Award-Winning 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 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.

 

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.