Your Top 7 Cheese Questions Answered by a Cheesemaker
We get asked a lot of questions at the Burlington Farmers Market. I love it. Sharing Shelburne Farms with locals, regular customers, and visitors is one of my favorite parts of my job. Here are seven of the most common questions and answers.
1. What is Tractor cheddar?
Tractor is microbes gone wild! Our sensory team tastes every batch of 2- and 3-year cheddar before it is released. Occasionally, we come across batches that are overdeveloped and possess some wild or unique flavors. These cheeses are still delicious, but they do not represent our typical flavor profile so we release them under our Tractor label. The flavors are different from batch to batch, so we always share samples of what we are currently selling. Most weeks, Tractor is the crowd favorite at the Market!
2. What is your favorite cheese?
This is the hardest question! As a cheesemaker, it’s like picking your favorite child, but I will admit I eat more 6 month than any of our other varieties. My favorite right now is our Fiddlehead Beer-infused Cheddar. This is such an exciting new partnership with our friends down the road at Fiddlehead Brewery. As a beer lover, it is so exciting to have my two passions combined. Plus, it’s a fun cheese to make!
3. Where do you get the milk?
All of the milk we use for our cheese is sourced from our herd of purebred Brown Swiss cows. We have about 110 milkers. The components of the Brown Swiss milk are excellent for making cheddar cheese. We are proud to be a farmstead cheese, which means the cheese is made right on the farm where the milk is produced. We are proud to be a Certified Humane and GMO-free dairy, too, and of all our efforts that make the Farm a place to learn about sustainability.
4. What makes Clothbound different from your other cheeses?
Clothbound is our take on a traditional English-style cheddar. Instead of pressing the curds into a 40 pound block, Clothbound is pressed into 20-pound wheels. While still young, these wheels get sent up to our friends at the Cellars of Jasper Hill. The affineurs (French term for people who age and take care of cheese) wrap the wheels in cloth, coat them with lard, and place them in a cave-like environment for up to 18 months. The lard helps to create a friendly environment for microflora in the air. These beneficial microbes create the gorgeous rind on this cheese and promote its earthy, grassy and herbaceous flavors. Clothbound is definitely labor intensive, and it represents less than 1% of our annual production, but the efforts are well worth it!
5. When is the next batch of 4 year being released?
Ah, yes, our elusive (and popular) 4 year. Another 4 year leap-year cheese is aging out for 2020. But! Our sensory team is always tracking batches that we hope have the potential to age out to 4 years. Our most recent tasting session may have produced some exciting results…. Stay tuned!
6. Where can I buy your cheese back home?
We get so many out of state visitors at the Market who are excited to buy our cheese back home. We work with several distributors around the country. A list of vendors and outlets is available on our website. And of course, you can order cheese online and we ship nationwide!
7. What is going on at the Farm?
OK, this isn’t strictly a cheese question, but we always get asked! The Farm has amazing educational programs and events all year. You can find them on our website and social media. We’re also asked a lot about when dogs are allowed on the Farm. Right now! From November 1 - April 1, leashed dogs can enjoy our trails with their owners.
I am always amazed by the curious questions asked by our friends at the Farmers Market. Stop by our stand at the Winter Market, taste some cheese and ask us your questions! We love answering them!