May 4th, 2006
|06:57 am - East Coast cheese tour 2006: Jasper Hill Farm|
We made a quick stop at a Maple-everything store on the Maine/New Hampshire border. There was an autographed picture of George Bush on the wall but the plastic maple syrup containers were still warm from being filled so I pretended it didn’t exist. I did accuse the woman of heating the containers up in a backroom microwave when she heard our car. She laughed politely so I guess I wasn’t the first to suggest that. Or that she actually did.
We were headed to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom which was green and hilly and stunningly beautiful. Ever since I started carrying their cheese I’ve wanted to visit Jasper Hill Farm For me, it was probably the biggest attraction of the trip because they are becoming some of the best cheesemakers in the country.
Production doesn’t get much more small-scale and craft oriented than this. I was bitching to my distributor about the small quantity of Winnemere I was receiving. Then I talked to one of the brothers and found out there were only about 500 being made a month for the whole country. I suddenly became happy with my case a week allotment.
Andy and Victoria Kehler greeted us when we finally made it to their farm around 5 PM. They were doing the day’s second milking so we were directed to the milking parlor’s refrigerated keg while they moved from udder to udder. It’s always odd staying with people you barely know, but right then I new it would be ok.
We groomed cows and drank beer while trying to avoid getting covered in cow saliva . If anyone out there still has fantasies about the joys of rural living seeing how hard farmers actually work will probably cure you. They had been at the farm since 5 AM and by the time they finished milking and we finished feeding the cows and flipping the cheese made earlier, it was about 8 PM. True, Andy’s brother Mateo and his wife Angela were out of town so there was more work to be done than normal, but that is an everyday schedule.
One of the things I love about visiting farms is that reminder. Any cheesemonger or vendor can come visit a cheesemaker and cut some curds or flip a few cheeses. It is a great feeling to be part, even for a few hours, of that maturation process, of creating something edible, let alone something amazing like the Jasper Hill cheese.
It’s something else entirely working from 5 AM – 7 PM almost everyday of the year. The Jasper Hill folks definitely hold onto their sense of creation, love of their craft, and the beauty of their land. It’s obvious just spending a few minutes with them. But man, after we ate dinner and drank some wine I was happy to "sleep-in" until 6:30 AM. By the time I actually got out of bed they had been at work for a couple hours.
See, don’t they look wide awake for a 7:30 AM photo shoot?
They make three main cheeses:
Bayley Hazen Blue
a Stilton-y cylinder of truffle-textured blue cheese
basically an American Chaource: soft-ripened but firm in texture.
a spruce-bark wrapped, washed rind cheese that is pungent, rich, meaty and earthy. Winnemere is the only US cheese that comes close to the complexity of a French Vacherin Mon D’or.
All cheeses are made with raw milk on the farm from their herd of 36 Ayreshire cows
After being mauled by Pickles the hump-machine, the sweet-tempered, huge, drippy cows were quite a relief.
The Winnemere looks so good! Gimme!
It's readily available at Murray's but it's a seasonal cheese so get it in the next month or so. but yeah, totally awesome.
you write so well, thank you, and thank you for taking time to upload pix.
i would love living according to the cows. i even like shovelling manure. what drives me wild is the idea of never being able to get away, and no access to mandarin/high culture paintings. i mean, you really couldn't leave like every two months for a four day visit to see art in the big ap.
maybe the beauties of rural life would be equally sustaining.
the cheese looks divine.
and, i mean, could you really wear black from head to toe, including hairnet, and still be a cow herd?
I'm sure you don't know me, but I've been reading your journal for over a year and I just wanted to pipe up and tell you how much I've been enjoying reading your Cheese Tour entries. I'm from Wisconsin, so I have an appreciation for good cheese, and reading these entries gives me all sorts of cravings.
I'll definitely be asking my local cheesemonger if he has any Winnemere. Yum!
aw great. thanks for reading and good luck on the Winnemere.
id be in a cheese-maple fit during that trip. cheese! maple! cheese! maple!
was the autographed pic of dubbya that one that looks like he thinks his high school graduation picture is being taken? they have that one up in one of the post offices in town, next to the one of cheney that makes him look (more?) like a creepy child molester with a weird hey-little-kid-want-some-candy? smile. both of em creep me out.
no it was an on-the-campaign-trail one tasken in New Hampshire. ewww.
