by Samantha Kane, Cheesemonger at Di Bruno Bros.
How many businesses can you visit and see all their most prized and intimate ideas and possessions? How many farms can you find the owner, covered in hay, sweat, and poo, talking to the cows and watching over them like babes in a cradle? Then, to find him, hands washed, checking petri dishes of microflora from their milk and tracking, on an elaborate Excel spreadsheet, their food consumption; and then, moments later to see him jump down into the milking parlor to rub down an utter and reattach the milk machine.
I can just tell you…not many.
Matteo at Jasper Hill Farm not only monitors milk flow, feeding, and living conditions, but also, cheese production, and quality control of affinage and tasting the cheeses before distribution. Matteo was accommodating, full of knowledge, and incredibly passionate. Obviously, there is also a tremendous team working on the farm and in the cellars and you could describe each of them the same way.
Molly had set up a killer trip for us and really helped to maximize our learning, tasting, and overall experience of being there. We met Vince, who showed us the caves, which are built into the mountain side and perfectly organized to best suit each cheese at a certain age. We were able to taste batch after batch, from as close as 2 days apart to month’s difference in age to see the changes and nuances of the cheeses. Alpha Tolman, Harbison, Cabot Clothbound, Bayley Hazen; to see them all from literally a day out of the vat, all the way through to what we normally get to see at the shop was unreal!
We were then able to visit the cheese making room with Nat. He helped explain the more scientific side of it all. “We are just shepherds of bacteria,” he told us, referring to the collections of cultures they use and combine to create flavors and aromas within the cheeses. He reached his hand into the vat of whey and curds to show us their springy texture and talk about cutting and knitting them together in certain ways to get the best finished texture. Although it was obviously industrial and more mechanized than other aspects, all the romanticism and joy of being near the cows, and smelling and tasting the cheese, still existed in this room! That was the most surprising and exciting part for me. So much love went into every single step for each product.
It all just really tied together. From seeing the milking to the making to the final step of eating the cheese, it just clicked. The milk changes every day, so the recipe changes every day, and then the cheese changes… every day. The ultimate expression of the Farm and the people within it is really what we are selling.