Artisan Cheese

Spotlight on Jasper Hill Farm

If you’re a lover of Vermont artisan cheese, then you’re likely no stranger to the producer basking in the glow of this week’s Member Deals Spotlight — Jasper Hill Farm. And we think you’ll be thrilled to hear that from March 10th – 16th, Co-op member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on their full lineup of award-winning local cheeses! Read on to learn more about the brothers behind this epic operation, their innovative approach to cheesemaking, and the legendary underground cellars where they age cheeses to ripe perfection:

 

Deep in the heart of the dairy country of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is a dairy farm like no other. A glimpse of the main barn, painted deep-space blue with cows in astronaut attire and a moon made of cheese, provides the first hint that you’ve landed somewhere unique. Brothers Andy and Mateo, along with their wives, Victoria and Angie, knew they needed to do something different when they purchased this derelict dairy farm in 1998 — the same year that one-third of the neighboring dairy farms in the community sold their cows under intense financial pressures. Small-scale farms like this were becoming more difficult to keep up and running – a 50 cow farm like theirs would have to compete with average herd sizes of about 900 cows out west, as all of that milk is priced by the same commodity market. But the brothers were eager to find meaningful work in the place that they loved and wanted to demonstrate the ability to make a good living milking 45 grass-fed Ayrshire cows on a rocky hillside in Vermont. 

Brothers Andy & Mateo Kehler. Image by Colin Clark.

Over the next 5 years, they worked hard to patch up the barn, build up their herd, improve their pastures, construct a creamery, and carve out a cave that would provide the ideal conditions for aging European-style natural rind cheeses. By 2003, they were ready to sell their very first cheeses and quickly amassed a strong following in the burgeoning American artisan cheese market. An interesting call from neighboring Cabot Creamery would change the course of their plans and set them down a path that involved creating opportunities for other local cheesemakers to get their product to peak potential. Like most cheesemakers, Cabot lacked a space dedicated to cultivating natural rinds. In fact, their warehouses were focused on keeping surface mold away from cheese. The Kehlers were nearby, hungry to grow their business, and most importantly, had a temperature and humidity controlled space designed to grow natural rinds. The result was Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and the awards and accolades soon followed, as one of the first batches took home Best of Show at the 2006 American Cheese Society Conference.  Andy & Mateo recognized the potential in these kinds of collaborations and drew up plans for an expanded aging facility beneath one of the pastures of Jasper Hill Farm.

The Cellars at Jasper Hill

Two years later, they formally opened the Cellars at Jasper Hill —  a 22,000 square-foot aging facility featuring seven vaults specifically calibrated for various cheese types. This allowed them to partner with a network of other local cheesemakers and reduce the barriers to entry for those interested in value-added production. According to their website, “ripening work for natural-rind cheeses takes up more than 70% of the labor for a batch of cheese, over its lifetime. By pooling these efforts, farmstead producers could spend more time focusing on the true drivers of cheese quality: milk production and cheesemaking. Instead of sending hundreds of small boxes through the post, refrigerated trucks now pick up pallets of cheese destined for regional and national distributors. The Cellars is now the final stop for cheeses coming from six different creameries. Its mission is to be the standard-bearer for quality and innovation in the artisan cheese industry.”

The award-winning Harbison. Image by Bob Montgomery

Andy & Mateo have a knack for distilling the local landscape into their cheeses. They took this approach to new heights in 2013 when they opened a state-of-the-art laboratory on their farm, complete with a staff of food microbiology experts. The idea for this new endeavor was sparked by their partnership with Harvard scientist Dr. Rachel Dutton in 2010, who was using cheese as a model to research how small microbial communities interact. One of the profound discoveries of Dr. Dutton’s work was the notion that the environment (cows, cheese caves, pastures) and methods (washing, salting, managing acidity) were as important to the development of cheese rinds, if not more so, than the ingredients. Microbes, including yeast and bacteria, are critical partners in the cheesemaking process, turning milk into solids, and those solids into cheeses with distinctive aromas, flavors, and textures. American cheesemakers have very limited options when sourcing the cultures for their cheeses, as there are only three domestic suppliers of these critical microbes, all of which are multinational chemical corporations, including DuPont and Cargill. This significantly limits the number of available cultures and stifles the individualism that artisanal cheesemakers crave.

The happy grass-fed cows of Jasper Hill Farm. Image by Blake Noyes.

