Holiday Cheesemaking at Shelburne Farms

Christmas week is observed at Butterworks Farm by a vacation for the plant crew, but the cows don’t take time off, and so we need to find another home for our organic Jersey milk.

We would like to extend a big thank you to Organic Valley for arranging a pick up. We were also able to make a batch of Cheddar cheese with our friends at Shelburne Farms. This year they very generously offered for me to observe the process along with Shelburne Farms alum and current Jasper Hill cheese maker Nat Bacon.

The day started with an early morning drive on icy roads, but by the time Jack and I were on Route 100 headed towards Shelburne the roads were clear and the rest of the day was smooth sailing. Colin arrived first with the milk, and it was a big relief to see the white truck safely in the courtyard of the impressive buildings on their property. The exterior has the feel of a European manor, but the inside of their facility is efficient and modern with a team of exceptionally friendly workers.

With the milk off our truck and into their vat, they quickly added cheese cultures and carefully monitored the temperature and acidity to decide when to add the rennet. After the rennet was added we observed the milk to know when we should cut the curds. The combination of the culture and the rennet made the milk set into a smooth gel that looks a lot like yogurt, but firmer. Kate and Nat pulled a set of large cheese harps or knives along the vat to cut it into even cubes.

After cutting, the curds rested for a few minutes before being stirred gently. Then the curds were allowed to settle and carefully moved to the back of the vat to allow the whey to drain. It was only after this I remembered I had a camera. Here you see the curds trenched to allow more whey to drain.

Thank you Kate, Claire, Katherine and Nat!

Videos of our day at Shelburne Farms

This was really fun to watch.

Curd milling.

The final steps we were able to observe involve moving the curds back to the end of the vat and filling the cheese hoops.

After a night in their press, the blocks were unmolded, graded and moved to their cave.