Cultivation of a Cheesemonger

A Blog of Cheese Culture and Cultures


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Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Hello, Everyone —

This past Sunday I was up at Shelburne, VT at Shelburne Farms for the Vermont Cheesemakers’ Festival.  We packed up the Tobasi, Maggie’s Round and Maggie’s Round Reserve, and Town Meeting and took the 3 hour drive north on route 7 to eat and talk cheese.

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We set up our table and cut samples for 1500 tasters!

When I got the chance, I left the farm table and took a walk around the festival…

FairyTaleWilloWisp

Will O’ Wisp from Fairy Tale Farm in Bridport, VT, had a very similar taste to our Maggie’s Round – both were unpasteurized cows milk natural rind cheeses and both have a pretty tart flavor. But while Maggie’s Round tartness lingers on the tongue, Will O’ Wisp mellows out in the finish. When I commented on the flavor, I was told, very proudly, that what causes that mellow, delicious finish is because the cheese is made from milk Ayrshire Cows (Cricket Creek is mostly Brown Swiss).

TwigFarmWashedRind

Next, I stopped at the table of one of my favorite dairy farms, Twig Farm. I knew I loved their Goat Tomme and Square Cheese, but I had to ask about their washed rind. I was curious as to how the paste of their cheese stayed so firm while that of our washed rind cheese, Tobasi, was like pudding. I was told that “It’s all about monitoring the pH to control the bacterial breakdown of the paste.” Effects of pH on paste breakdown is something that I’ve been learning intimately while apprenticing. The curd is hand cut for a half hour and the pH is watched over several hours until the target of a pH of 5.1 is reached. A labor of love with splendid results!

ParishHillBlue

Next, I went looking to try to try the newest cheese from Parish Hill Creamery but was told I’d have to wait until November. However, I got another treat with their West West Blue. A two-curd cheese that is made by making curd, letting it acidify over night, and then mixing it with the next day’s warmer, less acidic curd. I have never heard of such a process but it sure produced some tasty results!

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I also had the pleasure of talking with the folks at Cherry Grove FarmDiscussed the FDA’s recent flip-flop with wooden aging boards with Woodcock Farm (and exactly how they flip their Timberdoodle!) I caught up with my prior bosses and said hello to CheeseNotes and owner of Flora Artisanal Cheese in Charlottesville, VA and two-time second place winner of The Cheesemonger Invitational.

A wonderful time, I got to taste a lot of delicious cheeses, talk to some really great people and of course, encourage others to taste cheese from Cricket Creek Farm and answer questions and education others about cheese!

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Creamery Apprenticeship

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Since my last post I left New York City and have spent the last four months as a creamery apprentice at Cricket Creek Farm. I have been learning a lot, however, for the sake of getting a post up to you guys, I think it’s a lot more fun if you all had a photo-tour instead! Please enjoy the pictures!

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my workplace

Cricket Creek Farm makes several different types of cheese.  Maggie’s Round, a raw-milk natural rind, Town Meeting; a raw-milk gouda-style cheese; the young and seasoned cheese, Hillside; Tobasi, a raw-milk washed rind; Berkshire Bloom, our bloomy rind, and various flavors of fresh cheese .  Here are some photos of Berkshire Bloom in production.

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an apprentice’s mom helps out in the creamery ladling curd into Berkshire Bloom molds

Cheese Make Milk from the bulk tank – where it is collected after the cows come in for milking – is poured into the vat in the creamery through a set of stainless steel tubes. Cultures and rennet are added, the milk coagulates, and then the large curd mass is cut by hand before being cut by machine.  Cheese making requires smell, sight, taste, and touch.

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An apprentice helps move the curds in the vat

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A curd in the hand…

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Curds in molds of all different shapes and sizes

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Berkshire Bloom at different ages. The cultures in the cheese continue to break down lipids and proteins over time.

Hillside, Cricket Creek Farm’s rindless cheese, rolled in garlic & herb and spicy red pepper blend.

TobasiMold

Tobasi curds knit together in the mold to begin forming a cheese. Today, plastic is used to simulate the traditional basketweave pattern.

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Cricket Creek Farm’s washed rind cheese, Tobasi, with a beautiful orange rind and perfect paste.

Slipskin

A little washed-rind/bloomy-rind experiment. If the rate of the protein breakdown at the surface is higher than that of the center, the cheese will get what is commonly known as “slipskin.”

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Taste testing batches of Maggie’s Round, the younger natural rind cheese, from winter of 2011.

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Farmer’s market table set up; wintertime, Troy, NY.

I am having a blast learning about cheese production and observing, feeling, and tasting my way through the changing seasons of milk, curd, and mold.  The next time you pass by some farmstand or artisinal cheese, stop to think about the work that goes into each wheel and understand that ours is a labor of love.

HeartInCurd

 

This gallery contains 17 photos