Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 669 : Vermont Excursions Part One

Last time I was in Vermont, the temperatures were warm, the grass was green and the leaves were plentiful, it was late July and time for the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. In the following months, Vermont witnessed one of the worst storms in the state's history leaving to this day many roads closed, businesses shuttered and life completely changed. Coming up this weekend I knew that I'd be arriving to a changed state, not simply because there would be snow on the ground obviously. I had three creamery visits lined up along with a mini sojourn in Killington followed finally by a winery stop. Each creamery visit will be covered in a separate blog, so lets get going in chronological order. All of my photos will come this week.

Visit number one was Vermont Butter and Cheese in Websterville founded in 1984 by Allison Hooper and Bob Reese. Now twenty seven years later, VBC is working to open a fully operational goat dairy farm in Randolph along with renovating their cheese production spaces in Websterville with a pretty sizable staff of forty-two.  VBC currently sources its milk from seventeen different farms throughout the state and Ontario. Once the milk arrives at VBC, the magic starts to happen. What's made with all that milk? They make: the best cultured butter stateside, excellent creme fraiche, fresh chevre, fromage blanc, mascarpone, feta, and a line of aged cheeses -- Coupole, Bijou, Bonne Bouche, and Cremont. Over half of their profits come from that fabulous creme fraiche, with a pretty decent percentage from the chevre and butter as well. Although you hear me talk primarily about my love of their aged cheeses, they by no means are their money maker yet. One day definitely but for the moment they are some of the best aged goat's milk cheeses crafted on this side of the pond.

So lets break down a few fun facts learned yesterday :

1. Did you know that up until two years ago they used to churn all their butter by hand? Not wanting to compromise the butter's quality, they stuck to the old fashioned method of production. When it no longer made sense to hand churn all of their butter, where did they go? They sourced and custom designed a butter producing machine from France and a butter packaging machine from Italy. In fact their packaging machine was the first of its kind in the US made by this company. Did their butter suffer? Not at all! It is still fantastic and the best of its kind here.

2. It takes 100 pounds of milk to make 14 pounds of cheese and goat's milk which is what the majority of VBC's cheeses are composed of is the most susceptible to seasonality. So how do you deal with that as a cheesemaker so your product maintains a consistency of flavor profile? Not only do you adjust the conditions of the cheese aging room, you also change the scale of the cheese molds utilized to craft some of their cheeses. In case you were curious, yes they are beyond successful!

Overall my visit to Vermont Butter and Cheese was both educational and informative but fun and exciting, allowing me to learn more about one of my favorite Vermont creameries and get an in depth look behind the scenes. 2012 will be a very exciting year for them with the grand opening of their farm and with their facilities renovations they will greatly increase their efficiency of cheese production allowing them to churn more of their delish cheeses.

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