With strong science to support Dr. Dutton’s findings, a new lab, and a team of microbiologists lending their expertise, Jasper Hill Farm has been able to experiment with creating their own microbial cultures, which are sourced directly from the milk produced by the cows on their farm. They have also found that their raw milk cheeses, like Winnimere, contain all of the microbes needed to produce a fantastic cheese, thus avoiding the need to add microbial cultures. While this all may sound very high-tech for something as rudimentary farmstead cheese, Andy and Mateo are quick to point out that a cheese will never be better than the milk that it’s made from, you can’t make good milk without healthy animals, and you can’t have healthy animals without a healthy landscape filled with nutrient-dense forage. The microbial ecology of raw milk is the sum of these practices on a farm.

The proof of success lies in the supreme quality of the cheeses coming out of the Cellars at Jasper Hill. Their cheeses have garnered a long list of awards including ‘Best American Cheese’ at the World Cheese Awards and ‘Best in Show’ at the American Cheese Society for Harbison; an American Cheese Society ‘Best in Class’ for Bayley Hazen Blue, and two Top 20 nods at the 2020 World Championship Cheese Contest for Highlander and Lait Bloomer. If you’re worried it might all be going to their heads, a quick trip to their YouTube channel will reassure you that they’re not taking themselves too seriously. The music video parodies are a must-see, as is a clip of their Bayley Hazen Blue being shot into Earth’s outer atmosphere with the help of a weather balloon, an HD camera, and GPS tracking software. The cheese was successfully lofted 100,000 feet up and then retrieved where it parachuted down a couple of towns to the west of the Greensboro, VT launch site. Talk about stellar cheese!!

The Bayley Hazen Blue Moon launch. Image by Ryan Nolan.

 

Spotlight on Champlain Valley Creamery

We’re casting our Member Deals Spotlight on a local organic creamery that produces delicious award-winning cheeses just a few short miles from the Co-op. Champlain Valley Creamery uses traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheese entirely by hand in a net-zero solar-powered facility in Middlebury. Their fantastic lineup of cheeses are all 20% off for Member-owners from December 23rd – 29th! Read on to learn more about this fabulous local creamery and the people who make it shine:

 

 

Champlain Valley Creamery was first established in 2003 by founder and owner Carleton Yoder. With a graduate degree in food science and a background in wine and hard cider making, Yoder was eager to run his own food business. With Vermont’s abundance of amazing local milk, small-scale cheesemaking just made sense. Yoder began his adventures in cheesemaking in a facility in Vergennes where he focused on two products: Organic Champlain Triple and Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese. Both have been awarded well-deserved honors from the prestigious American Cheese Society.

Carleton Yoder

Over the years, the creamery has continued to grow and expand its offerings, eventually moving into a net-zero solar-powered facility on Middlebury’s Exchange Street in 2012. Yoder and his small crew now produce an expanded lineup of cheeses including Queso Fresco (available in original, house-smoked, and pepper varieties),  Maple Cream Cheese, a pyramid-shaped triple cream with a layer of ash known as Pyramid Scheme, and, most recently, they began importing Italian truffles to produce the Champlain Truffle Triple.

 

The Creamery also made a switch last year to using 100% grass-fed organic milk from the Severy Farm in Cornwall. The milk only travels a few short miles from the farm to the creamery, where the cheesemaking begins within hours of arrival. The use of grass-fed milk results in a richer, creamier cheese that displays subtle seasonal changes reflective of the changing diet of the cows as the seasons progress. It’s truly the terroir of Addison County in each decadent bite of cheese.

salting a fresh batch of Queso Fresco

Yoder is supported by a small crew that is just as dedicated to the craft as he is. They use traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheeses entirely by hand.  A recent visit to their facility found the crew in constant motion, measuring, stirring, monitoring temperatures, and generally putting every bit of the day’s fresh batch of milk to good use. The bulk of the cream and whole milk is used to produce the Organic Champlain Triple, Champlain Truffle Triple, and the two varieties of cream cheese. The part-skim milk is then transformed into each of the three varieties of Queso Fresco, and the whey is drained off to create hand-dipped, basket-strained ricotta that is only available to a few select restaurants in the area. The only remaining by-product is a small amount of whey, which is sent to feed the happy pigs at Hinesburg’s Full Moon Farm, resulting in an operation that is hyper-local with very minimal waste. 

Amanda Warner & Carleton Yoder, with Carleton’s daughter,  Lila Cook Yoder, who was helping out on a snow day

According to Yoder, “cheesemaking is hard work but we strive to let the milk, cream, culture, salt, and mold shine through with their amazing flavors.” It’s this minimalist approach and the desire to honor the high-quality local ingredients that make Champlain Valley Creamery’s cheeses shine.

Picture hanging above Yoder’s desk made by his son, Nate

 

Spotlight on Plymouth Artisan Cheese

Our Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly this week on a family-run cheese factory hailing from the hills of Plymouth, Vermont known as Plymouth Artisan Cheese! From November 26th – December 1st, member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on our full line of Plymouth cheeses, many of which are wax-dipped making them ideal for mailing to friends and family hoping for a taste of Vermont this holiday season. Read on to explore the rich history of the second-oldest functioning cheese-making facility in the country and the family that revived its age-old cheesemaking traditions:

 

Plymouth cheese was first founded in 1890 by Colonel John Coolidge, father of President Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States. The factory still occupies the original building constructed in 1890 by Colonel John Coolidge, who created Plymouth Cheese to turn extra milk on his dairy farm into a product with a longer shelf life. Located on the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, for more than 125 years, it is the second oldest functioning cheese factory in the country. The recipe used by Coolidge was consistent with the typical granular curd recipe that the first European settlers brought with them in the 1600s.

The Plymouth Cheese Factory, located on the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, VT. Photo by Jack Daryl Photography.

The dairy farm remained in the Coolidge family for several generations until 2009 when cheesemaker and Vermont native Jesse Werner fulfilled a lifelong dream by purchasing the business. Jesse is a graduate of the Vermont Institute of Artisanal Cheese (VIAC) at the University of Vermont where he studied the craft including chemistry, microbiology, cultures, and artisanal cheese design. He went on to apprentice with Marc Andre St. Yves of Fromager Conseil ENC/INTERNATIONAL. When the opportunity to take over arose, Jesse jumped.

Jesse then embarked on the momentous task of reviving the Plymouth Cheese Factory and that original 1890’s granular curd cheese recipe, which he found while bringing the antique cheese factory and its equipment back to life.  The revamped facility houses the complete cheesemaking process with all production, storage, waxing, and aging occurring right there on campus. To craft their cheeses, Plymouth Artisan Cheese uses only the finest, pasture-raised raw cow’s milk, free of additives, antibiotics, and rBST. The milk is sourced from a single dairy herd from a sustainable, seventh-generation family farm 40 minutes up the road from the Coolidge homestead. The rich, open-bodied texture of granular curd cheese requires skillful cutting and continuous stirring of the curds — an artform that Jesse is proud to practice. Paying homage to traditional cheesemaking techniques, Plymouth Cheese continues to hand-dip many of its cheeses in colorful wax — the way it was done over 125 years ago on the Plymouth homestead.

Jesse runs the business with the support of his brilliant wife, Sarit, who has a strong background in Graphic Design as the former head graphic artist for Ralph Lauren’s Blue Label. Sarit is responsible for designing the brand and packaging, with its signature vintage brass cheese stencils and period typography.  She also manages Plymouth Artisan Cheese’s Marketing, Sales, and social media presence. In true family business fashion, Jesse’s parents pitch in by bringing the cheese to the people and supporting backend operations. Together with their team members, Jesse and family are keeping the Plymouth tradition alive, producing cheese that is as appealing to the eye as it is to the palate.

Today, Plymouth is the closest cheese you can find to the blocks that graced the kitchen tables of America’s first farmers. Their lineup includes eight vibrantly colored waxed-block variations of the original Plymouth recipe and two cave-aged wheels (a washed rind called Grace’s Choice and a Tomme de Savoie-style called Plymouth Tomme). Three of their waxed blocks — Sage & Herbs, Original, and Hot Pepper have earned coveted awards from the American Cheese Society.

The public is invited to visit the Plymouth Cheese Factory, which is open daily from 11-4 for self-guided tours to explore the historic factory and observe Jesse and his assistants as they create Plymouth Cheese. More often than not, Jesse will come out and wax poetic about his beloved craft. In addition to their factory store, they also have a charming museum and education center on the second floor that takes patrons back in time to experience the history of cheesemaking in Vermont. They are confident that once you have tasted their cheeses you will appreciate and understand their obsessive attention to detail and passion for preserving and growing the natural working landscapes here in Vermont.

Spotlight on Jasper Hill Farm

If you’re a lover of Vermont artisan cheese, then you’re likely no stranger to the producer basking in the glow of this week’s Member Deals Spotlight — Jasper Hill Farm. And we think you’ll be thrilled to hear that from July 22nd – 28th, Co-op member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on their vast array of award-winning local cheeses! Read on to learn more about the brothers behind this epic operation, their innovative approach to cheesemaking, and the legendary underground cellars where they age cheeses to ripe perfection:

 

Deep in the heart of the dairy country of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is a dairy farm like no other. A glimpse of the main barn, painted deep-space blue with cows in astronaut attire and a moon made of cheese, provides the first hint that you’ve landed somewhere unique. Brothers Andy and Mateo, along with their wives, Victoria and Angie, knew they needed to do something different when they purchased this derelict dairy farm in 1998 — the same year that one-third of the neighboring dairy farms in the community sold their cows under intense financial pressures. Small-scale farms like this were becoming more difficult to keep up and running – a 50 cow farm like theirs would have to compete with average herd sizes of about 900 cows out west, as all of that milk is priced by the same commodity market. But the brothers were eager to find meaningful work in the place that they loved and wanted to demonstrate the ability to make a good living milking 45 Ayrshire cows on a rocky hillside in Vermont. 

Brothers Andy & Mateo Kehler. Image by Colin Clark.

Over the next 5 years, they worked hard to patch up the barn, build up their herd, improve their pastures, construct a creamery, and carve out a cave that would provide the ideal conditions for aging European-style natural rind cheeses. By 2003, they were ready to sell their very first cheeses and quickly amassed a strong following in the burgeoning American artisan cheese market. An interesting call from neighboring Cabot Creamery would change the course of their plans and set them down a path that involved creating opportunities for other local cheesemakers to get their product to peak potential. Like most cheesemakers, Cabot lacked a space dedicated to cultivating natural rinds. In fact, their warehouses were focused on keeping surface mold away from cheese. The Kehlers were nearby, hungry to grow their business, and most importantly had a temperature and humidity controlled space designed to grow natural rinds. The result was Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and the awards and accolades soon followed, as one of the first batches took home Best of Show at the 2006 American Cheese Society Conference.  Andy & Mateo recognized the potential in these kinds of collaborations and drew up plans for an expanded aging facility beneath one of the pastures of Jasper Hill Farm.

The Cellars at Jasper Hill

Two years later, they formally opened the Cellars at Jasper Hill —  a 22,000 square-foot aging facility featuring seven vaults specifically calibrated for various cheese types. This allowed them to partner with a network of other local cheesemakers and reduce the barriers to entry for those interested in value-added production. According to their website, “ripening work for natural-rind cheeses takes up more than 70% of the labor for a batch of cheese, over its lifetime. By pooling these efforts, farmstead producers could spend more time focusing on the true drivers of cheese quality: milk production and cheesemaking. Instead of sending hundreds of small boxes through the post, refrigerated trucks now pick up pallets of cheese destined for regional and national distributors. The Cellars is now the final stop for cheeses coming from six different creameries. Its mission is to be the standard-bearer for quality and innovation in the artisan cheese industry.”

The award-winning Harbison. Image by Bob Montgomery

Andy & Mateo have a knack for distilling the local landscape into their cheeses. They took this approach to new heights in 2013 when they opened a state-of-the-art laboratory on their farm, complete with a staff of food microbiology experts. The idea for this new endeavor was sparked by their partnership with Harvard scientist Dr. Rachel Dutton in 2010, who was using cheese as a model to research how small microbial communities interact. One of the profound discoveries of Dr. Dutton’s work was the notion that the environment (cows, cheese caves, pastures) and methods (washing, salting, managing acidity) were as important to the development of cheese rinds, if not more so, than the ingredients. Microbes, including yeast and bacteria, are critical partners in the cheesemaking process, turning milk into solids, and those solids into cheeses with distinctive aromas, flavors, and textures. American cheesemakers have very limited options when sourcing the cultures for their cheeses, as there are only three domestic suppliers of these critical microbes, all of which are multinational chemical corporations, including DuPont and Cargill. This significantly limits the number of available cultures and stifles the individualism that artisanal cheesemakers crave.

The happy grass-fed cows of Jasper Hill Farm. Image by Blake Noyes.

