As I mentioned previously, the farmstead cheese category is one we get pretty excited about. Farmstead cheeses are those made on the same farm where the animals are raised. While not necessarily better than other cheeses simply by virtue of being farmstead-made, the ones that stand out tend to reflect the intense dedication of their makers. Anyone can make cheese, but it takes a great degree of commitment to raise the animals, milk them and convert that milk into cheese. Often these cheeses are small-batch in production and limited in distribution, which is why there were several blue ribbon winners in this category at ACS that had not yet crossed our radar.
Thankfully, samples of nearly all the ACS entrants were available for tasting at the Festival of Cheese so that we could get a nibble and share it, virtually, with you. First up, a duo of aged cheeses from Massachusetts: Maggie’s Reserve from Cricket Creek Farm (hard, cows milk, aged over 60 days) and Greta’s Fair Haven from Ruggles Hill Creamery (goats milk, aged over 60 days).
Cricket Creek Farm has a herd of 40 Brown Swiss and Jersey cows in Williamstown, Mass., and is certified humane for animal husbandry while following organic practices in caring for the land on which the cows graze. The farm was purchased by the Sabot family in 2001 and head cheesemaker Suzy Konecky joined Cricket Creek in 2009, shepherding the farm to several major awards. Maggie’s Round was a blue ribbon winner in 2011, while Maggie’s Reserve took the honor this year. Maggie’s Reserve is made with the farm’s raw cows milk, a natural rinded hard cheese aged 12-18 months. (Should you get your hands on it, Cricket Creek recommends pairing it with a robust red wine.)
I was also quite smitten with Cricket Creek’s Tobasi, a square, young (3-4 months), grassy and supple washed-rind cheese with a rind that resembles tree bark.
Ruggles Hill Creamery is a very small goat dairy farm located in Hardwick, Mass. Tricia Smith milks her ten does by hand and makes several soft and bloomy-rind cheeses. Her blue ribbon Greta’s Fair Haven is also a raw milk cheese, an aged, grey-rinded tomme that is a little dry but still slightly citrusy. Look for Ruggles Hill cheeses at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge.