Sunday, June 03, 2012

Tasting the Heart, Soul and Soil of Hudson Valley Cheese

Can a taste of artisanal cheese transport you to the place where it was produced?  What can you learn about a cheese maker from a style of cheese, the way the animals are tended or the types of ingredients used?

A while back, I had the chance to visit several Hudson Valley cheese makers and explore the idea of “terroir.”  Loosely translated as "taste of the soil," the word refers to the “sense of place” one might taste in a wine produced in a distinct location, and the concept of terroir is becoming more prevalent in conversations about farmstead cheese.  I found cheese makers more than willing to discuss the merits of cheese and terroir and passionate about their role in defining the character of small-batch cheese in the Hudson Valley.  
Rory Chase and Peter Destler, the founders of The Amazing Real Live Food Co. in Pine Plains, New York founded their creamery on a commitment to serve delicious, restorative “vittles” for their friends and neighbors in the Hudson Valley.  They source their milk from 50 registered Holstein cows that graze in rolling pastures reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell illustration. 
Rory and Peter are clearly dedicated to their mission and their French-style artisanal and probiotic cheeses delight the senses.  
Rory becomes visibly animated as he inhales the “mushroomy” aromas in their aging room, and offers me delicious samples of fresh and aged cheeses.  
Joyce Henion – owner of Acorn Hill Farm in Walker Valley, New York – produces fresh, clean-tasting goat cheeses in the former garage of her split-level home, which she converted into a fully equipped creamery.  
Joyce’s fascination with Nubian goats inspired her vocation as a cheese maker.  
Acorn Hill Farm is a very different locale.  Joyce’s goats browse a wooded area of rocky terrain.  She manages the herd organically and knows each goat by name.  
If you taste the cheese of Rory and Peter or Joyce, you will savor two very different stories, but both are characteristic of the vital cheese making community in the Hudson Valley.  Read more about cheese terroir in my story “A Sense of Place” published in the Spring 2012 “Bread and Cheese” issue of the magazine, Edible Hudson Valley.   
©2012 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved   


Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a fabulous experience and also how wonderful to be able to visit the Hudson Valley.

When I saw your pictures of the farms, I realized we have a lot of farms and cows in our area, but no one is doing what these amazing people do.

We would love to make our own goat cheese and visited a goat farm inquiring about milk, first got promises of milk, then later excuses. Seems they don't want to take the babies away from mama. Rory and Joyce remind me of Provence and the farmers there. I would love to sample their cheese.

Kat said...

It is my dream to make my own cheese from goats milk. It is a fine art for sure.

Deana Sidney said...

Terribly good article.

I love Hawthorne Valley and have been using their yogurt for nearly 20 years. I think my last St Bernard's bones and joint health were an advertisement for the quality of their product and the effect of being grass fed on the nutrition of the milk. I finally visited the farm a few years ago and came across a field of brown calves being naughty, playing, sneaking through fences ––– exactly the opposite of a factory farm.

I think you capture the heart of those farmers brilliantly... and it is about heart and love for them, isn't it?

Gloria Baker said...

OMG What lovely post dear, I love cheese especially these types:)

Mary Bergfeld said...

You love of place peeks through all your writing, T.W. New York is lucky to have you as an advocate for the state's agriculture :-). You've captured these farmers beautifully. It is always a pleasure to visit here. Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings...Mary

Fresh Local and Best said...

I've always wanted to visit the Hudson Valley for their ducks and agricultural scenery. This is yet another motivation to get up there. The cheeses must taste amazing.

Anonymous said...

This is such a lovely read & a great & lovely post!

Good for you to visit them & report back to us! :)

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

A lovely post and a well written article. I want to plan a two or three day trip to the Hudson valley...there appears to be so many interesting things to explore.

~~louise~~ said...

Excellent "taste" T.W. Your post leaves me wanting to know more and to sample each and every morsel of the Hudson Valley offerings. I'm off to check out that article.

Thank you so much for sharing...

Barbara said...

You are New York's farms #1 supporter, T. W. I love reading about them.
The article was excellent and the drawings lovely and homey. Perfect accompaniment. I felt as though I was a friend of Rory, Peter and Joyce. Kudos to them...and success.
I do wish I could visit Hudson Valley sometime...perhaps on a trip to see my daughter in NYC.

Catherine said...

Dear T.W.~ Sounds like a time past. These cheeses must be delicious with the dedication that is put into the making and the love of the animals.
Have a great week. Ciao...Catherine

Unknown said...

I loved the article when I first read it and this blogpost with its photos completes the story! Now I want cheese...