With strong science to support Dr. Dutton’s findings, a new lab, and a team of microbiologists lending their expertise, Jasper Hill Farm has been able to experiment with creating their own microbial cultures, which are sourced directly from the milk produced by the cows on their farm. They have also found that their raw milk cheeses, like Winnimere, contain all of the microbes needed to produce a fantastic cheese, thus avoiding the need to add microbial cultures. While this all may sound very high-tech for something as rudimentary farmstead cheese, Andy and Mateo are quick to point out that a cheese will never be better than the milk that it’s made from, you can’t make good milk without healthy animals, and you can’t have healthy animals without a healthy landscape filled with nutrient-dense forage. The microbial ecology of raw milk is the sum of these practices on a farm.

The proof of success lies in the supreme quality of the cheeses coming out of the Cellars at Jasper Hill. Their cheeses have garnered a long list of awards including ‘Best American Cheese’ at the World Cheese Awards and ‘Best in Show’ at the American Cheese Society for Harbison; an American Cheese Society ‘Best in Class’ for Bayley Hazen Blue, and two Top 20 nods at the 2020 World Championship Cheese Contest for Highlander and Lait Bloomer. If you’re worried it might all be going to their heads, a quick trip to their YouTube channel will reassure you that they’re not taking themselves too seriously. The music video parodies are a must-see, as is a clip of their Bayley Hazen Blue being shot into Earth’s outer atmosphere with the help of a weather balloon, an HD camera, and GPS tracking software. The cheese was successfully lofted 100,000 feet up and then retrieved where it parachuted down a couple of towns to the west of the Greensboro, VT launch site. Talk about stellar cheese!!

The Bayley Hazen Blue Moon launch. Image by Ryan Nolan.

 

Spotlight on Champlain Valley Creamery

We’re casting our Member Deals Spotlight on a local organic creamery that produces delicious award-winning cheeses just a few short miles from the Co-op. Champlain Valley Creamery uses traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheese entirely by hand in a net-zero solar-powered facility in Middlebury. Their fantastic lineup of cheeses are all 20% off for Member-owners from December 3rd – 9th! Read on to learn more about this fabulous local creamery and the people who make it shine:

 

 

Champlain Valley Creamery was first established in 2003 by founder and owner Carleton Yoder. With a graduate degree in food science and a background in wine and hard cider making, Yoder was eager to run his own food business. With Vermont’s abundance of amazing local milk, small-scale cheesemaking just made sense. Yoder began his adventures in cheesemaking in a facility in Vergennes where he focused on two products: Organic Champlain Triple and Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese. Both have been awarded well-deserved honors from the prestigious American Cheese Society.

Carleton Yoder

Over the years, the creamery has continued to grow and expand its offerings, eventually moving into a net-zero solar-powered facility on Middlebury’s Exchange Street in 2012. Yoder and his small crew now produce an expanded lineup of cheeses including Queso Fresco (available in original, house-smoked, and pepper varieties),  Maple Cream Cheese, a pyramid-shaped triple cream with a layer of ash known as Pyramid Scheme, and, most recently, they began importing Italian truffles to produce the Champlain Truffle Triple.

 

The Creamery also made a switch last year to using 100% grass-fed organic milk from the Severy Farm in Cornwall. The milk only travels a few short miles from the farm to the creamery, where the cheesemaking begins within hours of arrival. The use of grass-fed milk results in a richer, creamier cheese that displays subtle seasonal changes reflective of the changing diet of the cows as the seasons progress. It’s truly the terroir of Addison County in each decadent bite of cheese.

salting a fresh batch of Queso Fresco

Yoder is supported by a small crew that is just as dedicated to the craft as he is. They use traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheeses entirely by hand.  A recent visit to their facility found the crew in constant motion, measuring, stirring, monitoring temperatures, and generally putting every bit of the day’s fresh batch of milk to good use. The bulk of the cream and whole milk is used to produce the Organic Champlain Triple, Champlain Truffle Triple, and the two varieties of cream cheese. The part-skim milk is then transformed into each of the three varieties of Queso Fresco, and the whey is drained off to create hand-dipped, basket-strained ricotta that is only available to a few select restaurants in the area. The only remaining by-product is a small amount of whey, which is sent to feed the happy pigs at Hinesburg’s Full Moon Farm, resulting in an operation that is hyper-local with very minimal waste. 

Amanda Warner & Carleton Yoder, with Carleton’s daughter,  Lila Cook Yoder, who was helping out on a snow day

According to Yoder, “cheesemaking is hard work but we strive to let the milk, cream, culture, salt, and mold shine through with their amazing flavors.” It’s this minimalist approach and the desire to honor the high-quality local ingredients that make Champlain Valley Creamery’s cheeses shine.

