Where I live, in France, people don't tend to take too kindly to the idea of American cheese. In fact, I know a lot of Americans who don't think much further than plasticky American singles. Their loss: Artisan cheesemakers in America are becoming more and more well-known, with local cheesemakers in nearly every region of the United States.
The northeast has a strong history in cheesemaking, with Vermont cheddar being recognized all over the States, but great cheese doesn't stop there. Here are a few small organic cheesemakers introducing their incredible products into the American market.
Champlain Valley Creamery
Champlain Valley Creamery is located in Vergennes, Vermont. Started in 2003, the creamery has purchased its milk from the same farm for all of its more than eight years. "Our initial reason for going organic was for a point of difference," says Carleton Yoder, owner and cheesemaker. "We feel the herd is healthier and we love the changes in the cheese with substantial grazing."
The cheesemaker's favorite product from the creamery is the Organic Champlain Triple, "a soft-ripened bloomy rind cheese enriched with cream," though they also offer an award-winning organic old fashioned cream cheese. Champlain Valley cheeses are available at several local retailers, though you can also order the cheese directly from the site.
Thistle Hill Farms
Located in North Pomfret, Vermont, Thislte Hill Farms offers an organic Tarentaise cheese. This award-winning cheese is made in the traditional Savoyard Beaufort style, to bring typical, authentic Alpine cheese to Vermont. The subtle, nutty flavor makes it an excellent cheese for cheese boards. You can order directly from Thistle Hill.
Ruggles Hill Creamery
Ruggles Hill Creamery has been making organic goat cheese for nearly seven years. Llocated in Hardwick, Massachusetts, the cheesemakers sell the cheese at farmers markets in Carlisle or at the farm itself.
The cheeses are varied in type and flavor. Greta's Faire Haven is an award-winning raw-milk aged tomme. Ada's Honor is a Chabichou-style crottin, with a smooth texture and mild flavor, perfect for débutant goat-cheese lovers. Lea's Great Meadow is an herbed goat cheese; this mold-ripened tomme is made in the California style.
Vermont Shepherd, as its name suggests, makes sheepsmilk cheese. They milk their own sheep, but they also make cowsmilk cheese from the milk of neighboring organic Jersey cows. "We've been making cheese for 24 years," says David Major, "And we have always leaned toward making the most cheese during the pasture season, since pasture milk is healthier - and cheaper to produce!"
Sheepsmilk cheese is traditionally made in several parts of Europe, including Spain, where manchego is frequently served with membrillo, or quince paste, and in the French Pyrénées, where it's served with cherry jam. The latter is recommended for Vermont Shepherd's namesake cheese.
Vermont Shepherd's sheep are not certified organic, though the cowsmilk they use is. David says, on this topic, "We haven't felt the need to go through the paperwork and inspections process for the rest of the operation, since our reputation as a small farm making quality artisan products and caring for the environment seems to do the trick."
David's favorite of the cheese that they produce is a cowsmilk cheese: their winter cheese, called "Invierno," or winter in Spanish. "It makes a great spicy melted cheese sandwich as lunch," says David. Seems like the perfect idea for a cold winter day!