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.

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER