Vermont Cheese - Cheese Guide

June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly

Vermont Cheese began to gain fame two hundred years ago, at a time when Vermont was filled with hundreds of small farms making their own butter and cheese. By the mid 1800s Vermont Cheese co-ops were formed, which were centrally located factories where farms brought their milk. These Vermont Cheese co-ops transformed farmstead businesses into larger commercial enterprises. Mainly butter and cheddar cheese were produced at these co-ops. Yet by the turn of the 20th century, industrialization and the growth of mass production cheese factories ended the artisan tradition of Vermont Cheese making. Crowley Cheese, established in 1824, Grafton Cheese Company, established in 1892 and Cabot Creamery, established in 1893 were the only original Vermont cheesemakers that survived.

Yet in the past few decades, the gourmet artisan tradition of Vermont Cheese making has been revived by many small dairy farms. Vermont dairy farmers have returned to cheesemaking due to many factors, such as weather, rising fuel costs and declining liquid milk prices. These new artisans are producing not only handcrafted Vermont Cheddar Cheese but many other varieties such a chevres, goudas and blue cheeses. Many of these Vermont Cheese producers have opened for tours and tastings, creating The Vermont Cheese Trail, which is a circuit of mostly small Vermont Cheese producers. These dairy farms also capitalize on the local scenery, inns and fall foliage to create seasonal vacation destinations.

Vermont Cheese Terroir
The Green Mountains and their surrounding areas offer lush pastures that provide the ideal diet for milk producing cows, sheep and goats of the region. Vermont Cheese is often made in the artisan tradition of handmade production in small batches using traditional methods of the cheesemaker, while avoiding the mechanization process and much as possible. Many Vermont Cheeses are also Farmstead Cheeses, which are cheeses made from the milk of the farms' own cows, sheep or goats. Local Vermont cheesemakers compare their traditional cheesemaking methods to that of winemaking, where the weather, season and the diets of the animals all contribute to the creation of a unique vintage cheese.

The Vermont Cheese Council was established in 1997 to support its cheese making members who produce and market premier cheese in Vermont. Membership has grown from 10 to over 40 members who produce many award-winning artisan and farmhouse cheeses. The Vermont Cheese Council presents the Annual Vermont Cheesemakers’ Festival which showcases Vermont’s cheese and culinary products, as Vermont has proudly evolved into the state with the highest number of cheesemakers per capita in the country. Established in 2004, The Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese at the University of Vermont is the US’s only comprehensive center dedicated to the support of artisan cheese makers through research, and professional and public education in order to enhance and strengthen artisan cheese making in Vermont and throughout the country, while encouraging small farm culture and sustainability.

Types of Vermont Cheese

Cabot Cheddar: Cabot Cheddar is available in many varieties, distinguished by sharpness (due to age) and added flavors like Chipotle Peppers and Buffalo Sauce. A bit drier than English Cheddars, Cabot's award-winning Cheddars are aged slowly and naturally in Cabot's cellars to create a full-bodied rich and subtle flavor.

Grafton Reserve Cheddar: Grafton Cheese Company's signature cheddar is aged for a full two years to create a mellow tartness and sharpness. This firm cheese has an intense and complex flavor with a smooth creaminess.

Shelburne Farms Aged Vermont Cheddar: Made from the milk of pure-bred Brown Swiss cows raised on the dairy's own farm, Shelburne Farms ages their cheddar for a full two years. This Aged Vermont Cheddar has hints of maple and apple and is both sharp and sweet.

Classic Chevre by Vermont Butter & Cheese Company: Perfect on its own or as an ingredient in other dishes, Classic Chevre by Vermont Butter & Cheese Company is a mild, fresh goats milk cheese. You cannot go wrong with this simple and versatile cheese.

Bayley Hazen by Jasper Hill: This natural rinded Vermont Blue Cheese is made from whole raw milk and aged between four and six months. Drier and crumblier than most blue cheeses, Bayley Hazen is sweet, nutty and grassy with a distinct licorice flavor.

Crowley: Crowley's history dates back to 1824 and is still made in a small factory built in 1882. Crowley's entire production process is human powered, with no mass-production machinery utilized at all. Only a few hundred pounds of Crowley Cheese is made every day and the process is exactly the same as when the factory was first established. Perhaps similar to a fine cheddar, Crowley Cheese is not a cheddar but a true "American Original".

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