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Farm Spotlight: Ruggles Hill Creamery

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Tricia Smith and husband Michael Holland began raising goats in 2001, with the hopes of starting a certified dairy. By 2005, they founded Carlisle Farmstead Cheese in Carlisle, MA and Smith began crafting her recipes in her newly approved creamery as Holland helped build the herd and the farm. They quickly outgrew their first creamery and settled on a historic property in Hardwick, MA in 2010. This idyllic 38-acre property sits just east of the Quabbin Reservoir and features a 1760s farmhouse and a 1200-foot rock wall from 1827 surrounded by hay fields and lush pasture. The property was formerly the homestead of the Ruggles family, who settled many of Hardwick’s farms, and the new creamery was named Ruggles Hill to pay homage to this rich agricultural tradition.

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Civil engineers by trade, Smith and Holland studied in the Boston area, graduating from MIT and Tufts respectively, and Holland continues to work at a Cambridge design firm while Smith manages the farm’s day -to-day operations. From cheesemaking to herd management, Smith and Holland run Ruggles Hill Creamery with a precision and attention to detail that reflects their commitment to sustainable practices and a true passion for their trade. Since 2001, the core of the Ruggles Hill mission has been the health and happiness of the herd. Smith has always milked by hand, named all of her goats (including one after our former cheesemonger Gemma), believing that sociable, happy goats produce better milk for longer periods of time. The goat’s feed on a mix of forage and pasture, organic grain, and supplements of shredded beet pulp and black oiled sunflower seeds. There are just sixteen does in the milking herd (a mix of American Oberhasli and Saanen), which produce exceptionally clean and delicious milk. From this small amount of milk, Smith produces a remarkable array of soft-ripened cheese, each of them named after a past or present member of the herd. Initially, when she began making cheese, it was at such a small scale that commercial equipment of the proper size was not yet readily available, so MIT-trained engineer Smith designed her own “Microvat”, to legally pasteurize and heat milk on a stovetop. She has since added an additional, Dutch-made vat pasteurizer to her creamery, but her design has become an excellent resource for micro-creameries throughout the region.

From their own herds, they make an impressive number of small-format cheeses in varying styles. Perhaps thanks to these helpful tractor-driving goats.

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Ada’s Honor is a bloomy-rind goat’s milk cheese, a delicious rendition of a French chabichou. The earthy rind complements the finely textured tangy body. The curds are hand-ladled into  4 ounce cylindrical molds, which results in a smooth texture. Named for Ada, the original herd queen, this cheese has been carefully crafted since the farm’s beginning.

Alys’ Eclipse is an ashed bloomy-rind goat’s milk cheese aged as a small 4 ounce disk, more compact than Ada’s Honor. The ash softens the tang of the goat cheese and makes for a stunning presentation on a cheese board. Named for Ruggles Hill’s black doe, Alys, the current herd queen.

Ellie’s Cloudy Down is a bloomy-rind 4 ounce pyramid aged for a month using a traditional grey surface mold. The grey surface is somewhat earthier than the white we used in their cheeses and more slowly and complexly ripens the cheese.

Greta’s Fair Haven is made from our goats’ raw milk and aged over 60 days as a small 1 pound tomme using a traditional grey surface mold. Fruity, peppery, and densely textured.

Brothers’ Walk is a goats’ milk brie ripened with the grey surface mold traditional for French brie. Light and creamy, this style boasts the same beautiful blue-grey exterior as Ellie’s Cloudy Down.

 

Beth Wittenstein is a cheesemonger at Formaggio South End and Online Media Manager for Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge. When she isn’t taking photos of cheese, you can find her making intricate confections in her kitchen.

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