Sweet And Creamy Blue For All Cheese Lovers
Why buy the cow? For brothers and cheese-makers Andy and Mateo Kehler it wasn’t about getting the milk for free. Their farm in Greensboro, VT was the result of “the quest for meaningful work in a place we love,” says Mateo. For more than a century, members of the Kehler family maintained a summertime romance with Greensboro, a sleepy village nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains. So in 1998, the brothers consummated their relationship with the town by buy-ing the out-of-business Jasper Hill Farm.
Promoting its regional “taste of place,” the dairy farm is named for the last farmer to operate on the property.
It is located in a remote and lightly populated region of Vermont, known as the Northeast Kingdom. The farm’s signature blue, called Bayley Hazen, got its name from a military road whose proponents in the Revolutionary War were Jacob Bayley and Moses Hazen.
It won World’s Best Unpasteurized Cheese at the 2014 World Cheese Awards as well as Best in Class at the 2014 World Championship Cheese Contest. “We are proud to say that it has been featured on cheese plates at the country’s finest restaurants, and as a staple on the country’s best cheese shop counters,” says Zoe Brickley, Jasper Hill Farms’ director of sales and marketing.
The reason for Bayley’s loyal following is the fudge-like texture, toasted-nut sweetness, and mild anise spice. One of the first cheeses made at Jasper Hill Creamery, the natural rind of Bayley is comprised of a diversity of yeasts, mold and bacteria and is aged for three months. The over-all appearance of a mature wheel is a mottled whiteish-grey on an orangey backdrop. Its paste is dense and creamy, with well-distributed blue veins. Its complexity means it is ideal for blue lovers, but the balance of sweet and spice can please a more hesitant palate. The usual peppery character of blue cheese is subdued, elevating the grassy, nutty flavors of the raw cow milk.
Bayley is made by two, highly trained teams of cheesemakers — one located on the farm at Jasper Hill, and the other at a satellite facility within the Vermont Food Venture Center in nearby Hardwick.
“You can’t make a good cheese without good milk,” says Andy. A special blend of cultures is added to fresh milk in a vat. After an hour or two, the curd is set to a fragile gel-like state. Cheesemakers then cut and stir the curd until it reaches the proper texture and pH. Curds are then removed from the whey and loosely piled into tall, perforated cylindrical molds, which are turned in order to drain and set. Once removed from these molds, the fresh wheels are rubbed with salt and sent to the Cellars. Once they are introduced to the caves the wheels are hand-pierced by a single, stainless steel spike.
An innovative 22,000-square-foot underground aging facility, the Cellars at Jasper Hill is designed to maximize the potential of the artisan cheeses made by the creamery, as well as those made by other local producers, says Mateo. The Cellars were constructed into a hillside on the farm across the drive from the barn, cheese house and Mateo’s family home — all in one, adjoining structure.
Mateo developed this cheese after time spent working with cheese in London’s famed Neal’s Yard Dairy shops and aging facility, as well as time spent making cheese with traditional producers in the British countryside. “We consider it an original recipe that recalls elements of a French Fourme d’Ambert with British sensibilities,” says Brickley.
She suggests pairing Bayley Hazen with a red dessert wine or a toasty imperial stout. It also goes great with a hunk of dark chocolate. CC