Cabot Clothbound Cheddar – A Five Minute History

The story of Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm and Cabot Clothbound Cheddar is the result of a perfect storm between two ambitious brothers, Cabot Creamery, and an award-winning wheel of cheese. Brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler decided to start a business in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom because their family had ties to the land there for over 100 years, summering at nearby Caspian Lake. They wanted to create a sustainable agricultural business that would revive the working landscape of Vermont, which was being decimated by big dairy farms and industrial agriculture. They bought ‘the old Jasper Hill Farm’ in 1998, and worked for five years to restore the barn, start a herd of Ayrshire dairy cows, and build a creamery. They began making cheese in 2003 and instantly met with much acclaim, but it was a call from Cabot Creamery that would change everything.

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Photo credit: Sarah Forest

Cabot Creamery heard of Jasper Hill’s success in the artisan cheese world – a world that they wanted to get into, but were having trouble reaching due to the fact that none of their cheese aging facilities had the capacity to age a British-style bandaged cheddar that they longed to make. Cabot Creamery is one of America’s most venerable dairy institutions. Begun by 94 Vermont farmers in 1919 who each contributed $5 per cow plus a cord of firewood for the boiler, they purchased the village creamery and began turning their excess milk into butter and fluid milk that could be shipped to urban centers. Over the years, the cooperative evolved, and they added cheese to their repertoire. Cabot Creamery is not a ‘fancy’ cheese manufacturer, but extremely pragmatic and effective in it’s business initiatives – to this day they support over 1,200 farm families throughout New England. They shipped a few test wheels to Jasper Hill Farm, and the Kehler brothers aged them for over a year before sending an entry to the American Cheese Society competition. Cabot Clothbound Cheddar won ‘Best in Show’ that year, and the Kehlers returned to the farm determined to find a way to expand the production of this newly crowned wunder-cheese.

The idea they hit upon was the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm – a 22,000 square foot aging facility with seven different temperature and humidity controlled vaults dug into the hillside next to the creamery and farm. By building the Cellars, they could age and sell infinitely more Cabot Clothbound Cheddar AND allow new artisan cheesemakers to get into the game by aging cheese for them as well. More than 70% of the labor in making cheese goes into the aging of it, and by easing that burden for cheesemakers, they allowed their partner creameries to focus on what matters most – animal health, quality milk, and great cheesemaking techniques. In addition to aging cheeses from Jasper Hill Farm and Cabot Creamery, the Cellars now ages cheese from four other creameries. But according to the folks at The Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm – Cabot Clothbound Cheddar is what keeps the lights on – the company remains a powerful economic engine for cheese, dairy, and Vermont’s working landscape.

By buying and serving Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, you are supporting this virtuous cycle, and eating some pretty incredible cheese.

Pickle Day THIS SUNDAY September 25th!

It’s Kind of a Big Dill….

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Join Saxelby Cheesemongers this Sunday from 12-5pm for Pickle Day, the the biggest and pickley-est party on the Lower East Side! Come on out to Orchard Street to sample our world-famous Raclette and Pickle Dog, taste treats from over 20 picklers, get down to some great live music, and witness the first EVER home pickling / dancing contest!

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Cheesemaker Spotlight! Bonnieview Farm

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Bonnieview Farm is a fourth generation dairy farm in Craftsbury, Vermont. Bonnieview is owned by Neil and Kristin Urie. Neil is the 4th generation of the Urie family to farm there – his great grandfather started the farm back in 1890 as a cow dairy, though they also raised pigs, sheep, and horses. Neil’s grandfather and father were also born on the farm. Neil bought the farm in 1995 from his uncle who was a traditional cow dairy farmer (traditional being the parlance for a farm that sells milk on the commodity market and is not specialized in any way – organic, value added products, etc) According to Urie lore, Neil took off for the Peace Corps when the family farm was first put up for sale. He decided that if the farm was still for sale when he returned from the Corps, he would buy it because he wanted to see the farm stay in the family.

Kristin was born and raised in Manhattan (a far cry from Craftsbury, Vermont!) but found her way to the Northeast Kingdom (she attributes her northerly migration to latent Nordic bloodlines 🙂 where she met Neil in 2001. They were married in 2005, and they now have four children – Tressa, Maeda, Linden, and Nell.

When Neil started farming at Bonnieview, he milked cows for 5 years. During that time, he met David Major of Vermont Shepherd, who was milking sheep. Neil thought about it for a few years before making the switch. In 1998, Neil sold his cows and started milking a flock of 90 sheep in 1998. They now milk about 180 ewes from May through October – a mix of Fresian, Lacaune, and Tunis breeds, as well as 8 cows that are milked from August to April. Sheep have a very short lactation cycle – after they have their lambs in April they are milked for a few months before being dried off again in the fall. The cows at Bonnieview come online in late summer when the quantities of sheep milk are dropping, and are milked through April, when lambing season rolls around again. This staggered cycle of breeding, lambing, and calving, and milking gives Bonnieview Farm a unique seasonal cycle of cheesemaking.

farm-wheelThey now make three different cheeses that vary in composition (all sheep milk, blended sheep/cow milk, and all cow milk) throughout the year, as well as a blue cheese that also changes in milk composition over the year.

In the summer of 2016, Neil and Kristin completed work on a cheese cave, their dream of over six years! The cave was built into a hillside about a quarter of a mile down the road from the farm and houses all of Bonnieview’s cheeses. The cave allows them to produce and age the maximum amount of cheese that they can from their ewes and cows, and age them in ideal conditions until they are ready for market.

Bonnieview Farm is dedicated to producing delicious and healthy food for their local community, and for the rest of us far-flung cheese lovers! In addition to making cheese, Bonnieview raises lambs for meat and wool. They want to offer people a connection to the source of their food, and they work to cultivate the vitality of the land, the animals, and their family. A bold and wonderful mission indeed!

Right now we are in peak sheep season as it were! Stop by the shop for a taste of their glorious Coomersdale, Ben Nevis, and Mossend Blue – three of the finest sheeps’ milk cheeses these mongers have ever tasted!