Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Monday June 14, 2010

Ms Murky Mondays:
Cheesemaking at Shelburne Farms, Vermont

Pasture to Palate

As usual, I am a moving target.  Just returned from an installation for one of my interior design clients in Pelham, NY. ......

But what I really want to share is my weekend at Shelburne Farms, VT attending a cheddar cheesemaking seminar with the head cheesemaker, Nat Bacon.

Shelburne Farms "was created as a model agricultural estate in 1886 by William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb.  In 1972, it became an educational nonprofit. Our nearly 400 acres of woodlands are Green Certified from the American Tree Farm System. Our grass-based dairy has 125 purebred, registered Brown Swiss cows. Their milk is transformed into our award-winning farmhouse cheddar cheese here on the property."

We began our day with a full tour of the grounds.

And Nat Bacon and Marshall Webb shared tons of information on sustainable farming techniques, the importance of soil management and grass-growing.  I felt like I was living Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma upfront and personal.  The cleanliness of the barns and the care taken in managing every aspect of the farm was truly inspiring.  A true biodynamic farm.  

And why is this so important?  Well, the cows eat the grass which in turn produces healthy cows and milk full of nutrients.  The milk is then turned into cheese.  And the cheesemaking process is indeed fascinating.

It all begins at 8.30 am with the delivery of the milk from the freshly milked cows, then the milk is heated up and the large stirring paddles are started. At various times and specific temperatures, a culture and then an enzyme are added, and then you wait.  Patience is a cheesemakers' virtue. And then, in a frenzy of activity, the curds and whey need to be separated. And then the "cheddaring" begins.  Did you know cheddaring is actually a verb?  An action very specific to making cheddar cheese.



Cheddaring is a process of letting the curds settle into each other while the acidity rises and when each of those rectangles is picked up and turned several times until a desired acidity is achieved.  Then they are chopped up and salted in a three step process, and then placed into molds and pressed overnite.  The entire process ends around 4 pm producing around 550-600 pounds of cheese.  This process is repeated each day during the peak cheesemaking season or for 250 days or so.

Eating farmstead artisanal cheddar has a whole new meaning.  I relish every bite and crave more!!