Picture hanging above Yoder’s desk made by his son, Nate

 

Spotlight on Champlain Valley Creamery

We’re casting our Member Deals Spotlight on a local organic creamery that produces delicious award-winning cheeses just a few short miles from the Co-op. Champlain Valley Creamery uses traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheese entirely by hand in a net-zero solar-powered facility in Middlebury. Their fantastic lineup of cheeses are all 20% off for Member-owners from December 3rd – 9th! Read on to learn more about this fabulous local creamery and the people who make it shine:

 

 

Champlain Valley Creamery was first established in 2003 by founder and owner Carleton Yoder. With a graduate degree in food science and a background in wine and hard cider making, Yoder was eager to run his own food business. With Vermont’s abundance of amazing local milk, small-scale cheesemaking just made sense. Yoder began his adventures in cheesemaking in a facility in Vergennes where he focused on two products: Organic Champlain Triple and Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese. Both have been awarded well-deserved honors from the prestigious American Cheese Society.

Carleton Yoder

Over the years, the creamery has continued to grow and expand its offerings, eventually moving into a net-zero solar-powered facility on Middlebury’s Exchange Street in 2012. Yoder and his small crew now produce an expanded lineup of cheeses including Queso Fresco (available in original, house-smoked, and pepper varieties),  Maple Cream Cheese, a pyramid-shaped triple cream with a layer of ash known as Pyramid Scheme, and, most recently, they began importing Italian truffles to produce the Champlain Truffle Triple.

 

The Creamery also made a switch last year to using 100% grass-fed organic milk from the Severy Farm in Cornwall. The milk only travels a few short miles from the farm to the creamery, where the cheesemaking begins within hours of arrival. The use of grass-fed milk results in a richer, creamier cheese that displays subtle seasonal changes reflective of the changing diet of the cows as the seasons progress. It’s truly the terroir of Addison County in each decadent bite of cheese.

salting a fresh batch of Queso Fresco

Yoder is supported by a small crew that is just as dedicated to the craft as he is. They use traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheeses entirely by hand.  A recent visit to their facility found the crew in constant motion, measuring, stirring, monitoring temperatures, and generally putting every bit of the day’s fresh batch of milk to good use. The bulk of the cream and whole milk is used to produce the Organic Champlain Triple, Champlain Truffle Triple, and the two varieties of cream cheese. The part-skim milk is then transformed into each of the three varieties of Queso Fresco, and the whey is drained off to create hand-dipped, basket-strained ricotta that is only available to a few select restaurants in the area. The only remaining by-product is a small amount of whey, which is sent to feed the happy pigs at Hinesburg’s Full Moon Farm, resulting in an operation that is hyper-local with very minimal waste. 

Amanda Warner & Carleton Yoder, with Carleton’s daughter,  Lila Cook Yoder, who was helping out on a snow day

According to Yoder, “cheesemaking is hard work but we strive to let the milk, cream, culture, salt, and mold shine through with their amazing flavors.” It’s this minimalist approach and the desire to honor the high-quality local ingredients that make Champlain Valley Creamery’s cheeses shine.

Picture hanging above Yoder’s desk made by his son, Nate

 

Supporting Local Cheesemakers during Dairy Month

We’re so fortunate here in Vermont to be home to some of the finest cheesemakers in the world. Vermont cheesemakers set records in 2019,  collectively taking home an astounding 44 ribbons at the prestigious American Cheese Society’s 36th Annual Awards competition in Richmond, Virginia. The 2019 World Cheese Awards hosted by The Guild of Fine Food in the UK saw 7 Vermont cheesemakers take home awards, including 2 gold medals. The Vermont Cheese Council lists 53 cheesemakers in our state, 8 of which are located in Addison County. According to Vermont Cheese Council Executive Director, Tom Bivins, “The importance of the dairy and cheese industry to Vermont agriculture is significant socially and culturally, as well as enhancing our sense of place and supporting agriculture economies in their communities.”

Kate Turcotte of Orb Weaver Creamery

For years, Vermont’s artisanal cheeses have been a rare bright spot in an otherwise ailing dairy landscape, but as VPR reported in April, Vermont’s specialty cheesemakers are taking an extra hard hit during the pandemic. With the mandatory closure of restaurants and institutions across the state and the fact that many consumers are needing to significantly trim their food budgets, sales for Vermont’s specialty cheese producers dropped 50-70% almost overnight. Adding to the crisis is the fact that these farmers and cheesemakers were ineligible for the emergency relief loans made available to most other small businesses in the initial $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. They were able to qualify for the payroll protection program made available in the second tier of the relief package, though it remains to be seen if this will be sufficient to prevent a significant decline in the number of specialty cheese producers in Vermont.

