I apologize for last week’s lack of an email, but I was up to my elbows in sheep curd making cheese at Bonnieview Farm! In a nod to the French and their excellent summer vacation policy (the month of August is pretty much a wash for the general population) I hit the road and headed to Vermont and then on to Montreal, home to this year’s American Cheese Society Conference, for some cheesy good times. Read up to get the highlights of this voyage du fromage, and be sure to check out our photo album!
It all started in the Champlain Valley with a visit to Twig Farm, where a backyard barbeque surprisingly morphed into a game of high stakes wiffle ball. The goats were looking on a bit quizzically, but opted out of the game as hooves weren’t exactly built to swing a bat. From Twig, it was over to the Northeast Kingdom for a day of cheese making with Neil Urie at Bonnieview Farm. The supply of sheep milk is already starting to dwindle for the year, but we got in a batch of Mossend Blue, which you’ll be able to taste for yourselves in a few short months!
My next stop was a visit to Lazy Lady Farm to chat with Laini Fondiller, who’s been cheesing it up since the 1980’s making some of Vermont’s finest fromage du chevre. I stood by in the creamery while Laini expertly salted the day’s cheeses, and chatted about everything from how to build a solid herd of milking goats to those Mangalista pigs she’s been hearing so much about. I then made my way back west for a visit with Dawn Boucher of Green Mountain Blue Cheese. Their fourth generation farm is home to over 100 beautiful Holsteins, a thriving cheese making business, and coming soon, a sunflower oil press!
After almost accidentally driving into Canada (a recurring theme on my trip), I made my way back down to Jasper Hill Farm to check out the seemingly endless flurry of new projects happening there. Work has begun on their ‘Green Machine,’ a device that will take the leftover whey and other waste products from the farm and use them to heat water for the dairy as well as disseminate nutrient-rich water into their pastures. They’re making new cheeses (come by the shop for a taste of Harbison, a soft gooey cheese that is Vacherin Mont d’Or meets camembert) perfecting their ripening techniques in the Cellars, and hard at work getting a cheese making facility up and running at the Food Venture Center in the neighboring town of Hardwick.
After all those farm visits, it was finally time to (intentionally) drive to Canada for the annual American Cheese Society Conference in Montreal! Crossing through customs before or after an errand such as this one is one of the more amusing parts of the whole trip. Inevitably the official, whose job it is to be tough and scary, has to do his or her best to stifle a laugh when you tell them that your reason for entering the country is a cheese conference.
The American Cheese Society is a three day cheese-a-palooza (thanks Sasha!) where cheese laypeople as well as people in the cheese business can attend seminars, cheese tastings, and go out to sample the local cuisine of whatever town we happen to be invading. Montreal was fertile territory for feasting, as evidenced by our visit to Au Pied du Cochon, where we ate poutine topped with fois gras and a whole pig’s head with a lobster coming out of it. Yikes. Just thinking of the number of calories consumed over the course of the trip is a bit terrifying.
But they say the brain is mostly made of fat, right?! I maintain that we were just fueling our cerebral systems for all of the learning yet to come… This year I learned about the history of cheese making in monasteries, how communities of microbes on cheese rinds interact with one another, saw a video by Sister Noella Marcellino (aka the cheese nun and one of my personal heroes!) of a cheese mite munching fungi on the rind of a cheese, and what the FDA thinks of raw milk cheeses. Whew! So now it’s back to the grind… or the rinds, I should say… Stay tuned next Monday for more cheesy news!
Cheese on the Radio! Tune in to Cutting the Curd tonight from 4:30 to 5:00 on the Heritage Radio Network, or download the show as a podcast.
Tonight on Cutting the Curd, we’ll be talking with Sue Sturman, the force of nature behind the American Cheese Society’s first certification exam for cheese professionals. Sommeliers have the chance to prove they’re up to snuff, and soon enough, cheesemongers will have the same opportunity! Listen in & learn!
Got questions for Cutting the Curd? Just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!