Posts filed under 'Travel'

Appleton Creamery Interview

Cheese By Hand LogoAfter leaving Vermont, we headed to Maine to visit Caitlin Hunter at Appleton Creamery. Appleton is nestled among a number of popular vacation spots near the coast of Maine. The operation is aptly called a creamery as Caitlin makes cheese with milk from her own goats, a neighboring sheep dairy, and also milk from a cow dairy nearby. Their cheeses are available within the borders of Maine so be sure to look for them if your travels take you there.
Appleton Creamery Interview

You can read other Cheese by Hand posts about Appleton Creamery here.

Next Up: Westfield Farm.

Again, if you want to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes, just search for Cheese by Hand in the iTunes store and click “Subscribe.”

Add comment May 12th, 2008

Willow Hill Farm Interview

Cheese By Hand LogoOur next visit is with Willow Smart & Dave Phinney at Willow Hill Farm. They manage a herd of approximately 85 sheep. Willow and Dave produce a number of cheeses (including Autumn Oak, Fernwood and La Fleurie) but also yogurt, lamb and wool. When we visited them, they were in the middle of construction on their new cheesemaking facility. Now that new space is operational.

Willow Hill Farm Interview
Chewing ewe in the solar barn

You can read other Cheese by Hand posts about Willow Hill Farm here.

Next Up: Appleton Creamery.

Again, if you want to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes, just search for Cheese by Hand in the iTunes store and click “Subscribe.”

Add comment March 11th, 2008

Vermont Butter and Cheese Interview

Cheese By Hand LogoToday we visit with Allison Hooper of Vermont Butter and Cheese. Allison and her business partner Bob Reese started out making fresh goat cheese nearly 25 years ago and have since brought a myriad of European style dairy products to the American market. We spoke with Allison about the transformation of her own business and progress within the American cheese industry.

Vermont Butter and Cheese Interview
You can read other Cheese by Hand posts about Vermont Butter & Cheese here.

Up next: Willow Hill Farm

Also if you want to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes, just search for Cheese by Hand in the iTunes store and click “Subscribe.”

Add comment February 10th, 2008

Twig Farm Interview

Cheese By Hand LogoToday is our interview with Michael Lee at Twig Farm. Twig Farm is in West Cornwall, VT. Michael and his wife Emily moved from Boston to West Cornwall and have been making cheese for over three years. Very much a small farm operation, Michael milks 25 goats seasonally (meaning they are dried off in winter months) and purchases some cow’s milk from neighbors. They make aged, raw milk cheeses, creatively named: Twig Farm Goat Tomme, Square Cheese and Soft Wheel.

Twig Farm Interview

You can read other Cheese by Hand posts about Twig Farm here.

Up Next: Vermont Butter & Cheese

As a reminder, you can subscribe to Cheese by Hand on iTunes and have the interviews automatically downloaded to your computer / iPod. Just search for Cheese by Hand in the iTunes Store and click on Subscribe… iTunes will take care of the rest!

Also, thanks to Matty Charles who generously allowed us to use his music!

1 comment January 22nd, 2008

Jasper Hill Farm Interview

Cheese By Hand LogoToday is the first of our audio installments from our four month trip around America visiting small scale cheesemakers. Jasper Hill Farm is in Greensboro, VT. The farm is run by brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler. They are milking 40 cows and producing five raw milk cheeses. Currently they are nearing the end of construction on a massive in-ground cheese aging complex where they will age their own cheeses along with those from other established Vermont cheesemakers. We interviewed Mateo Kehler outside the make room after a day of cheesemaking.

Jasper Hill Farm Interview

You can read other Cheese by Hand posts about Jasper Hill Farm here.

Our goal is to publish a new podcast every 10 -14 days and can be found here or on iTunes.

Up Next: Twig Farm

Also, Thanks again to Matty Charles who generously allowed us to use his music!