Morgan & Chad Beckwith of Ice House Farm in Goshen

Of course, the cows and goats must still be milked, so many of Vermont’s resilient cheesemakers quickly shifted their business models to include direct-to-consumer sales through online platforms, roadside farm stands, and by partnering with other local farms to be included in community-supported agriculture (CSA) packages. The Vermont Cheese Council stepped in to help provide a way for cheesemakers to keep moving cheese our of their aging spaces by creating an Online Sales Directory and the Addison County Relocalization Network (ACORN-VT) created an online farmers market, to help connect shoppers with cheesemakers from Blue Ledge Farm, Bridport Creamery, Champlain Valley Creamery, Fairy Tale Farm, and Ice House Farm. 

Blue Ledge Farm installed a mini-fridge at their farm stand to keep their direct-to-consumer sales flowing.

Since 1939, June has been designated as Dairy Month, so what better way to celebrate than by stocking up on some of your favorite local cheeses? Perhaps you have a graduation to celebrate, a socially-distanced barbecue with friends, or you simply want to treat yourself to that perfect wedge of your favorite cheese. Your local cheesemakers will certainly appreciate your support.

 

Spotlight on Champlain Valley Creamery

We’re casting our Member Deals Spotlight on a local organic creamery that produces delicious award-winning cheeses just a few short miles from the Co-op. Champlain Valley Creamery uses traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheese entirely by hand in a net-zero solar-powered facility in Middlebury. Their fantastic lineup of cheeses are all 20% off for Member-owners from December 12th – 18th — just in time for your holiday parties! Read on to learn more about this fabulous local creamery and the people who make it shine:

 

 

Champlain Valley Creamery was first established in 2003 by founder and owner Carleton Yoder. With a graduate degree in food science and a background in wine and hard cider making, Yoder was eager to run his own food business. With Vermont’s abundance of amazing local milk, small-scale cheesemaking just made sense. Yoder began his adventures in cheesemaking in a facility in Vergennes where he focused on two products: Organic Champlain Triple and Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese. Both have been awarded well-deserved honors from the prestigious American Cheese Society.

Carleton Yoder

Over the years, the creamery has continued to grow and expand its offerings, eventually moving into a net-zero solar-powered facility on Middlebury’s Exchange Street in 2012. Yoder and his small crew now produce an expanded lineup of cheeses including Queso Fresco (available in original, house-smoked, and pepper varieties),  Maple Cream Cheese, a pyramid-shaped triple cream with a layer of ash known as Pyramid Scheme, and, most recently, they began importing Italian truffles to produce the Champlain Truffle Triple.

 

The Creamery also made a recent switch to using 100% grass-fed organic milk from the Severy Farm in Cornwall. The milk only travels a few short miles from the farm to the creamery, where the cheesemaking begins within hours of arrival. The use of grass-fed milk results in a richer, creamier cheese that displays subtle seasonal changes reflective of the changing diet of the cows as the seasons progress. It’s truly the terroir of Addison County in each decadent bite of cheese.

salting a fresh batch of Queso Fresco

Yoder is supported by a small crew that is just as dedicated to the craft as he is. They use traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheeses entirely by hand.  A recent visit to their facility found the crew in constant motion, measuring, stirring, monitoring temperatures, and generally putting every bit of the day’s fresh batch of milk to good use. The bulk of the cream and whole milk are used to produce the Organic Champlain Triple, Champlain Truffle Triple, and the two varieties of cream cheese. The part-skim milk is then transformed into each of the three varieties of Queso Fresco, and the whey is drained off to create hand-dipped, basket-strained ricotta that is only available to a few select restaurants in the area. The only remaining by-product is a small amount of whey, which is sent to feed the happy pigs at Hinesburg’s Full Moon Farm, resulting in an operation that his hyper-local with very minimal waste. 

Amanda Warren & Carleton Yoder, with Carleton’s daughter,  Lila Cook Yoder, who was helping out on a snow day

According to Yoder, “cheesemaking is hard work but we strive to let the milk, cream, culture, salt, and mold shine through with their amazing flavors.” It’s this minimalist approach and the desire to honor the high-quality local ingredients that make Champlain Valley Creamery’s cheeses shine.

