A visit to Vermont’s Shelburne Farms

Another sustainability adventure from Cheenius. Thanks for sharing, Cheenius; sounds like a wonderful trip!

Cheenius and Mr. Cheenius ventured north! First stop was Shelburne Farms near Burlington, VT.

Descendants of this Vanderbilt “country house” decided in the 1970s to put their tremendous acreage to work for sustainable agriculture and education:

We believe that soil, plant, animal, environmental and human health are interconnected and that agriculture is the base of a healthy culture and civilization. Our goal is to be a diversified, organic farm that supports a healthy local food system and creates an inspiring learning environment.

Shelburne Farms country house

They have a large herd of dairy cows, make their own cheese, and manage the manure in an amazingly responsible way through a system of field filters. Cheenius was excited to try their cheese, and was impressed with the variety of cheddar they were able to produce through aging or smoking.

Cheese samples

They grow organic produce and raise chickens and goats too. They also have an entire herd of solar panels! Their plan is to be completely energy self-sufficient in the next few years.

Shelburne Farms solar panels

Their main focus is much broader than just another sustainable farm, however. They partner with schools in and out of the area, and have brought THOUSANDS of kids to learn where their food comes from, and about sustainable agriculture in general.

We care about the sustainability and quality of life on earth. We care about young people having hope for the future. We believe that sustainability is grounded in individual awareness and action in our own communities.

Today at the Farmyard
The day we were there they were preparing for kids to come in and bake their own bread — starting with wheat from the field! I’m sure later they were going to smear homemade butter on it, and probably sing this song:

The Butter Song

Shelburne Farms offers visitors a Welcome Center and Farm Store, and general admission to the property gets you access to walking trails, a Children’s Farmyard, and cheesemaking viewing. For the ultimate Shelburne experience, stay at the Inn and have dinner at the restaurant:

At one of Vermont’s premier farm-to-table restaurants, our menu items are built around what’s being harvested in our Market Garden or from area farms on any given day or week.

Have you been to Shelburne Farms? Let us know in the comments!

Cheenius’ Big Day

Everyone loves a guest post from Cheenius! Thanks, Cheenius!

With a name like Cheenius, you’d expect someone who really knows cheese. But frankly, Cheenius has been more of a cheese dabbler than anything else. Sad. So, you can imagine her excitement when she sourced some local goat milk and decided to hold her very first CHEESE DAY!

First, somewhat sleep-deprived from the anticipation that accompanies Cheese Day Eve, Cheenius got up early to pick up the goat milk. The friendly goat owner provided Cheenius with not only a gallon of fresh milk, but some chevre and extra milk for tasting. Cheenius even got to meet Lavender, the goat who provided the milk!


After Cheenius gathered her mostly-willing Dad, Aunt, and Uncle, goat milk shooters were downed and the work began.

goat milk shooters

We assembled the ingredients, and then discussed our battle plan: One Day. Two Cheeses. We wanted to attempt a simple paneer and then if we weren’t demoralized and/or cranky, move up to a slightly more advanced feta.

cheese ingredients

cheese tools

For the paneer we basically just heated up the goat milk, added lemon juice, let the curds and whey separate, salted, and then squished it for awhile, and voila! Very-bland-but-edible cheese!!

cheese chemistry


kneading the paneer

applying weight to the paneer

[ed: there’s cheese under there. took me a sec.]

frying the paneer

Paneer-fortified, and feeling pretty darn confident, we were now ready for feta. We went with Tinkling Springs whole cow’s milk for this attempt, and then hit some tedium: a lot of chemistry, heated discussions about the best way to maintain a temperature of 88 degrees, and then long periods of just waiting.

heating the milk

Luckily, we filled the waiting periods with games of pool or Bananagrams, so no time was actually wasted. We did realize that we should have started the feta earlier, since to stick with the recipe Cheenius had to stay up late to salt the feta at the right time. We were also a little disappointed that for all that work we only got 4 turds of feta (only 2 shown; Cheenius is not an idiot, she know how to count turds).


The next day we bounced out of bed to try the perfectly salted feta, and it tasted like . . . FETA! Evidently our 5 degree temperature swings (yeah, whoever won that argument about temp control didn’t actually “win”) weren’t enough to upset this very forgiving cheese. Cheenius plans to try freezing some to see if she can make bigger batches in the future and get more turds for the same amount of work.

The unexpected bonus to the experience was that two Cheese Day byproducts, the whey and the extra goat milk, were made into Whey Bread and yogurt. Yum!

yogurt and whey bread

All in all, Cheenius was ecstatic that she finally got to live up to her name, AND she got to boss around her family for a whole day. Thank you Family! Special thanks to our goat milk provider, S.S., along with Ricki Carroll’s cheesemaking kits, and Gianaclis Caldwell’s book, “Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking.”

One last thought to leave you with, as HP always says: Remember, you’ve got a friend in cheeses!

Get your lamb fix here!

Guest post from Buzzy! Thanks, Buzzy!

I went on the “Meet Yer Eats” farm tour last week, and of course it was great — educational, interesting, blah blah blah.  But let’s get down to serious business:  Lambs are cute.  So this is your lamb fix for the week (I bet you didn’t even know you needed a lamb fix, did you?).  Special thanks to Everona Dairy for providing the lambs!

Everona lambs
They had lots of lambs.

Everona baby lamb
Some had even been born THAT DAY.

Everona lambs and kids
They had kids AND lambs together!

Lamb's ear
And for the cherry on top: they even grow Lamb’s Ear!

A Day of Cheese-making at Caromont

Guest post from Cheenius! Thanks, Cheenius!

At last!  Cheenius‘ dream has come true:  She was able to spend a whole day (with spouse even!) at Caromont Farm, learning about cheese-making, complete with hands-on experience!  Here was the itinerary:

7:00 AM  Help milk goats
8:00 AM  Feed baby goats and visit rams in the pasture with Stuart, Intern
9:30 AM  Make cheese with Bridge, Cheese Maker
4:00 PM  Cheese tasting with Gail, Owner

baby goat feeding

Feeding the baby goats

The goats seemed to have a great life — lots of sun and pasture, and shelter from the rain (which they really don’t like).  They get their high-protein grain when they come to milk, so jostle each other to move up in line.  Of course, the baby goats were the highlight of the morning!

Milking the goats

Milking the mama goats

The milking process seems pain-free, and the goats aren’t given any weird chemicals or forced lighting to increase production.

Vat of curds and whey

A vat of curds and whey

Once we were properly suited up for the cheese-making area we made chevre and feta, and helped with some other cheese-based tasks.  The workspace is small but efficient, with cheeses waiting to be salted and turned, cheeses still in liquid form needing stirring, and cheeses ready to be “caved” (put in a refrigerator specially engineered for the proper cold and humidity).  Bridge patiently taught us all about proteins, fats, flocculation, whey, and resting times.  Turns out successful cheese-making means knowing a lot of biology and chemistry, as well as understanding the craftsmanship side of the product.  It’s also a lot of cleaning!  They’re very careful about who and what goes into the cheese-making area, and recognize the importance of cleanliness in every aspect of production.

caromont cheese tasting

An educational cheese tasting

Afterwards, Gail taught us how to properly taste cheese and some of the finer points of the craft, and then sent us home with some of Caromont’s first rate cheeses.  We left full, happy, and newly appreciative of the art of cheese-making.  Cheenius may try to make some feta or chevre at home, but is humble enough to admit that some things are best left to the experts . . .


Work has been crazy, making me not want to sit in front of my computer when I’m not at work, so I haven’t been a good blogger lately. Here are some catch-up items from the last couple weeks.

First: the Charlottesville Locavore Expo

Charlottesville had a Locavore Expo at the City Market a couple weeks ago. Charlottesville Tomorrow has a good write-up. I had an interesting chat with the girl from Homegrown Virginia, a new company helping local farmers and food producers to source their ingredients locally, and I had a gluten-free brownie sample to die for at the Integral Yoga table.

Next: Eat Local bingo. Forgive the crappy picture.

