We're Feeling Blue!
We're getting into the blue cheese game. Meet Bayley Hazen and Mad River, two fudgy, earthy and subdued blues from award-winning Vermont fromagers that have been added to our growing arsenal of artisan cheeses. They're part of a burgeoning cheese program that celebrates what we believe is the best in American dairy.
Bayley Hazen was one of the first cheeses made when Jasper Hill Creamery got up and running in 2003. The recipe is based on a British natural rind blue. The name, however, comes from a Northeast Kingdom landmark – the Bayley Hazen Military Road, commissioned by George Washington as a Revolutionary War supply route. This signature blue cheese has developed a loyal following because of its fudge-like texture, toasted-nut sweetness, and anise spice character. The paste is dense and creamy, with well distributed blue veins. The usual peppery character of blue cheese is subdued, elevating the grassy, nutty flavors of the milk. The complexity of Bayley Hazen means it’s ideal for blue lovers, but the balanced sweetness and mild spice make it approachable to a more timid audience.
As Jasper Hill Farm has rapidly expanded, it retains practices that have made it an artisan dairy, standards that ensure it continues to be boutique. As they work on their own cheeses, they age cheeses for fellow cheesemakers, with a focus on raising the bar for American cheeses on the global stage.
Brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler wanted to create a sustainable agricultural business that would revive the working landscape of Vermont, which was being decimated by big dairy farms and industrial agriculture. They bought 'the old Jasper Hill Farm' in Greensboro, Vermont in 1998, and worked for five years to restore the barn, start a herd of Ayrshire dairy cows, and build a creamery.
In 2003, their first batches of cheese were ready to take to market, and they met with instant success. In the beginning, all of the cheeses were aged in a cellar located beneath the original creamery, but after their collaboration with Cabot Creamery, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, took home 'Best in Show' accolades at the 2006 American Cheese Society conference, the Kehlers decided to build the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm to age their own cheeses as well as cheeses from other farms. The Cellars at Jasper Hill is the largest cheese aging facility in the United States.
Jasper Hill Farm's mission is to create a "Taste of Place" and to invigorate the working agricultural landscape of Vermont's beautiful Northeast Kingdom.They employ over 100 people, and make cheese from the milk of their own farm and many other neighboring farms, ensuring that the dairy farmers are being paid a fair price for their milk.
The von Trapp Farmstead, settled by the von Trapps of the "Sound of Music Fame," sits nestled in Vermont's beautiful Mad River Valley. The farm was chosen for its beautiful surroundings — the peaceful and idyllic mountains surrounding the farm reminded the family of their native Austria. The farm was always a dairy, but in 2009 the third generation, Sebastian von Trapp, began making cheese from their certified organic cow's milk. The von Trapp family is committed to making incredible cheese and also to environmental stewardship.
The von Trapps’ commitment to their land and their animals runs deep. Sebastian and his family have made the decision to go beyond organic to practice regenerative agriculture, a method of farming that builds soil health, fosters biodiversity, improves the groundwater supply, and reverses the effects of global warming by sequestering carbon in the soil. In celebration of Earth Day and American artisan cheesemakers committed to reinventing and reinvigorating our rural landscapes, we’re doing a deep dive into the world of von Trapp Farmstead and regenerative agriculture.
The von Trapp Farmstead was founded by Sebastian’s grandparents, his ‘Oma’ and ‘Opa’ in 1959. They fled their native Austria after the second World War. They were not farmers by background, but taught themselves to manage a small, sustainable family dairy. Sebastian’s parents took over the farm in 1979, and though they had always farmed ‘organically’ (meaning pasturing their cows, not using antibiotics or growth hormones on their animals, and not using synthetic fertilizers or chemicals on their land) the farm gained its official organic certification in 2006. Sebastian re-joined the business in 2009 with the aim of adding value to the farm’s milk by turning it into artisan cheese.
The first cheese that they produced was called Oma, a pungent washed rind cheese in homage to Sebastian’s grandmother. Oma is still produced on the farm; it is then shipped to the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm to be ripened, aged, and sold. Over the years, Sebastian added Mt Alice - a buttery bloomy-rind cheese, Mad River Blue - a fudgy, earthy blue cheese, and Savage - a nutty, aged Alpine-style cheese to their lineup.
If the foundation for great cheese is great milk, it follows that the foundation for great milk is an amalgam of pasture and healthy animals; and the foundation for a healthy, varied pasture is the soil and its microbiome. The von Trapps are dedicated to these ideals, and use the basic tenets of regenerative agriculture to make their farm a holistic and sustainable farming system whose delicious byproduct is cheese!