9 Best Artisan Cheesemakers in the U.S.

Jasper Hill Farm
Jasper Hill Farm

Whether it’s aged in a cave or made fresh that day, making cheese is an art form. And just like any craft, there are plenty of artisans out there who have dedicated their careers to perfecting it. Celebrate this year’s National Cheesemaker’s Day (June 18th) by sampling some of the finest fromage our country has to offer.

1. JASPER HILL FARM

Brothers Mateo and Andy Kehler bought what locals called "the old Jasper Hill farm" in 1998. The land was located in the same quiet, Vermont town where they had spent summers with their family as kids. They moved there looking to start a new chapter of their lives, and by 2003 their dairy business was ready to take off. The dozen varieties of cheese made in the cellars beneath Jasper Hill Farm can take anywhere from four weeks to 14 months to mature. Their Bayley Hazen Blue is one of the most sought-after blues made on U.S. soil, and their runny Winnimere—best scooped up with a spoon—is an American classic.

2. CYPRESS GROVE CHÈVRE

Cypress Grove Chèvre

A few decades ago, the American cheese scene consisted of orange squares wrapped in plastic and not much else. Mary Keehn helped spark an artisan cheese revolution when she founded Cypress Grove Chèvre in the 1970s. She originally chose goats as her dairy source out of convenience, and today they’re still making goat cheese better than most everyone in the country. The product they’re most famous for is their Humboldt Fog, named for the Northern California county they're based in. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of goat cheese, one bite of this stuff may make you a convert.

3. OLD CHATHAM SHEEPHERDING CREAMERY

Old Chatham Sheepherding Creamery

Old Chatham Sheepherding Creamery

began as 600 acres of empty lands when Tom and Nancy Clark purchased it in 1993. The Old Chatham, New York farm is now home to thousands of sheep whose milk is used to make Kinderhook Creek, Ewe’s Blue, and Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert. In addition to their cheeses, Old Chatham Sheepherding company also produces a line of sheep’s milk yogurt.

4. COWGIRL CREAMERY

Cowgirl Creamery

Sue Conley and Peggy Smith founded Cowgirl Creamery less than 20 years ago, and they’ve since become superstars in the cheese world. The coastal California creamery produces a variety of award-winning cheeses, including their sumptuous Red Hawk and buttery Mt Tam. Their cultured creations can be found in restaurants, supermarkets, and independent cheese shops around the country.

5. GRAFTON VILLAGE CHEESE COMPANY

Grafton Village Cheese Company via Facebook

The Grafton Village Cheese Company, based in the Vermont town that shares its name, is best known for its aged cheddar. They produce several different varieties that range in age from one to four years, and sometimes even older. Their offerings also include a handful of flavored cheddars like smoked chili and truffle.

6. VERMONT CREAMERY

Vermont Creamery

The first collaboration between Allison Hooper and Bob Reese came out of a dinner celebrating Vermont agriculture in 1984. Looking for locally made goat cheese to complete one of the dishes on the menu, Reese reached out to Hooper, who was working at a dairy lab at the time. Hooper’s homemade cheese was a success and a decades-long partnership was born. Goat’s milk cheeses—both aged and fresh—are still the Vermont Creamery’s forte. They also create fresh dairy products made from cow’s milk like crème fraȋche, cultured butter, mascarpone, and quark.

7. UPLANDS CHEESE COMPANY

Many creameries are family-run operations. At Uplands Cheese Company, there are two families calling the shots. Andy Hatch and Scott Mericka served as apprentices under the farm’s original founders before purchasing the property together with their wives, Caitlin and Liana, in 2014. The owners may be new, but the two cheeses that made the Wisconsin farm famous haven’t gone anywhere. Their Alpine-style Pleasant Ridge Reserve is America’s most awarded cheese, being the only one to win both the U.S. Cheese Championships and the American Cheese Society’s top prize. Upland’s creamy Rush Creek Reserve is also highly coveted, and only available in late fall.

8. ROGUE CREAMERY

Rogue Creamery

Unlike many entries on this list, Rogue Creamery has a history that spans the greater half of the last century. It was founded by Tom Vella when he arrived in Oregon’s Rogue River Valley during the 1930s. After decades of producing some of the first and finest blue cheese to come out of the West Coast, the Vella family sold the creamery in 2003. The new owners, David Gremmels and Cary Bryant, committed to upholding the operation to its original high standards. Since then their blue cheese has won numerous accolades, and it was the first U.S. cheese awarded World's Best Blue Cheese at the 2003 World Cheese Awards.

9. VERMONT SHEPHERD CHEESE

Vermont Shepherd Cheese

Vermont Shepherd’s

250-acre farm in Westminster, Vermont is home to up to 700 sheep depending on the time of year. All that sheep’s milk is used to make only two cheeses: a summer cheese called Verano and a winter cheese called Invierno, which is also mixed with cow’s milk. Their small-batch productions and seasonal schedule makes Vermont Shepherd cheese notoriously hard to obtain.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Fried Beer Exists—and We Have Texas to Thank (or Blame) for It

You can have your beer and eat it, too.
You can have your beer and eat it, too.
Kristy, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

For anyone who thinks beer can qualify as a meal, we have some non-scientific evidence to support your claim: it’s shaped like ravioli, it tastes like a soft pretzel, and it’s filled with warm, yeasty deliciousness.

It’s deep-fried beer.

The story behind this culinary triumph began more than 10 years ago at a bar in Texas, where Mark Zable and his wife were scanning another uninspired menu with the same few finger foods. Zable made an offhand comment about how the bar should offer fried beer, and the couple realized it wasn’t such a bad idea—especially for the state fair.

Zable, a corporate recruiter by day, was no stranger to fair fare. As he told NPR, his father had opened a Belgian waffle stand at Texas’s state fair in the 1960s, and Zable himself assumed control after about 30 years. He experimented with new items to enter into the Big Tex Choice Awards food competition—sweet jalapeño corn dog shrimp and chocolate-covered strawberry waffle balls were two of his innovations—but nothing had won him a prize … yet.

Though the concept of fried beer was wacky enough to show real promise, execution proved difficult. Dropping liquid into a deep-fryer is a good way to get splattered with boiling oil, and Zable spent more than two years trying to devise an edible vessel that could both contain the beer and protect the chef. Finally, his 4-year-old son inspired a new angle, and Zable landed on a flawless design. Though Zable’s been tight-lipped on the details of that recipe, the Toronto Star reports that it’s essentially soft pretzel dough pressed into a ravioli-like pocket, filled with Guinness, and plopped into the deep-fryer for 15 to 20 seconds.

“It tastes great,” Zable told NPR. “Tastes just like eating a pretzel with a beer.”

Actual deep-fried beer from the 2010 State Fair of Texas.David Berkowitz, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

At last, Zable’s ambitious creation was ready for its debut at Texas’s 2010 state fair. He faced some tough competition at the Big Tex Choice Awards—including fried frozen margaritas, fried lemonade, and fried club salad—but even the other edible beverages were no match for Zable’s savory fusion of beer and bread. He took home the award for “Most Creative,” while “Texas Fried Fritos Pie” clinched “Best Taste.” Together, they’re a match made in state fair heaven.

[h/t NPR]