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Each month, Tomales Bay Foods is proud to feature a few of the cheeses and cheesemakers we work with that make the artisan cheese industry so special. Your support during these promotions allows for increased awareness of these cheeses and all of the incredible work that goes into making those wheels (starting with the feed and animal husbandry, safe handling of the milk, the actual cheese make, the affinage and all of the humans that help make it happen). Cheese lovers and cheesemongers, please help us celebrate those dedicated folks who are following their dreams and bringing exceptional cheese to plates around the world.
January Featured Cheeses
Jasper Hill Farm, including the Cellars at Jasper Hill, is a working dairy farm in northeast Vermont with an on-site dairy and an underground aging facility for their own cheeses as well as those from several local producers. In the years since they began making cheese they have won countless awards and have become stellar members of the American cheese movement, but more importantly, they have helped revitalize their community and have created numerous opportunities for other local entrepreneurs. They set out to prove that you could make a living milking 40 or so cows, and in the process have become something of a local institution.
Although owners Andy and Mateo Kehler grew up mainly in Colombia, South America, their family has an emotional connection to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont going back 100 years. The lakes and fields around Greensboro, Vermont was where they spent their boyhood summers, and so when the brothers went on what Mateo calls “a quest for meaningful work in a place that we love”, they settled on a rocky hillside farm outside of Greensboro near the Canadian border. With their wives Victoria and Angie, they purchased the farm in 1998 and set out to create a model for small-scale dairy farming that could provide them with a living and also help open up opportunities for the area. It was a daring move because that same year, Greensboro lost 30 percent of its dairies. In fact, they were the first new dairy to open in a generation.
They fixed up the existing barn, built the creamery next door, made their homes, bred cows, and even built an underground cave aging space to cultivate natural rinds – five years of work before their first cheeses went to market in 2003. Just when it all seemed a bit overwhelming, they received a call from their neighbors up the road, Cabot Creamery, who were looking for a place to cultivate some natural rinds of their own in the form of traditional English-style clothbound cheddar. Cabot and Jasper Hill worked together and the result was a “Best of Show” award from the American Cheese Society’s competition in 2006. Encouraged by their success, and having outgrown the original aging facility, the boys began expanding and 2 years later they opened a 22,000 square feet, 7-vaulted underground aging site, the Cellars at Jasper Hill.
The milk for the collection of cheeses made at Jasper Hill comes mainly from their herd of about 45 Ayrshire cows that are pasture-bred, meaning that from May through October they eat grass in the lush pastures on the farm. In the winter their diet consists mainly of dry hay that is supplemented by non-GMO grain. They also use milk from a herd at Andersonville Farm in nearby Glover, a farm they helped establish and manage.
Short and stout in stature, Bayley Hazen Blue is big, bold and boisterous in flavor. Encased in a soft, natural rind, the paste is slightly drier than most American-made blues. The wheels are bursting with deep, dark flavors that often hint at tobacco and roasted hazelnuts, and on rare (and lovely!) occasions, sweet black licorice. Distinct and robust, Bayley Hazen Blue is sure to make a statement on any cheese plate.
Inspired by French Brie, Moses Sleeper is named for a Revolutionary War scout who was killed while helping to defend Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. The cheese has a thin bloomy-rind and a soft, milky core that offers an array of flavors at peak ripeness: cauliflower, crème fraîche and toasted nuts.