Posts filed under 'Jasper Hill Farm'
Today 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!
January 1st, 2008
One of the general sessions this year was about cheesemaking in the Northeast. Clark Wolf who has a NYC based company that does restaurant and hospitality consulting was our moderator and did a great job of synthesizing information from the three presentations and posing broader questions to us all at the end. Louis Aird of Saputo in Montreal shared the history of cheese production in Canada with us and Jeff Roberts, author of the Atlas of American Artisan Cheese shared some facts and statistics about cheesemakers in the Northeast that he’d collected during his research for the book.
My ten minute talk was based on findings from our tour last summer. Below is a basic outline of my talk with audio pieces laid in where I played them. Have a read and a listen.
The Cheese by Hand lens: Our project only looked at producers making cheese by hand. We made every effort to cover the major milk types- cow, sheep, goat- and to represent the density of cheesemaking in certain regions (i.e. we saw more dairies in Wisconsin, Vermont, and California than anywhere else).
In the Northeast we visited the following farms in this order: Jasper Hill Farm, Twig Farm, Vermont Butter & Cheese, Willow Hill Farm, Appleton Creamery, Westfield Farm, and Cato Corner Farm. All are first generation cheesemakers, two are farmstead, three use milk from their own herds and buy in milk to supplement, and two are purchasing all of their milk.
These producers are, in many ways, representative of those we visited around the country- they come from diverse background and face many of the same issues as their colleagues in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and even the South. I’ll cover three larger topics that came up everywhere and explain to you how the Northeasterners had a unique perspective on each.
First: The loss of landscape. This includes not only the land but all the services that support farms- large animal vets, mechanics, and slaughterhouses). The audio clip below features Michael Lee (Twig Farm), and Willow Smart and David Phinney (Willow Hill Farm).
Loss of Farms
The terminology- working landscape- is something we only heard in the Northeast. Maybe their connection to the landscape comes from an awareness of the rich history of dairying and farming in the region? Ultimately on this issue we felt that the producers in this area were ‘on message’ meaning that everyone had similar thoughts and desires to see the land back in use for agriculture.
Second: An eye towards their competition (Europe). Cost of Business clip starts with Allison Hooper (Vermont Butter & Cheese), Caitlin Hunter (Appleton Creamery), Michael lee (Twig Farm). Educating the public starts with Caitlin (AC), Debbie Stetson (Westfield Farm), Mateo Kehler (Jasper Hill Farm), Michael Lee (TF).
Cost of Business Educating the public
Cheesemaking is expensive everywhere but the reference point for NE cheesemakers is always Europe- whether they are discussing healthcare, cost of infrastructure, or subsidies. This may happen because the two big markets are NYC and Boston, both of which have a bounty of imported cheeses. One stinging factor is that there is a perception that most European cheeses are made by hand- Michael Lee pointed out in another part of our interview that EU cheeses that are made in the way he makes his cheeses in Vermont would not be cheaper. There is a serious educational component for these cheesemakers- not just about cheese but about the state of agriculture in our own country.
Third: The concept of local. This word is as loose as “natural” or “artisan”- listen to how differently it is used by these producers. Some call their products local when all the inputs are local and some use the term local to define the inputs and the market where it is sold. In this audio clip you will hear Michael Lee (TF), Mateo Kehler (JHF), and Mark Gillman (Cato Corner Farm).
The NE region is going to push the word local and possibly force it to be defined. Again, this has a lot to do with the two big metropolitan markets within (NY, Boston) because clientele there can support the reclaimation of the working landscape. NE was the only place where we heard producers talking about AOC cheeses- about products that must be created in a specific place- maybe also a result of the proximity and comparison to European products in the market.
In closing- some thoughts from NE producers about unifies them and what they imagine is in store for the future of artisan cheesemaking… You will hear Willow Smart (WHF) and Michael Lee (TF).
August 9th, 2007
Tuesday afternoon I sauntered down to Saxelby Cheesemongers and picked up a couple cheeses for our Thanksgiving dinner:
First, a little ditty from one of my favorite creative forces in cheese, Laini Fondiller of Lazy Lady Farm. It is called Trillium and as Anne Saxelby described it, “It is a feat of both cheese ingenuity and engineering.” A small, mold-ripened, column with one layer of goat cheese running between two layers of cows’ milk cheese.
Second I nabbed a chunk of Grayson from Meadow Creek- not much of a stretch for me given that I ate a ton of it while I was on their farm not long ago but it was looking so voluptuous in the case that I couldn’t resist.
