating the leaves to fully appreciate the commingling of leaves, brandy and cheese.


Inspired by her Basque sheep herding and cheesemaking heritage, Marcia Barinaga and her husband, Corey Goodman, purchased a farm in the rolling hills overlooking Tomales Bay in West Marin County. Their intention was to make Basque-style cheese with sheep milk from their own dairy. After attending a cheesemaking class in Vermont. Marcia and Corey accompanied Marcia's father on a trip to the Pyrenees to learn the secrets of cheesemaking from Basque masters. From here, the dream to make cheese in California began to unfold.

At Barinaga Ranch, the sheep graze on pasture all year long. Marcia has been crossbreeding their East Friesen sheep, which are known for their prolific milk production, with the hardy Katahdin, descendents of north African sheep.

Txiki, which means little in Basque, is a smaller version of Barinaga's original cheese, Basseri. The shape for Txiki is reminiscent of a Petit Basque. The flavor is sweet milk with a hint of salted, roasted walnuts. It is aged for sixty days. Available only from June through September.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kerrygold Dubliner With Irish Stout

A Classic Combination from the capital of Ireland, Dubliner Irish Cheddar and Stout, are now together in a unique new cheese. The classic flavor combination brings out the sweet, nutty, rich flavor of Dubliner and swirls it together with the malty, caramel, bitter flavor of a perfect pint of Irish Stout. More moist and sharper than regular Dubliner, it has a distinctive granular texture that gives way to a smooth, creamy finish. The cheese sports a festive green wax rind to welcome the Holidays.

The stout is actually a “double milled” cheddar. Traditional Irish Stout, made with roasted barley, has a bitter, slight hoppy finish. The stout adds complex caramel notes that accentuates the flavor. When tasting this cheese, the creaminess fills your mouth, the nutty flavors begin to open up and the caramel finish lingers on the palate. It is really a unique flavor experience.

Produced in County Cork, south of Dublin, it’s made from the milk of grass fed cows that graze on the lush green rolling hills of southeastern Ireland. The grass makes the cheese rich in beta carotene. Made using the traditional “cheddaring” process and is set aside to age for 12 months. When it is mature, the cheese is milled again. Milling is a process where the cheese is put through a “grinder” to break it into smaller pieces. This is where the beer comes in. The Irish Stout is mixed into the cheddar pieces and the combination is put into a cheddar form where it is aged a bit longer to assure that the smaller pieces combine to form a cheddar wheel. The cheese round is then finished with a dip into green wax. Not only is this colorful, but it acts as a preservative against mold.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Saint Angel

Saint Angel is a French triple cream cheese with a wispy white rind and incredibly creamy, silky smooth texture. Because the curds are never drained, more calcium, phosphorus, and milk protein are retained than in regular soft ripened cheese. The result is a remarkably luscious texture that only a fine French delicacy can deliver.

This cheese is made in much the same way as Fromage D’Affinois, utilising Guilloteau Fromagerie’s pioneered ultrafiltration method. However the addition of cream to the milk before making gives the cheese a higher fat content and in turn changes its overall character. It has a very clean finish on the palate; it is rich, sweet and decadent, ending with an elegant satiny-buttery mouth feel.

The dairy is located in the South East part of France, in the heart of Pilat Mountain Natural Park, near Grand crus des Cottes du Rhone.  Pair with strawberries and sparkling wine for an absolutely divine combination.


Bellwether Farms Pepato is a raw, semi-soft sheep milk cheese studded with whole peppercorns, and a flaky, yet creamy consistency. 

Cheesemaker Liam Callahan, who runs the dairy with his mother, Cindy, says he is aiming for a moister, less salty and lower-acid product than the Italian pecorino pepato, a cheese that is often too dry and intense for any use beyond grating. After a trip to Tuscany they began controlling the moisture level and acid development to make a cheese that has a much smoother mouth feel and a complex depth of flavor that retains its classic sheep characteristics. Pepato is made using the same recipe and aging techniques found outside Florence, but with whole peppercorns inside the wheel.

The raw milk is coagulated with veal rennet, an expensive input that many cheesemakers have abandoned in favor of less costly microbial coagulants. The Callahans believe the rennet yields more complexity. After coagulation and draining, the fresh curds are scooped into their molds with a scattering of whole black peppercorns; the following day, when the wheels have formed, they are salted by hand then moved to aging rooms with controlled temperature and humidity.

