Exploring Taste & Terroir with Jasper Hill
Last week, a group of community members joined us in the South End Community Room for a specialty class co-hosted by Jasper Hill Farm. Leigh Harding, National Accounts Manager for the creamery, led us through a guided tasting while sharing the history of the business and their vision for the future.
Leigh shared an overview of the different components of their business including the farm, creamery, and aging facility. From humble beginnings in 2003, the business has now grown to a nationally recognized brand with quite a list of accolades under their belt. In addition to their on-site creamery, they now operate multiple farms, have a second creamery at the Food Venture Center in Hardwick, and boast a 22,000 square foot aging facility. Did I mention their state of the art hay dryer and anaerobic digester?
The Kehler brothers’ journey to success began with a unique partnership in 2003 when Cabot Creamery approached them about aging a specialty batch of cheddar, now known as Cabot Clothbound. After winning Best in Show at the 2006 American Cheese Society Judging & Competition, demand for their products skyrocketed, sparking a “revolutionary collaboration” between the two creameries. Soon, other creameries followed suit and the brothers were able to build their 7-vault aging facility. They now partner with a number of other creameries to age their products including Von Trapp Farmstead, Landaff Creamery, Scholten Family Farm, and Cabot Creamery.
With 12 cheeses in total, there is quite a bit of variety in flavor profiles of the different products. 4 non-GMO certified cheeses and 2 certified organic cheeses help to round out the inventory as well as a number of raw milk cheeses (including Alpha Toman and Bayley Hazen Blue which we tasted in class)! Leigh led us through the inventory and explained the differences between wash-rind cheeses like Willougby and seasonal offerings like Winnimere. We tasted two different batches of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar that were only one day apart but had drastically different flavor profiles illustrating the dynamic nature of the product.
Throughout the tasting, Leigh shared the sensory profiles of specific cheeses ranging from “Butter and Toast” to “Chicken Broth.” She shared examples of spider graphs that the sensory team created for each cheese, marking them on a scale of 1-10 in 7 categories ranging from texture to acidity and bitterness.
We rounded out the evening with another side by side comparison of two batches of Willougbhy. While one batch was washed in the traditional salt rind solution, the other was a specialty wash in The Alchemist Brewery’s Petite Mutant. Leigh shared that the business partners frequently with local breweries and cider makers to create specialty wash cheeses, embodying their spirit of collaboration.
Interested in learning more? Check out this video or swing by our cheese counter downtown or in the South End to speak with our knowledgeable staff.