1 comment January 1st, 2008

Austin- CKC Farms

Nancy meets her first goatsWe had a magical experience in Austin, Texas last Friday- regardless of the previous night’s stay at the O’Hare Best Western (missed our connection en route to TX). Our friend and Cheese by Hand designer, Nancy Nowacek got to see what it was like to visit a dairy Cheese by Hand style. The visit was even cooler because it was the Chrissy Omo and her family at CKC Goat Dairy in Blanco which is about an hour outside of Austin. Chrissy is currently a college student at Texas State- she juggles that committment with dairy farming by restricting her school schedule to morning classes. This means that she has two distinct mornings during the week- one milking goats at dawn, and a second a few hours later in a classroom at the university.

Austin in located in the region of Texas known as Hill Country. Because it is Texas, and everything is bigger in Texas, the hills there are long and rolling- stretching out as far as the eye can see. The landscape was much greener than expected for September because the area has gotten so much more rain that usual this summer. Driving around in such a vast expanse of space so soon after leaving New York City blew my mind- even the sky appeared to have grown overnight.

Texas hill country

Chrissy got into goats by participating with FFA as a youngster. She raised meat goats and quickly realized that she wanted goats that would stay around longer than those Chrissy admires her goat herdsold off for meat so she switched to dairy goats. As it goes with so many goat enthusiasts there is a sudden rush of milk at some point and the next logical step is to make cheese. This is exactly what Chrissy did. CKC is currently milking 16 goats but the total herd is up to 87, including a couple billy goats for breeding. They are bred rotationally so that the dairy has a year-round milk supply. The total acreage on the farm is almost 70 and there is plenty of pasture and brambly stuff for the goats to get most of their diet from forage with a minimal supplement of grain.

No premium on space in TexasThe whole family pitches in to support the CKC business. When we stopped by Chrissy’s father was busy painting the tasting room area that had just been completed. One of their local food heroes, Sibby Barrett is bringing a group of her culinary students out to the farm next weekend as part of her “Random Acts of Cooking” courses where the students visit a number of local farms and producers to gather the goods for their cooking lesson. You can read about Sibby’s local, culinary courses here.

CKC produces a wide variety of goat’s milk cheeses- spreads, small disks reminiscent of the French classic selles sur cher, marinated feta, a blue cheese, and soon to come some natural rinded tommes. Their cheese production room is simple and spacious- with ample room to increase volume. They sell their output at a farmer’s market nearby in San Antonio and to a number of small food purveyors local to them and also a number in the Austin area.

We sat around the table with Chrissy, her mother, and her two younger brothers to taste some cheese and hear about the time they spent in Europe together as a family- this is where their love affair with handcrafted cheeses began. Their cheeses are delicious- on par with many American goat’s milk products let alone European imports. I look forward to re-visiting Austin and sampling the aged cheeses as they roll out.

It was a fantastic afternoon. The entire family just could not have been any nicer or more welcoming. We were there for a little over an hour and I think we laughed (hard) more than ten times- always a solid indicator of good company. They enjoy what they do, working hard and making sure to have a good time while doing it. When we got back into the car nancy asked if that visit was representative of what we’d done on our tour last summer. I replied with a resounding “Absolutely!” while Michael said wistfully, “Man, that was a great summer.”

Michael and the la mancha

Add comment September 11th, 2007

Cheese by Hand goes to San Francisco (in October)

Cheese School of San FranciscoMore specifically, we are going to be at the Cheese School of San Francisco. Better yet we are going to teach a class about our cheese voyage while we are there. Come check us out on October 11th for a great nuggets of American cheeses and information! Call (415) 346-7530 to sign up. 

Add comment September 5th, 2007

Shelburne Farms at last

View from Shelburne cheese roomWhen I started working at the Artisanal Cheese Center nearly four years ago, Ross Gagnon was the production manager. Ross had left his job as head cheesemaker at Shelburne Farms in Vermont, and moved to NYC to join the team at Artisanal. He was, and probably still is, a character. While listening to him critique cheeses was fascinating it was also completely frustrating because I had no idea what he was talking about. His technical knowledge of flavor and texture development in cheddars, the hallmark cheese of Shelburne Farms, was phenomenal. He had little patience for my newbie enthusiasm and lack of understanding of the cheesemaking process.

