For Your Consideration: A Cheese for Earth Day

Caitlin Griffith offers food for thought this Earth Day with her pick: Consider Bardwell Rupert.

What does Earth Day mean to you? To me it translates into the perfect opportunity to introduce you to some favorite cheeses, made in sustainable and earth-friendly ways. Take Consider Bardwell’s yellow-hued, whale stamped alpine tomme, Rupert, for example. This 25-pound beauty hails from the area straddling Vermont’s pristine Champlain Valley and New York state’s easternmost Washington County.  Originally a cheese-making co-op way back in the mid-1800’s, the Consider Bardwell Farm was neglected for years, but fortunately for us, a couple of cheese visionaries stepped in to revitalize its cheese-making history!

Rupert’s sweet, almond-nutty deliciousness starts in the field with all of the great grassy diversity inherent in local foraging and fresh pasture eating. Since Consider Bardwell Farm only raises goats on the property, the farm partners with three neighboring dairy farms to source their milk, effectively breathing economic vitality back into the struggling Vermont community. Previously, the dairies were non-working or raised their cows in the conventional way, but with the loving support of Consider Bardwell Farm, these dairies now pasture their animals in the summer, utilizing rotational grazing practices, and feed the cows dry hay from Consider Bardwell in the winters.

The farm also keeps its pastures pesticide and fertilizer free, and has recently joined the USDA Grassland Reserve Program, or GRP. According to the USDA, the GRP consists of voluntary conservation membership which emphasizes biodiversity of local flora and fauna, as well as protection of grassland. With all of this natural diversity in their diets, coupled with sunshine and fresh air, the happy cows who graciously provide their milk for Rupert stay healthy without the use of antibiotics and added hormones.

If you’re not already sold on this cheese just take a look at its trophy case! In both 2010 and 2011, Rupert was an American Cheese Society winner, and in 2011 it took home awards at the U.S. Cheese Championship . Try it! On its own this smooth, rich alpine beauty makes a phenomenal midday snack. It is equally delicious grated in a bright spring vegetable tart in place of Gruyere (the ramps have arrived!).  But since Earth Day is all about loving our planet, why not pack a picnic and get outside to enjoy the sunshine and nature that Consider Bardwell Farm is working to preserve!

Kidding Season: Why now is the time for fresh goat cheese

by Grace Mitchell

We all know it because of our own human experience:  animals only produce milk after they give birth to their young.  It’s easy, however, to forget this plain fact of nature when we have a constant supply of fresh milk, cheese, and other dairy products.  Thanks to modern technologies and human manipulation of animals’ natural cycles, we can conveniently partake in dairy year-round.

But just like those out of season vegetables that we buy at the supermarket, this consistent supply of dairy is sometimes lackluster when it comes to taste.  While the majority of dairying in this country occurs without consideration for the natural cycles of animals, there are a few dairies and cheesemakers who understand that making cheese in accordance with the seasons will yield the best product.

In seasonal dairying, animals give birth to their young in spring and begin producing milk to feed them.  This resurgence in milk production comes after a dry period in which the animals do not produce milk.  Goats, for example, have a ten-month lactation cycle, and milk production that begins in spring thus ceases in late fall or early winter.  At this time, the goats also must move off pasture with the arrival of cold weather, and their milk quality changes with quality of their feed.

Now that it’s spring again, the goats have given birth and are once again making milk.  This recommencement of milk production also corresponds to moving the goats to pasture.  No longer wintering indoors dining upon stored winter feed, these goats are now grazing on lush spring pastures and woodland browse which endow their milk with an array of vitamins, minerals, and other flavor compounds, thus yielding especially complex cheeses.

Some of the cheeses made from this milk are intended to age for several months, such as Consider Bardewell’s Manchester.  But for those of us in desperate need of instant gratification, there is fresh chevre for us to enjoy right now.

I attribute my most memorable and extended encounter with fresh chevre to my stint working on a goat cheese farm, at which I arrived in late spring.  There was an abundance of baby goats, and a corresponding abundance of fresh chevre, present three meals a day.  Luckily, my springtime chevre habit need not desist now that I live in the city, as Murray’s has made great friends with Lorraine Lambiase and Sheila Flanagan, owners and operators of Nettle Meadow Farm in the Adirondacks.  From the milk of their 300 goats, they make some of our favorite cheeses, including Kunik.  In the spring they handcraft fresh chevres, some of which are so lovingly flavored, and all of which are pillowy, milky, tangy, lemony, and absolutely dreamy in your mouth.  It’s best right now–so quick!  Get yourself some fresh chevre while it’s delicate, complex, and benefitting from the newness of spring growth.