This is some awesome stuff here. Loving the cheese tour stories. I've been through all these places as well. Lived in Boston for a while and did a lot of hiking in Vermont, NH and Maine. Makes me want to move back.
Hello, TRIGGERING COW behind the cut! Thanks for the warning, dude. :-(
|Date:||May 4th, 2006 05:43 pm (UTC)|| |
I thought you had dealt with that little issue of yours...
I like to go work on other people's farms -- but only for a day or two, yes. There's too much real farm labor in my past for it to be more than nostalgic at this point. But I would love to dig my hands into some alfalfa and timothy hay right now.
But, okay. That cheese is really pretty. And that couple is very fresh-faced. And you look less urban in a shower cap. And I wonder what those cows are thinking.
Honestly, this made me want to go on a cheese tour, and boy is that saying a lot for me.
awesome. I'm glad my entry had so much power. ;)
I am so enjoying your cheese tour documentary. This is so interesting, and I am terribly jealous. I'm dying to try some of this stuff.
I'm really glad. The LJ thing where one gets fewer comments when one writes positive entries made me think I might be boring folks.
those cows are awesome.
i remember how hard farm work in general is from hauling hay bales and feeding pigs in my youth at friends homes when i would stay over.
i love the cheese tour story
more more more :)
mont d'or is, sans doute, the most delicious food, cheese or otherwise, i've ever had. ever. god, that cheese is delicious, like delicious was invented to describe that cheese.
all those cheese look so tasty.
and those cows. o, those cows.
yeah, I have no hesitation saying that Mont D'or is the best cheese in the world. Winnemere isn't as big on complex a taste, but it's damn good.
hey man, i was hoping to run into you at work the other day.. i did talk to your roommate, but i think she didnt catch my name quite right.
ah, that was you! The tour sounded awesome. welcome back.
best cheese porn evar! I'm drooling like the cows now.
and I like the hairnet, but the bowler is really a better look for you.
don't worry, I only rock the hairnet in specific professional occasions,
This is completely irrelevant to your story, but....If I had to pick a second favorite cow after Guernseys it would be Ayrshires - they have a wonderful disposition and fantastic milk. One of the first girls I had a crush on raised Ayrshires on a family farm in NH that was at the time the oldest family-owned Ayrshire farm in the nation. It has since been sold off to developers because taxes got to high to sustain the property.....very sad.
you know, I'm used to Holsteins and Jerseys out here. Those Guernseys are soooooo damn big! Sweet monster cows! at least the ones i saw.
i so enjoyed the winnemere when i had it. thanks for the pics.
now i am impatient to start planning our adventure!!
|Date:||May 5th, 2006 04:03 am (UTC)|| |
Those are pretty sweet looking cows. And you know, dairy cows are *doing* something with their lives. They're not just breeders producing calves for the slaughter.
|Date:||May 5th, 2006 04:22 am (UTC)|| |
I have grown so dull with my cheese - Fromage D'Affinois, Stilton, any random sharp cheddar, some kind of local goat log, a cave-aged gruyere, the nub end of a Parrano, a wedge of Parmesano Reggiano. This has been essentially the content of my cheese drawer for far too long now. Nothing new has happened in my cheese world. Maybe occasional passing of some Mozzarella Fresca cilegine when there are good tomatoes and basil to go with them.
I am going to have to give in and go to Whole Foods, though almost none of my cheese buddies work there any more. I would go to the local specialty cheese place but I fear the prices. I am lame.
You are so cute, with your talk of cheese.
|Date:||May 5th, 2006 11:41 pm (UTC)|| |
I tried to get some Winnemere at the Cheese Board today for the housewarming, but the woman behind the counter just humphed and said "They haven't quite gotten it yet."
Ah...I see from your Flickr photos you got to hang out with Jessamyn also...most excellent!