While the cheeses are ripening they develop a smear on the rind that contributes its own interesting and complimentary flavor. The wheels are waxed after about 2 1/2 months to prevent further moisture loss and sold about a month later. The wax is permeable, so the cheese continues to breathe and mature, just a little more slowly than it would with a natural rind.

Despite the steps Callahan has taken to make the Pepato more approachable, it remains a cheese with a bold personality. The peppercorn aroma dominates, along with the scents of sheep, lamb chops, bacon and wet stone. The flavor is moderately piquant, not sharp, with a tart, tangy finish.

You could shave Pepato into a green salad with sliced fennel, or nibble on it before dinner with some olives and a glass of dry sherry. On an end-of-meal cheese board, it calls for a generous red wine, such as a full-fruited, grapy Zin with a blackberry aroma and smooth tannins.

Midnight Moon

Mary Keehn, proprietor of Cypress Grove Chevre, producer of the acclaimed Humboldt Fog, began working with a Dutch dairy to create an aged goat's milk cheese. She knew she couldn't make it in her own McKinleyville (Humboldt County) Dairy because she didn't have the aging room, and because the bacteria might contaminate her other cheeses. She traveled to Holland to find cheesemaking partners who can make classic cheeses to her specifications.

The goat milk sister to Lamb Chopper, Midnight Moon is also made in Holland, following a Dutch gouda recipe. Aged for at least one year, this pale, ivory cheese is firm, dense and smooth with the slight graininess of a long-aged cheese. The flavor is nutty and brown-buttery, with intense caramel undertones. The wheel is finished in a beautiful black wax that accentuates the pale paste.

Midnight Moon would pair well with a glass of dry sherry to echo its nuttiness. At the end of a meal, try it with a not-too-serious, fruit-forward red wine, such as a medium intensity Zinfandel or Rhone-style blend, Grenache, Gamay or Syrah.

Brescianella Alla Aquavitae

This washed rind robiola from Lombardy is made from whole cow’s milk and aged for approximately 2-3 months. Covered with a coating of grape pommace, the raw materials for grappa, and buckwheat give it a rustic distinction that stands out amongst other cheeses. Its visual appeal and distinctive texture add allure to this thick, creamy, pungent cheese that takes on a fruity fullness and pleasant bite.

Scharfer Maxx

On the edge of Bodensee Lake in Canton Thurgau in northern Switzerland three master cheese makers at Käserei Studer are using thermalized milk to create this firm, powerful cheese. Washed in brine with herbs and aged for a minimum of six months, results in a sharp (scharfe), sweet, and sometimes barnyardy alpine cheese with a tangy, meaty flavor. A little cream is added to the whole milk in the cheese making to retain its touch of creaminess. Recommended pairing partners include ales, wheat beers, full-bodied red wines and whites.

Robiola Nostrana

Robiola Nostrana is produced by Stagionatura Guffanti in northwest Italy. The flavour is full and intense, sweet, milky and very delicate. Supple with a lovely straw colour, the cheese tastes a little like a Brie but it delivers a luscious flavor that you do not find in the bries typically available in the U.S.

The soft, moist rind allows for good air exchange that enhances the overall quality and produces a melt in your mouth center. This version is made with all cows' milk, though occasionally they have one available that has other milks added.  Try it with fruity white wines, lagers, fresh fruit, bread rolls or polenta.

Capricho de Cabra

A silky-textured fresh goat cheese from Murcia Spain, this flavorful cheese is high in fat and protein with an amazing creaminess. Molded into snow white logs of silky cheese that's only slightly more solid than chevre, Capricho gives a burst of flavor with a sweet finish. The verdant, pistachio hue is attributed to crushed green peppercorns.

Green peppercorns are immature berries of black pepper that have been picked early and cured so they can retain their flavor and color. Often used for fish and poultry they give this cheese a piquant, almost arugula-like aroma that swirls in with the faint, goaty musk, creating an overall bright and green scent.

Spicy flavor is balanced perfectly with the delicate texture of this cheese, making it astonishingly addictive. Spread on toast, or crumble atop a beet and arugula salad. Cut into rounds, coat with bread crumbs and bake. Warmed in an oiled ramekin, it is irresistible.


With the scent of soil and fresh mushrooms, this bold and savory pasteurized cow's milk cheese successfully recaptures the stronger, more traditional earthy flavors of raw milk Brie.

