For Saxelby Cheesemongers, there is no greater honor than being able to create a brand new cheese! Calderwood, a raw milk, hay-ripened cheese is a labor of love conceived by Saxelby Cheesemongers for chef Dan Barber, and brought to life by Jasper Hill Farm. Calderwood is the embodiment of ‘You are what you eat.’ Or to take it one step further, ‘You are what you eat eats!’ As the first cuts of hay are being brought in by cheesemakers and dairy farmers across the country, we thought it was the perfect time to celebrate this singular grass-fed cheese!
It all comes back to grass! In the summer months, Jasper Hill’s cows graze copious acres around the farm. Simultaneously, their cropping team is working around the clock to harvest as much hay as they can to feed the cows during the winter.
Freshly mown hay is brought to the Calderwood Cropping Center, a state of the art hay dryer and the namesake of the cheese, that dries enormous (700lb) bales of hay in a matter of hours. Without the hay dryer, the cropping team would have to wait for a five day window of consecutive sunny days, NOT an easy ask for the weather gods in the cool rainy northeast kingdom of Vermont!
Drying the hay quickly ensures that all the nutrients are trapped inside, creating the best quality feed for the cows, and staying true to Jasper Hill’s mission of creating ‘A Taste of Place’.
Cows are true miracles of nature, powering their 1,000lb plus bodies via the magic of photosynthesis and grass! The grasses they eat influence the flavor and overall composition (fat, protein, and water) of the milk and keep their rumens (the first and most important of their four stomachs) happy!
Then it’s time to turn that milk into cheese! Jasper Hill’s team of seasoned cheesemakers monitors the milk daily for seasonal fluctuations and adjusts their make accordingly. Making cheese is a maddening science… winemakers make a vintage of wine every year, but cheesemakers create a new vintage every day!! And every day is different!
The young cheeses are then aged in the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm by master affineur Paul Moretti. The wheels are a washed a few times per week with ‘morge’, a liquid concoction teeming with good microbes comprised of salt brine and cheese rind scrapings. This wash develops the ruddy, rusty coloring on the rind and also helps imbue the cheese with nutty, slightly funky flavor.
The Saxelby cheese team visits the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm twice a year to taste and select batches of cheese to become Calderwood which is by far the BEST part of our jobs!! The wheels are tasted at about six months of age. We look for wheels with a long texture (pliant, elastic, and creamy) and a long flavor (fruity, meaty, and savory).
Wheels of Calderwood are then aged for another four to five months. The wheels are coated with the hay that has been dried at the Cropping Center. The hay is cut by hand into fine shreds and sterilized with heat, which gives it an earthy, toasted aroma.
Fully ripe Calderwood has a firm, yet melt-in-your mouth texture, and a roller coaster ride of flavors that will blow your mind! Tropical fruit (think pineapple and passionfruit), toasted nuts, and savory broth are just a few of the keynote flavors of Calderwood.