Eat Local bingo

This was hiding in the back of the new Buy Fresh Buy Local guide: a bingo card for eating a wide variety of local foods! The Piedmont Environmental Council is giving away prizes for completed bingo cards. If you are a nerd like me, you will want to find the bingo card in the back of your Buy Fresh Buy Local guide and have some fun (and eat some delicious local food) playing.

Finally: Gail Hobbs-Page’s presentation for the Blenheim Artisan Series

Gail Hobbs-Page

Cheenius and I had a lovely evening at Blenheim Vineyards for the first event of the Blenheim Artisan Series. Gail Hobbs-Page of Caromont Farm spoke about cheese making, animal husbandry, and local food, before screening a short documentary called The Rise of Southern Cheese, created by the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Cheese samples

We got to sample some delicious Caromont cow and goat cheeses, and drink a couple glasses of Blenheim wines. I liked the Viognier.

Blenheim Vineyards Viognier

It was an enjoyable and educational evening. I recommend trying to attend part of the Artisan Series. Again, I apologize for the picture quality, but here’s the poster with the remaining speakers.

Blenheim Artisan Series


Greenwood Gourmet Grocery

I am a little late this year since I’ve been in Asia, but yesterday I took my annual pumpkin-buying trip to Greenwood Gourmet, just west of Charlottesville. I love that place.

It was hard to choose! I ended up with a regular orange pumpkin, a funky gray pumpkinoid, and a pretty two-tone green and yellow gourd.

While there, I checked out their local food offerings–they carry local meats, cheese, produce, and wine. In the middle of the store was a big display with local Henley’s Orchard apples.

According to their web site, Henley’s sells pasture-raised beef, in addition to 38 varieties of apples, and 28 types of peaches. And speaking of happy meat…

…a whole case of it, from Wolf Creek Farm, Polyface Farms, and Free Union Grass Farm, all farms that raise animals on pasture with kindness and respect, and without pumping them full of antibiotics, hormones, and corn.

I made one last stop at the cheese counter.

Meadow Creek Dairy makes several kinds of cheese from its herd of healthy, happy cows. (Note to veggies: they use rennet in their cheese production.)

Fall is the perfect time to visit Greenwood Gourmet! While you’re stocking up on gourds, pick up some local, natural foods.

Is your cheese vegetarian?

Haute Pasture recently received a lesson on rennet, and we were surprised that we, as supposed educated consumers, did not realize that all cheeses are not necessarily vegetarian. Rennet is a mix of enzymes found in a calf’s stomach that is used in nature to help the calf digest its mother’s milk, but is used in traditional cheese making to coagulate milk into cheese.

Milk-source-specific rennet can also be used; so, a lamb’s stomach could be used for rennet for sheep’s milk, and a kid’s stomach for goat’s milk. The argument against slaughtering baby animals for meat is for another post; one could make the point here that stomachs are a byproduct of veal/lamb/baby goat meat production, and it’s good that they can be used for something. This post will not dispute that, but rather discuss the alternative ways to produce cheese that do not involve the use of animal organs.

Vegetarian cheese can be made using vegetable rennet, microbial rennet, genetically-engineered rennet, or acid coagulation.

Vegetable and microbial rennets are enzymes or acids produced from plants and molds. These rennets can be difficult to obtain and may impart unwanted side-effects on the cheeses, so most cheeses in the U.S. are made using genetically engineered rennet. This rennet is produced by bacteria, fungi, or yeasts that were modified with cow genes to produce one of the enzymes in natural rennet. Vegetarian cheeses can also be made using acid coagulation, which is how cream cheese and paneer are made.

So, read the label before you purchase cheese. Whole Foods, for one, prints on cheese labels whether the cheese is vegetarian. Harris Teeter, on the other hand, lists the ingredient “enzymes” on their in-house cheese label, which could be animal-based. If in doubt, ask at the cheese counter. Or better yet, purchase your cheese from a local farmer’s market, where you can not only ask the vendor about rennet in the cheese, but also about the treatment of the livestock on the farm.