Third…La piece de resistance of my cheese board was the generous wedge of Jasper Hill Farm’s Aspenhurst. For those of you not familiar with Aspenhurst it is similar to a cheddar in that it has a bit of tang to it and is clothbound but technically it is not a cheddar because it is not “cheddared”. The curd is not stacked and re-stacked over a period of hours (cheddaring)- a process that allows acidity to build- but it is milled, pressed, larded, wrapped with cloth and aged for a minimum of 12 months making it similar in form and even in texture to clothbound cheddars. Aspenhurst is not widely available and I was lucky enough to get a wedge from the cheesemaker himself as a thank you for having assisted with one of the batches.
We visited Japser Hill in late June 2005 when we made Aspenhurst with Mateo. He enjoyed taunting us (Michael, our friend Tyler, and myself) about the Aspenhurst make all day. We laughed it off and then once Mateo started milling and we began “fluffing” (gently and repeatedly lifting up the milled curds to prevent them from matting) the curd we switched from giggling to sweating. These photos are from the end of the make and the beginning of the press.
November 26th, 2006
WOW! What a great night last night! Thank you to all who came out to support us on a Tuesday night!
How can we possibly express the level of gratitude we feel for all the people who supported Cheese by Hand at our kick-off event last night. We know that you can find links to all these folks in our Special Thanks section but we are so moved by their generosity that we want to give one more round of shout outs.
Vintage New York donated their beautiful space to us for the evening and provided us with everything we needed logistically to make the event what it was.
Blue Hill introduced me to something I will crave from this day forward: the Fennel Burger. Sweet, seasonal, and aesthetically pleasing- precisely what one becomes accustomed to when they put their taste buds in the hands of Chef Dan Barber. And what a treat to have Parmesan Lollypops passed throughout the night by Blue Hill’s team to accompany those tasty Fennel Burgers!
Even though I was incredibly tardy getting my trays to Mas (farmhouse) yesterday, all of their staff was enthusiastic about the project. This might be because it meant they got to sneak a sample of the exquisite steak tartare. One could clearly stop there but their chef Galen Zamarra is in a different league- he also crafted smoked cod fritters topped with a dollop of saffron mayonnaise that was dotted with chopped capers and cornichons and the entire bit was topped with a sunchoke chip.
Last but in absolutely no way the least is the crostini that I began referring to as “springtime on a toast” from the Tasting Room. Chef Colin Alveras never misses a greenmarket beat and last night was no exception. Upon first glance one might have thought “who brought the spinach dip?” until the dip crossed their lips. Colin used ricotta from one of his favorite New York state cheesemakers, Tonjes Farm, mixed in ramps and dandelion greens and finished it off with a splash of Tonjes’ buttermilk.
Millbrook Vineyards and Winery from Hudson Valley in New York provided us with their Special Reserve Chardonnay. Millbrook has several wines to choose from but when it is spring and there is food to be had, we love their Chardonnay. It is Burgundian style with malolactic fermentation in barrel and provides a lovely acidity to compliment the food.
And our good friends Bruce & Christiane Schneider donated their amazing Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Schneider Vineyards is out on the North Fork of Long Island. Their Le Breton Cabernet Franc is in the Loire style with wonderful hints of pepper and vegetal notes but stays in balanced with the acid to make it such a great food wine. And the Syrah is a rich muscular red without the overpowering tannins often associated with Syrah from the south of France. Two great wines!
Both of these producers demonstrate that, right here in New York, there are delicious and affordable wines being produced. It was a treat to pour their wines.
So great to have so many cheese enthusiasts in one place, especially because we had the goods to satiate their cheese needs. We were only able to do this because of the generosity of three stellar, American cheesemakers.
The Kehler’s brothers sent us a smattering of cheeses from Jasper Hill. Their soft-ripened Constant Bliss were in rare form. Bayley Hazen Blue, as promised by Mateo, was not a “slap you upside the head” kind of experience rather it allowed us to taste the milk alongside the mild blue flavors. The spruce-bound Winnemere tasted as good as it looked- delicate woodsy flavors, sweet milk, and a pungent exterior came together to make something totally cool happen on the tongue. The Cabot Clothbound was excellent- this cheese is going to revolutionize the way cheese people think about pasteurized cheddar- it is bursting with flavor.
Mike and Carol Gingrich from Uplands Cheese shared some of their treasured Pleasant Ridge Reserve Extra Aged with us last night. This is the cheese that won Best in Show at the American Cheese Society in 2005. Uplands does not mess around- they are only making cheese when the cows are out on pasture- and even then, they taste the milk daily to decide which batches are worthy of cheesemaking. Such a treat to have this at our event.