Picture hanging above Yoder’s desk made by his son, Nate

 

Vermont Cheeses Set Record!

We all know that Vermont Cheeses are the best, but it sure is exciting to see that the rest of the country agrees!  At the prestigious American Cheese Society’s 36th Annual Awards competition (ACS) in Richmond, Virginia, Vermont producers, big and small, collectively took home 44 ribbons, marking Vermont’s best showing to date. Additionally, five Vermont cheeses were finalists for the Best of Show!

There were more 2000 entries at the 2019 ACS with 25 Vermont companies submitting cheeses to be judged. This annual competition is supported by the Vermont Cheese Council which provides technical assistance and marketing support for Vermont’s cheesemakers.

“These awards reinforce Vermont’s commitment to quality, which starts with the farmer, on the farm, and is carried right through until the cheese is served, “said Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “Many thanks to the cheesemakers and the Vermont Cheese Council for their hard work helping Vermont’s economy grow by continuing to reinforce and grow the quality of Vermont products.”

Winning Cheeses from Vermont include:

  •  Barn First Creamery, Westfield: Malloy, 1st Place
  • Boston Post Dairy, Enosburg Falls: Eleven Brothers, 2nd Place; Gisele, 3rd Place
  • Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Cabot: Cabot Founders Private Stock, 1st Place; Cabot Centennial, 1st Place; Cabot Garlic & Herb (New York) 1st Place; Old School Cheddar, 2nd Place; McCadam Brick Muenster (New York) 2nd Place; Cabot Salted Butter, (Massachusetts) 3rd Place
  • Cate Hill Orchard, Craftsbury Commons: Vermanchego, 2nd Place
  • Consider Bardwell Farm, West Pawlet: Rupert Reserve, 2nd Place; Goatlet, 1st Place with Crown Finish Caves
  • Fairy Tale Farm, Bridport: Nuberu, 2nd Place
  • Grafton Village Cheese Company, Grafton: Shepsog, 1st Place and Best of Show Finalist; Traditional Clothbound Cheddar, 2nd Place; Bear Hill, 3rd Place
  • Jasper Hill Farm, Greensboro: Cave Aged Cheddar, 1st Place in Category and Best of Show finalist in collaboration with Cabot Creamery Cooperative; Alpha Tolman, 1st Place, Cabot Clothbound, 3rd Place in collaboration with Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Bayley Hazen Blue, 3rd Place; Calderwood, 3rd Place, Hartwell, 3rd Place; Winnimere, 3rd Place; Little Hosmer, 3rd Place
  • Maplebrook Farm, Bennington: Whole Milk Block Feta, 1st Place
  • Mt. Mansfield Creamery, Morrisville: Starr, 1st Place collaboration with Sage Farm Goat Dairy, Stowe
  • Parish Hill Creamery, West Westminster: Reverie, 1st Place; Kashar, 1st Place; Suffolk Punch, 2nd Place
  •  Sage Farm Goat Dairy, Stowe: Starr, 1st Place collaboration with Mt. Mansfield Creamery, Morrisville; Spruce, 1st Place, Smoked Chevre, 2nd Place; Morse Camembert, 2nd Place
  • Spring Brook Farm/Farms for City Kids Foundation, Reading: Tarentaise Reserve, 1st place and Best of Show Finalist; Reading Raclette, 3rd Place
  • Vermont Creamery, Websterville: Bijou, 1st Place and Best of Show Finalist; Classic Spreadable Goat Cheese, 1st Place; Cremont, 2nd Place; Quark, 2nd Place; Goat Feta, 3rd Place; Clover Blossom Honey Fresh Chevre, 3rd Place; We Be Chivin’ with Wegmans Market Affinage Program, 1st Place and Best of Show Finalist; Sweet 16 with Wegmans Market Affinage Program, 3rd Place
  • Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company, Woodstock: Clothbound Windsordale, 3rd Place
  • Vermont Shepherd, Putney: Well-Aged Invierno, 1st Place
  •  von Trapp Farmstead, Waitsfiled:  Mad River Blue, 1st Place

    The ACS is the leading organization supporting the understanding, appreciation, and promotion of farmstead, artisan, and specialty cheeses in the Americas.  ACS hosts North America’s foremost annual cheese-based educational conference, and world-renowned cheese judging and competition.

    For a complete list of the 2019 American Cheese Society winners, click HERE
    For more information on the Vermont Cheese Council visit www.vtcheese.com.