Vermont Artisanal Cheese
Hankering for some good cheddar during your time in Vermont? Would you like that aged one year, two years, three years; clothbound or smoked? Or perhaps instead you'd like an expertly crafted raw goat's milk tomme or some just-made sheep's ricotta?
Vermont is the artisanal cheese capital of the country, with over 40 creameries (and growing fast) that are open to the public—carefully churning out hundreds of different cheeses. Many creameries are "farmstead" operations, meaning that the animals that provide the milk are on site where their milk is made into cheese. If you eat enough cheese during your time in the state, you may be able to differentiate between the many types of milk (cow, goat, sheep, or even water buffalo), as well as make associations between the geography and climate of where you are and the taste of the cheese you eat.
This is one of the reasons why taking a walk around a dairy is a great idea: you can see the process in action, from grazing to aging to eating. Almost all dairies welcome visitors, though it's universally recommended that you call ahead to plan your visit.
Shelburne Farms. At Shelburne Farms, a chalkboard stands in the cheesemaking facility and notes which part of the complex cheesemaking process visitors can witness at various times throughout the day. 1611 Harbor Rd., Shelburne, VT, 05482. 802/985-8686. www.shelburnefarms.org. $8.
Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery. One of the leaders of the artisanal cheese movement, Vermont Butter & Cheese invites curious cheese aficionados to visit their 4,000-square-foot creamery where gem-like goat cheeses such as Bonne Bouche—a perfectly balanced, cloud-like cheese—are made Monday through Friday. 40 Pitman Rd, Websterville, VT, 05678. 800/884-6287. www.vermontcreamery.com.
Consider Bardwell Farm. This farm in West Pawlet was the first cheese cooperative in the state, founded in 1864, and today, a new generation of cheesemakers make nine goat and cow milk cheeses on-site, including the bright, nutty, and exceptionally delicious Pawlet. Visit their website for information regarding cheesemaking workshops and classes offered at the farm. 1333 Rte. 153, West Pawlet, VT, 05775. 802/645-9928. www.considerbardwellfarm.com.
Cabot Visitors Center. For a taste of the classic Vermont cheddar, head to Cabot Creamery to take a tour of the factory and see how the many varieties of cheddars are made. 2878 Main St., Cabot, VT, 05647. 800/837-4261. www.cabotcheese.coop.
If you can't get yourself to a creamery for a visit, don't fret: almost every general store, grocery, or gourmet food shop carries at least a couple of delicious Vermont cheeses, the most common being Cabot and Grafton cheddars, plus usually something from a cheesemaking operation particularly close by.
The Vermont Cheese Council. The Cheese Council has developed the Vermont Cheese Trail, a map of 38 creameries with contact information for each. 866/261-8595. www.vtcheese.com.
Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. If you're a real cheese lover, definitely plan your trip to Vermont around the state's world-class food event, the annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival at Shelburne Farms—each July over 40 cheesemakers gather to sell and sample their various cheeses. www.vtcheesefest.com.
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