Our Texas hero Paula Lambert of the Mozzarella Company sent us one of her most unique cheeses, Hoja Santa. Wrapped in the fragrant (and huge) Hoja Santa leaf this cheese is not only beautiful but also has some of the most interesting flavors of any American cheese out there.
Jasper Hill not only provided us with a wide variety of their cheeses, they also served as the content for our extended audio clip. We spent some time editing together a longer segment ala NPR and played a portion of it last night.
Jasper Hill Farm
The music heard (in order) is “The American Landscape” by Gloria Deluxe, “Summer Days” and “Golden Time” by Matty Charles. We love their music and are so grateful they allowed us to user their music for this piece. Let us know what you think!
April 26th, 2006
After listening to all the audio we recorded at Jasper Hill, a consistent theme emerged: the philosophy of terroir. But not just terroir that we hear when dealing with taste but terroir in the most fundamental sense… this land, this area, this community. The fierce determination and pride of looking to the local rather than the easy and accustomed path of the global.
We cut a few pieces from our interview with Mateo.
Loss of Farming
**For those that are new to the cheese world, we will be building a glossary of terms for things like “AOC” (which is a reference to European system of classifications for things like cheese and wine - Comte and Beaufort are their own AOC as are many established cheeses) and will post it in our “Pages” section and reference it as needed.
March 7th, 2006
After reviewing the matrial we collected from our trip at Jasper Hill, we have taken a first pass at some clips we think are interesting… well, at least funny.
In the make room
So hard to think
Oops! Do over…
Actual clips from our interview with Mateo will be up shortly!
March 5th, 2006
This past weekend Michael and I made our way to Jasper Hill Farm. We had visited the farm a couple times before this weekend which made it an ideal first stop for our tour. The farm involves two brothers- Andy and Mateo Keehler, and their families. Although on previous trips we’ve spent time in the various parts of the operation- the cheese house, the barn, the cellar, and even each of their dinner tables- this time was different.
Part of the difference was in us- we were paying much closer attention to how things worked and listening carefully for the sounds of the place. The farm itself has also changed, the ground is covered with snow and the foundation has been laid for a new barn across the dirt road from the existing barn. This was the first time we’ve been to visit when the cows are all inside the barn because the danger of them slipping on ice or losing sound footing in mud is too high. There are some new faces on the farm too- Amy, Josh, Princess, and Tim- the four of them help in all areas of the operation.
Although we arrived late Friday night, we didn’t sit down to interview Mateo until late Sunday afternoon. Given how busy they are it is difficult to get both brothers in a room together so we will return later to talk with Andy. Over the last two years I have talked to Mateo in depth about the farm, and yet in this conversation, I learned so much more. It leaves me with the feeling that we had just scratched the surface.
Mateo made one statement that stuck with me- I found myself thinking about it all day today. He said- and I paraphrase here- that the creation of Jasper Hill Farm was his and Andy’s response to the globalization of our economy. He fully acknowledges that he and his brother rely on that economy in many ways - he is not in denial, he is aware of the situation and taking action. This inspired me to think today about things that weigh heavy on my mind and conscience.
I find it disconcerting that we’ve lost a connection with what it takes to produce the majority of what we consume. Listening to Mateo speak about the reality of what it takes to “live the dream” on the farm was satisfying in a way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Today, back in the cheese caves, it struck me that maybe this project, this effort to explore the production of hand-made cheese and share it with the public, is my response.
February 16th, 2006
So this was a very big weekend for Cheese by Hand… Sasha and I made our way up to Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, VT to do a “dry run” of our up-coming trip. Greensboro is in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, a name which I find both amazingly boastful yet accurate! Brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler have been kind to my wife and me for over two years now - we have visited the farm before and they always make us feel welcome and part of the family.
Andy handles the animals, in this case 35 milking Ayrshire cows, which requires two milkings a day, every day, no matter what. I do not envy Andy’s job. His wife, Victoria, runs the cellar - aging and maturing the cheeses before they go out into the wild.
Mateo handles the cheesemaking. They are a raw milk maker and have developed five cheese to date. Mateo is always experimenting and looking to make new cheeses. His wife Angie runs the Accounts Payable and Receivable, as well as the website and their 15 month-old son, Reed.
I realized this weekend that finding a quiet room to record audio is going to be quite a challenge on a working farm… there is always something going on. Compressors, motors, cleaning, moo-ing - well moo-ing is ok. But we will do our best to capture the sights and sounds on the farm. And hopefull get better every time. Here are a few shots from Jasper Hill.
February 14th, 2006