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Posts Tagged ‘Strafford Organic Creamery’

cheese sample

Vermont is, of course, known for its dairy farms, along with its maple syrup.    The two events I went to today, the Norwich Farmers’ Market and the Co-op’s annual Dairy Day, are really celebrations of the richness, variety, and history of Vermont’s dairies, which stretches back to the seventeenth century. While stories of small dairies going out of business or being bought out by large conglomerates are common these days, some of the most successful operations now are small.  They have simply shifted their market focus and serve the (expanding) niche markets defined by the desire for food that is of a high quality, is local, and is artisanal in some way.  The desire for these traits goes along with a conservationist ethos that looks both forward and back.  Heirloom seeds and techniques are prized for their history as well as for the continuity and contribution to biodiversity they offer to the future.

Today, I settled on a cheese from Thistle Hill Farm, in North Pomfret, Vermont, a dairy which epitomizes this cultural and environmental ethos in their cheesemaking.

pomfret cheese

They specialize in a semi-hard cheese named Tarentaise, after the Tarentaise Valley in the Savoie region of the French Alps.  The organic milk from their Jersey cows is combined with imported French cultures and their own rennet in a custom-made copper vat like those used in the Savoie.  The Putnams write on their website:

From its humble beginnings as organic raw milk to its natural aging and rind development, Thistle Hill Farm Tarentaise is as unadulterated a cheese as you will find. The imported French cultures impart flavor and texture. The traditional rennet provides structure and further complexity to the flavor of the cheese. Thistle Hill Farm Tarentaise has no added preservatives, synthetic flavors or additives. No herbs are used to hide its flavor; no waxes or plastics simplify its aging process.

Tarentaise is unique to North Pomfret Vermont’s terrior – its soil, geography, climate and flora – which gives Tarentaise its characteristic smooth, subtle nut flavor and complex finish. http://www.thistlehillfarm.com/default.htm

We sampled little cubes, and then bought a big slab.

Just before lunch, we migrated to the Lebanon Food Co-op’s Dairy Day, where everything from root beer floats to Greek yogurt could make a mid-morning snack.  While Jack and his cousin went for the root beer and balloons, I sampled the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company’s creamy goat cheese dressed with honey and black pepper, and an assortment of other cheeses, including more Tarentaise.

VT B&C goat
But I was also on the hunt for a sweeter evocation of fields, forages, and herbs.  Some of you might recall my daydreams about the ice creams of Strafford Organic Creamery, the small Guernsey dairy in my first hometown (and the town where Peter and I got married in the meeting house).

Strafford

At last, I found their table, where melting ice cream in plastic buckets was being scooped into a constant stream of drippy cones.  I ordered fresh mint, and could taste the herb garden.  Bridget ordered coconut, and my mom got coffee, with its milk-brewed grounds.  Our favorites? It was a toss-up between fresh mint and coffee.  (Strafford Organic Creamery)

the kind of shot you get from a 4-year-old portraitist

the kind of shot you get from a 4-year-old portraitist

Since it was an event aimed mainly at children and their families, there were the requisite horse-drawn wagon rides around the parking lot.
horsesAnd, of course, Ben and Jerry’s:

B & J's

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I came to a junction in the back roads of my mind the other day when I read an article in the New York Times about organic dairy cows in Highgate, Vermont munching alfalfa and flaxseed rather than corn, to make their burps less methane-laden.  The farm supplies milk to Stonyfield Farms, maker of Oikos—organic Greek-style yogurt—of which I’ve just become a big fan. The one with honey on the bottom is the best; when Jack doesn’t finish his dessert honey yogurt, Peter and I jump in to scoop up the last bites.

The last time I was in Highgate, I was the one standing in a field, but I was munching a messy falafel pocket at one of the Grateful Dead’s last shows.  I don’t remember a whole lot about it beyond Dylan’s shiny silver jacket (he was the opening act), crowd anxiety, the falafel, and the way we punned on the name of the town as if we were the only ironic dorks who had thought of it.

One of the dairy products I’m most looking forward to slurping up, when I get to Vermont next week, is the ice cream from Strafford Organic Creamery.  The dairy-farm is owned by the Ransoms, one of whom—William—I went to kindergarten and first grade with, in Strafford.  Here’s an incitement to a craving:

We make our ice cream in small batches, one day each week.  We wouldn’t dream of blending our cows’ cream with anything but the highest-quality organic ingredients. We separate fresh eggs by hand, handpick the mint and black raspberries, and grind the coffee just before we brew it into the milk.

Mmm….

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