Despite having been to dairy farms before, I feel that nothing gave me a true feeling for the hard work and dedication that goes into making cheese more than my recent trip to Lively Run Goat Dairy in the Finger Lakes region of New York.
When my wife and I arrived, shortly before the first tour of the day, we learned that it was lucky we had shown up early. The water wasn't working properly and it looked like they'd have to close up shop for the rest of the day in order to fix it. Despite their troubles, they were very gracious and happy to give us a tour around the farm and cheese rooms.
Lively Run was originally owned by the Feldman family and located on a smaller farm down the road. The Messmers, who currently own it, took over in 1995. Since then, it has grown from around 30 goats to over 100. Even with the growth, it's still a learning process. The aging cave was not designed with a vaulted ceiling and does not maintain the consist level of humidity needed for aging cheese, so all of the cheeses have to be rotated frequently. Rather than remake the caves, they decided to make their most aged cheese, the Cayuga Blue, available only seasonally, using the milk produced from May
into August, when the humidity is high enough to age it properly. When we arrived, the last few wheels were aging in the caves.
Though Lively Run produces a truly lush fresh chevre, as well as an excellent feta, to me their real star is the Cayuga Blue. Named after the nearby lake, Cayuga Blue is a firm aged blue cheese made completely from goat's milk, a bit of a rarity in this country. Its flavor is sharp and nutty, with the biting goaty flavor taking center stage, allowing the blue twang to hang in the background. It's also one of the drier blues I've had, making it perfect for crumbling on salads or pasta. Though, truth be told, I'd much rather have it on its own with a bottle of Gewürztraminer and some lush, juicy fruit (think ripe peaches).
Cayuga Blue is available at Murray's Cheese for $24.99. You can also buy it directly from Lively Run, who will ship it to you via Priority Mail for $15.00/lb. Time is running out on this year's Cayuga Blue, so order soon. If you have a chance to visit Lively Run, it's definitely worth the trip, and be sure to check out their awesome goat cheese ice cream as well!