Last month, we reported on the literal and figurative groundbreaking change taking place at Jasper Hill Farm in Greenboro, Vermont.
Two weeks ago, our cheesemonger travelled there to take a classified look at the near-finished site of the first professional-grade American cheese aging facility. After years in the making, it's a project with a pretty impressive sneak peak, which we're very proud to offer here....But before we went subterranean, there was cheesemaking to be done.
An experimental batch of a bloomy rinded, smallish tomme-style cheese was on the program, and so we watched and helped where we could while Mateo Kehler-- who founded Jasper Hill with his brother Andy-- set, cut, stirred, and ladled the raw milk curd from the farm's herd of Aryshire cows.
A quick look at some day-old, award-winning Constant Bliss (above), and off we were to The Cellars.
It's comprised of seven cellars and is modeled after European caves that Mateo visited before they broke ground. Several are already in use. They'll age not only their own, but also cheeses from farms state-wide, and will handle marketing, packaging, shipment, and distribution of cheeses. They'll offer consultation services to cheesemakers, as well.
If you haven't heard the vocab yet, affinage is a French term for the art of aging cheese, an investment of anytime from two weeks to over ten years. An affineur is someone who is a master of this art, and it takes patience, diligence, and intuition to be successful. Cheeses require watchful care as they age. In addition to a lot of room, they need flipping, brushing, washing, and rotating. Above, Jasper Hill's Bayley Hazen Blue.
Giving their cheeses to a professional aging facility not only frees up the participating cheesemakers to perfect (rather than age) their product, it also improves the cheese itself by relieving the cheesemaker of the challenges in affinage (often a wild card, "make or break" final step in the cheesemaking process) by placing that responsibility in the hands of an expert. Above, Soft Wheel, a washed rind goat from Twig Farm.
The Kehler Brothers' goal is both to brighten the prospects for Vermont farmers who want to make a living making cheese and to improve their state's economic infrastructure in general. Above, a spruce-wrapped raw goat milk cheese from Lazy Lady Farm.
Expect to see fine cheeses aged at The Cellars at Jasper Hill from Cabot Creamery (namely, the highly praised Cabot Clothbound, pictured at the opening of the post, to which a hefty portion of The Cellars is devoted), Crawford Family Farm, Crowley Cheese (pictured above), Dancing Cow, Lazy Lady Farm, Twig Farm, Willow Hill Farm, and more.
Images: Nora Singley for the Kitchn.