I was equally turned off by what I thought was snobbery on his part. One morning he was looking at a big wheel of cheddar and whining about how much he missed making cheese so I suggested that he make some cheese at home… He shook his head quietly and muttered something about not having access to milk. Being a pragmatist, I confidently informed him that there was plenty of milk- that he should just go buy some at the supermarket. My optimistic suggestion was met with silence.

Clearly I have made progress- I now understand that what he missed was a vat filled with pristine, high quality milk from Shelburne’s herd of 125 pure-bred registered Brown Swiss cows. Even with the stories that Ross and many others told about Shelburne- it never hit my radar as a place I urgently needed to visit. Seems strange now considering how many people have told me over the years that it is by far the most beautiful and one of the most impressive farms they’ve ever visited. During my week in Burlington- I made up for lost time and visited Shelburne twice.

The opening reception on the first night of hte ACS conference was held in the breeding barn at the farm- sounds rustic right? Think again- this is Shelburne Farms the former summer residence of Dr. William Seward and Victoria Vanderbilt Wells. In its heyday the farm was considered a center for agricultural innovation. The breeding barn was actually used for horses- specifically to create a sort of super-breed of workhorses for farmers. This fell apart with the invention of the internal combustion engine that lead to the use of tractors. The building is as long as a New York city block and is absolutely gorgeous inside and out. Turns out it was designed by Robert H. Robertson in the late 1800’s- he was considered one of the best of his time. The land is not privately owned any longer- it is now an environmental education non-profit. Check the Shelburne website for more history.
When we arrived most, if not all of Vermont’s cheesemakers were set up inside, sampling their cheeses at tables around the perimeter. Between the cheese and ice cold beer I didn’t stray too far from the barn and thus decided I would need to figure out a way to come back and check out the rest of the grounds before returning to NY.

Luckily I had met Shelburne’s current cheesemaker, Jaime Yturriondobeitia, at the Terra Madre conference put on by Slow Food last October. She is incredible- one because she is a female cheddar maker (there aren’t many) and two because she has a background in microbiology so her understanding of cheesemaking and aging is thorough and impressive. I bumped into her at breakfast on Friday morning and she told me that I was welcome to come out and spend some time with her on Saturday when she made cheese. Michael, Alyce Birchenough (the legendary cheesemaker from Sweet Home Farm in Alabama) and I played hooky from the conference on Saturday morning and drove out to the farm.

We found Jaime in the cheese room preparing to add rennet to the vat. Immediately I am impressed- I looked at the vat of milk like it was the biggest pot of dinner I could imagine making and thought about how nervous I would be to make a mistake with that volume of milk- Jaime moved so confidently around the make room. As it should be, she has been making cheese there for three years.

Jaime adds rennet to the vat
After the rennet has been added, the agitator (those metal poles that stir and go back and forth in the vat) is turned off so the curd can begin to set. Jaime talked to us a bit about her formula for timing the cut of the curd- and she taught us about something called floculation- which is the very beginning of the formation of solids. To look for this early indicator she dipped a long knife into the milk gently and let a thin film of it rest on the blade in the light- so that she could examine it for small particles that were visible to the eye (early, tiny solids).

Lesson  on floculation

We hung around for the initial cutting of the curd- totally cool to see two women work a cheddar vat! Jaime took a little break to take us on a short tour of the buildings surrounding the dairy- talked to us about the educational programs- and then insisted that we take a drive around the grounds before heading back to the conference. So we swung by the bakery- just a hop skip away from the creamery to get a snack and then drove round to all the points Jaime had laid out on the map. A perfect excursion that unfortunately did not come close to sating my desire to spend time at Shelburne Farms- hoping to head back in September…

p.s. There is a great step-by-step visual of the cheddar process on Shelburne’s site right here (that’s Ross in the photos).

Add comment August 12th, 2007

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