Fellow monger, Erin, and I drove up to the Cellars at Jasper Hill before the holidays. The object of our journey: to pick up 40 wheels of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, 20 wheels of Landaff cheese and a number of other Jasper Hill cheeses: Constant Bliss, Weybridge, Hartwell, Oma, Winnimere and Caspian. En route, we stopped to visit with the makers of Landaff cheese, Doug and Deb Erb in Landaff, New Hampshire. It was a slightly cloudy day but this made for dramatic views over hills and dales in all directions.
Arriving at the farm, we drove up to a set of red barns and parked. Getting out of the van, we stretched our legs for a moment and made our way up to a white clapboard house – an ‘Open’ sign hung from the porch. Inside, there was a small visitors area that contained information about the Erbs’ dairy farm, Springvale Farms, their cheese, Landaff, and allowed for views into the cheese-making and packaging areas. It was there that we met Deb and Doug Erb.
Doug’s parents started Springvale Farms in the 50s – Doug and Deb joined them in 1980. By 1989, they had taken full responsibility for the operation and gradually began expanding.
The Erbs have done a lot of work with their herd and today are renowned for the quality of their cattle, garnering many awards. In the course of conversation, we learned that some of the Erbs’ cows had just been loaded onto a container ship for delivery to a buyer – their renown has spread far enough to require such transport!
Cheese is a recent addition to the Erbs’ roster. They started Landaff Creamery and making Landaff cheese in 2008 after Doug apprenticed at Westcombe Farms in Somerset, England. There, he learned to make Caerphilly according to Chris Duckett’s original recipe. The Erbs’ cheese, Landaff, is modeled after that Welsh classic but has really come into its own – like Caerphilly, it is earthy and delicious but Landaff generally tends to be sweeter and, in my opinion, creamier and more lactic.
Doug and Deb generously took time from their busy day to show us around their cheese making facility and their barns. We met several of their HUGE cows – one who seemed to like licking everything in sight, including me!
The cows were free to wander in their barn and had access to something that I think needs to be introduced here at the shop – a kind of brush that you lean against and it massages and cleans you at the same time. All in all, they seemed like a very happy group of cows!
As we walked around the farm, the Erbs’ passion for what they do was evident. They told us that the next thing on their agenda was to develop a Tomme Crayeuse style cheese. I was very excited to hear this because I love Tomme Crayeuse – a squidgy, mushroom-y, earthy delight! It may be a little while yet before the cheese comes to fruition. The Erbs remarked that they were now realizing how lucky they were with the Landaff recipe – pretty much hitting it out of the park from the get go. Their Tomme Crayeuse is proving to be a bit more challenging in its development. I will wait. My bet – it’ll be pretty awesome.