The satisfyingly smooth and supple paste has an oozing velvety texture, distinctive aroma, and a long-lingering aftertaste. Produced by family-run Lactalis in Laval, Mayenne, the dairy region of western France. Best with a crisp white wine sturdy enough to stand up to the more intense flavor profile of this hearty brie.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fromage D'Affinois

Fromage D'Affinois is a bloomy rind double cream, cow's milk cheese made by Guilloteau creamery. Located in the heart of the Pilat Regional Park in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, Fromager d'Affinois is produced by Fromagerie Guilloteau.

20 years ago, Guilloteau pioneered the use of ultrafiltration, which removes water from the pasteurized milk before cheesemaking, concentrating all the other components. This means every step of the cheesemaking process: coagulation, unmolding, maturing, can happen faster. A classic Brie takes about eight weeks to make; Fromager d'Affinois is ready in two.

In traditional cheesemaking, the curds must be drained to rid them of excess whey. Some proteins, milk sugar and calcium drain off in that whey, which is often discarded or fed to farm animals. With ultrafiltration, there is no draining step because much of the water has already been removed. More protein and calcium remain in the cheese, yielding a product with higher nutrient content and a more luscious texture.

With a fat content of 60 percent Fromager d'Affinois qualifies as a double-cream, halfway between classic Brie (about 45 percent fat) and a buttery triple-cream like Brillat-Savarin (about 75 percent fat). It resembles Brie, with a bloomy white rind and ivory interior, but has a paste that is smoother, softer, and more sensual. Adding an unctuous, and inviting texture with the tempting taste of lightly salted sweet cream, equals a rich buttery brie who will surely seduce you. Pair with champagne or sparkling wine to cut the richness and cleanse the palate.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery

In the late 70's, as a college student in France, Allison Hooper had no farm experience. She began writing letters to organic farmers, asking if they could use a little help. She’d work hard and learn quickly — that was her offer. A family in Brittany answered, inviting her to join them. She was soon enjoying not only the satisfaction of working the land, but gaining a full-fledged education in the European tradition of artisanal cheesemaking.

In the early 80's, Bob Reese was in a bind. As marketing director of the Vermont Department of Agriculture, he was organizing a special state dinner. The French chef needed goat cheese — scarce in Vermont at the time. Bob knew just who to call, a dairy lab technician who’d spent some time in France. Allison Hooper. She could make chèvre, couldn’t she? She could, and indeed she did. Allison’s chèvre was the buzz of the banquet. By the time the tables were cleared, she and Bob were planning a cheesemaking partnership.

Launched in 1984, Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery still follows the path Bob and Allison took years ago — crafting artisanal dairy products in the European style through a vital link with local farms. Based in the town of Websterville, the company supports a network of more than 20 family farms, providing milk meeting the highest standards of purity. The company is proudest of its contribution to the health of local agriculture. As Allison learned early on in France, quality originates at the source — with the people who work the land and take pride in their yield.

The Milk

Goats’ milk is white and is higher in vitamins, calcium and phosphorus, compared to cows’ milk. It is lower in cholesterol and the fat globules are smaller which makes it easier to digest. Goat cheese gets its distinctive flavor from the unique fatty acids inherent in the milk, a delicate liquid that changes with the seasons and differs among the breeds. Six pounds of milk are required to make one pound of cheese.

The Goats

Dairy goats are intelligent, gregarious, and gentle. A mature doe will often give birth to twins, milk for ten months out of the year and average 5-8 pounds of milk per day. As ruminants, goats forage, feeding on grasses, herbs, and hay in addition to grain. Goats are fastidious about clean and palatable food and enjoy feeding on brush and a wide selection of pasture plants. They are never tethered and enjoy wandering the countryside searching for fresh food.

The Landscape

Vermont and the surrounding region offer ideal conditions for producing high quality milk. The climate is temperate with snowy winters, wet springs and mild summers, all ideal for growing grass and lush pastures. The distinct flavor of the milk and cheese is reflected in the air, water, soil, and 
what the goats eat.  

Vermont Butter & Cheese Co. is committed to building a network of local sustainable goat farms. Twice a week they drive across Vermont to the 20 Family Farms to pick up fresh goats’ milk. Cows’ cream and milk comes from a local Coop of 500 family dairy farmers in northern Vermont. Allison believes that pure milk makes the best cheese. Vermont land, the pasture, soil, the seasons, the special care of the goats and cows can all be tasted in their cheeses.