2016-11-01 / Dishing

The Cheese Stands Together

Anne Quinn Corr | Photos by Matt Fern

“Cheese is milk’s leap toward immortality,” wrote Clifton Fadiman in his 1957 essay “The Cheese Stands Alone.” He took cheese culture to new heights and popularized the term “turophile,” or “cheese connoisseur,” a derivation from the Greek “tyros,” meaning “cheese,” and “philos,” meaning “loving.” He would be pleased today to see what is rising from our melting pot of American and Velveeta processed cheeses.

The Pennsylvania Cheese Guild officially incorporated last January at a meeting led by Dr. Kerry Kaylegian, a Penn State dairy foods research and extension associate whose area of interest is artisan cheese. The PA Cheese Guild “promotes the highest standards of cheese making and celebrates the diversity of the cheese community in Pennsylvania through partnerships, outreach and education.” The annual business meeting, held just after the Farm Show, is a members-only event, but there are many membership categories, from the $25 per year non-professional cheese enthusiast to various professional membership categories. Membership at the enthusiast level is worth it for insider info on things like cheesemaking classes and private tours, as well as the premier PA cheese tasting that takes place after the business meeting.

Last January there were cheeses — hard, soft, aged, mild, distinctive, blue-veined, washed, smoked, spreadable, cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk — that had been entered in the Farm Show contest and had won awards, and all were from Pennsylvania. Lori Sollenberger of Hidden Hills Dairy brought her acclaimed Old Gold, an aged Gouda-style with a caramel sweetness. Stefanie Angstadt from Valley Milkhouse in the Oley Valley brought Clover, a fromage blanc, and Thistle, a Brie-like cheese. The delicate flavors in these fine examples of farmstead cheeses were remarkable, rivaling any European cheese.

Steering committee member David Rice from Clover Creek Cheese Cellar in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, is a vendor at the Boalsburg Tuesday Farmers Market. Clover Creek’s raw milk cheeses were first produced in 2005 and the line has grown to include more than a dozen distinctive varieties. Another guild member with local roots is Brian Futhey, whose Stone Meadow Farm produces a variety of hard cheeses as well as Leigh Belle, a Camembert-like cheese, and Taleggio, a pungent, washed rind soft cheese available at the Tuesday Boalsburg market year-round. And if you are looking for a goat cheese at that market, track down Jim Byler, whose fresh chèvre rivals anything in the Old World.

Stone Meadow Farm’s Leigh BelleStone Meadow Farm’s Leigh BelleThese days Kaylegian is busy preparing for the December statewide cheese competition and the January Farm Show exhibit. “The winners in each division are kept secret,” says Kaylegian, “until the awards ceremony on the opening day of the Farm Show, when thousands of Farm Show attendees will have the chance to sample the winning cheeses at the Cheese Exhibit.” But there are plenty of top-notch cheeses that don’t take a top prize, and Farm Show attendees can try those, too. “There will also be sales of cheese by some of the contestants at our booth, as well as cheesemakers that regularly sell their cheese in the PA Products section,” Kaylegian says.

In the Middle Ages the term “guild” referred to an association of craftsmen or merchants that often wielded considerable power. The term today refers to “an association of people with similar interests or pursuits.” Recalling the ancient methods of cheesemaking and aligning them with the science of the 21st century can only propel Pennsylvania — ranked fifth in the nation for milk production and second in the nation for the number of dairy farms — into national and global awareness. The terroir of Pennsylvania will one day be evidenced in our artisan cheeses, to the delight of turophiles worldwide. •SCM

Chèvre Chaud
Clara Fort, an international student at Penn State, offers a traditional recipe from Bordeaux, her home region of France. Makes 4 servings.

8 oz. salad greens
8 oz. fresh goat cheese
12 1-inch slices of baguette
6 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tsp. Herbes de Provence
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper

Preheat broiler on high. Spread goat cheese on 12 slices of baguette and brush on olive oil, sprinkle with herbs, and grind pepper over the top. Place under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts and gets golden brown. Prepare vinaigrette by mixing balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to make an emulsion. Divide the salad greens into four wide soup bowls and drizzle 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette over each salad. Place 3 warm goat cheese toasts on the side of each bowl. Bon Appétit!

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