True artisan, farmstead, specialty, and american original cheeses are made in small quantities, not mass produced. The artisan cheesemaker chooses the freshest milk and finest ingredients in order to create his or her unique cheeses full of character and flavor. Because many of our cheeses are made by hand, no two are identical. Much of the milk comes from pasture-fed cows. Daily variations in the weather, soil, and grazing conditions add to the delicious subtleties found in each vat.
The word “artisan” implies that a cheese is produced primarily by hand, in small batches, with particular attention paid to the tradition of the cheesemaker’s art. Artisan cheeses typically require special aging or curing techniques and may include various flavorings. Rogue Creamery’s “Rogue River Blue” is a wonderful example of an artisan cheese. It is a seasonal, handmade cheese which uses ingredients found in the Rogue River Valley in Oregon. From the milk, to the grape leaves, to the pear brandy the leaves are soaked in, all are products which are unique to that area of the United States. It is only made from milk produced in the fall after the vernal equinox. This cheese has been a multi-time American Cheese Society Best of Show winner and Best US Cheese at World Cheese Awards. For more information visit roguecreamery.com
Farmstead cheeses are made with milk from the farmer’s own herd or flock on the farm where the animals are raised. Some of these milking animals are specifically bred and selected for certain traits or definitive attributes of the milk used to create the desired characteristics in the cheeses produced. Upland Cheese’s “Pleasant Ridge Reserve” is a classic farmstead cheese. Cheesemaker Andy Hatch makes this delicious, deep and complex cheese using “Old World” techniques. The cheese is made from the milk from his herd of 60 cows, only during the grazing season when they graze on the lush pastures from spring to fall. For more information on Pleasant Ridge Reserve and the other award-winning cheeses Andy Hatch makes, visit uplandscheese.com.
Another example of a farmstead cheese is LaClare Farms’ original cheese, “Evalon”. This raw milk, semi-soft goat cheese is made from fresh, high-quality milk from the farm’s healthy does. Go to laclarefarm.com to find out more about LaClare Farms.
Specialty cheeses are produced in limited quantities and are typically well aged, full-flavored, or unique in some way. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, based in Seattle and started by Kurt Beecher Dammeier, makes “Flagsheep”, a delicious cloth-bound and open-air aged cow and sheep’s milk cheese. This American Cheese Society Best of Show winner’s flavor is characterized by the addition of a Swiss culture to a Cheddar recipe, giving “Flagsheep” its exceptional sweetness. Head to beechershandmadecheese.com to learn more.
Deer Creek’s award wining “The Fawn” and “The Stag” are other examples of specialty cheeses. They are both handmade, nutty, sweet-finish Cheddars. Both are made as traditional bandage-wrapped 22 lb. daisy wheels which are then naturally aged to allow for the development of their deep, unparalleled flavors. For more information about these as well as all of the other winning Deer Creek cheeses, check out deercreekcheese.com.
The term “American Originals” refers to cheeses that originated in the United States. One of the most famous American Originals is Ig Vella’s “Dry Jack.” It is a handcrafted cheese made by the godfather of the American Artisan Cheese movement, Ig Vella. Each wheel is handmade and rubbed with an oil, cocoa, and pepper mixture. The wheels are then aged for a minimum of nine months. Click on vellacheese.com for more information.